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December, 2013:

FOCUS: MIA Secretary General: Illegal tobacco factory busted in Sofia

An illegal tobacco factory was busted on the territory of the capital, Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior Chief Commissioner Svetlozar Lazarov said at a press conference. According to Chief Commissioner Lazarov the money from unpaid excise of the found 5 tons of cut tobacco is around BGN 1 million.

The factory for illegal production of cigarettes was found on Friday within the course of a special police operation carried out in Sofia living district of Orlandovtsi.

Chief Commissioner Svetlozar Lazarov specified the mechanism of work of the illegal factory. He said that after delivering the tobacco, it was being cut then processed and distributed in two directions: in packs of tobacco and cigarettes.

The deliveries were made in restaurants and zoo-shops and from them were redistributed for the entire country. During the course of the operation were arrested two people – a man and a woman, who have advertised the smuggled goods on the Internet. The illegal scheme has been operating for three years, the Commissioner stated.

14 Dec 2013

ECNS: China mulls national smoking ban

from Gu Liping of China News Service:

China is planning a national regulation banning smoking in public indoor areas, and it is expected to be enacted next year, the Beijing News said Thursday, citing an official.

Yang Jie, deputy director of Tobacco Control Office for the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, made the remarks at a news briefing on the Chinese version of the Tobacco Atlas (fourth edition), a comprehensive volume of research on tobacco and smokers.

Yang said the regulation, following the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, will ban smoking in all public places, including public vehicles, indoor workplaces, Internet bars and restaurants. Specific penalties for violations will be included in the regulation, he added.

More than 10 Chinese cities currently have smoking control rules, all of which ban smoking in public indoor areas, but implementation of the law is unsatisfactory, mostly because there is a lack of enforcement and awareness about the law.

The Tobacco Atlas, published by the American Cancer Society, says more than half of Chinese males smoke, and 12 percent of deaths in Chinese males can be attributed to tobacco. Every year, 600,000 people die from exposure to secondhand smoke in China, most of them women and children, it said.

12 Dec 2013

新京报中文报导

China Daily: Cities struggling to enforce bans on smoking in public

from Shan Juan of China Daily:

As China eyes a national ban on smoking in public indoor areas, health and law experts say regional anti-smoking regulations lack the teeth to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.

More than 10 Chinese cities currently have smoking control rules, all of which ban smoking in public indoor areas, said Wang Qingbin, associate professor with the China University of Political Science and Law.

“But implementation of the law is unsatisfactory, mostly because there is a lack of enforcement and awareness of the law,” he said at a symposium held by Beijing-based tobacco control campaign ThinkTank and the Tobacco Control Office of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The municipal-level rules mainly target public businesses such as restaurants, Internet bars, hotels and movie theaters, but do not focus on individual smokers, he said.

Yang Jie, deputy director of the Tobacco Control Office, explained that the city ban is similar to other bans around the world that mainly target businesses instead of smokers.

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Emotional graphic cigarette warning labels reduce the electrophysiological brain response to smoking cues

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24330194

Abstract

There is an ongoing public debate about the new graphic warning labels (GWLs) that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposes to place on cigarette packs. Tobacco companies argued that the strongly emotional images FDA proposed to include in the GWLs encroached on their constitutional rights. The court ruled that FDA did not provide sufficient scientific evidence of compelling public interest in such encroachment. This study’s objectives were to examine the effects of the GWLs on the electrophysiological and behavioral correlates of smoking addiction and to determine whether labels rated higher on the emotional reaction (ER) scale are associated with greater effects. We studied 25 non-treatment-seeking smokers. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants viewed a random sequence of paired images, in which visual smoking (Cues) or non-smoking (non-Cues) images were preceded by GWLs or neutral images.

Participants reported their cigarette craving after viewing each pair. Dependent variables were magnitude of P300 ERPs and self-reported cigarette craving in response to Cues. We found that subjective craving response to Cues was significantly reduced by preceding GWLs, whereas the P300 amplitude response to Cues was reduced only by preceding GWLs rated high on the ER scale. In conclusion, our study provides experimental neuroscience evidence that weighs in on the ongoing public and legal debate about how to balance the constitutional and public health aspects of the FDA-proposed GWLs. The high toll of smoking-related illness and death adds urgency to the debate and prompts consideration of our findings while longitudinal studies of GWLs are underway.

Daily Record: Illegal tobacco sales claims denounced

by Gareth Jones, reporting for the Daily Record:

Professor Linda Bauld, of the university’s Institute of Social Marketing, said new research funded by the tobacco industry is attempting to hamper plans for plain cigarette packaging in Scotland.

Former Scotland Yard Detective Will O’Reilly carried out an undercover investigation into the illicit tobacco trade, where his team was able to buy 44 packs of illegal cigarettes and two 50g quantities of roll-your-own tobacco. During the three-day operation, which covered Alloa, Falkirk and Stirling, the cheapest pack of 20 cigarettes was bought for £3.50 – less than half the normal retail price, which averages at £8 a pack.

Mr O’Reilly said: “There needs to be more done to combat this issue throughout Scotland.

“We know that organised crime is behind the illicit trade. Criminals are turning from harder crimes to this, due to higher profit margins and fewer risks.”

The investigation was commissioned by Philip Morris International Inc, which boasts seven of the world’s top 15 international brands, including Marlboro, the number one cigarette brand worldwide.

The findings come as the Scottish Government has committed to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products, with legislation expected to come in by 2015.

The tobacco industry is claiming this would lead not only to the closure of many smaller newsagents and convenience stores but also to an increase in the illegal trade. And no ‘point of sale’ regulation means that illicit cigarettes could be produced in unsanitary conditions, with past reports suggesting they contain anything from dead flies to human faeces.

Mr O’Reilly’s team have passed their findings on to Trading Standards, who will be investigating claims which include a Stirling barmaid who is selling illegal cigarettes by the carton. A test purchaser, who told her he only had £20 to spend, was given four packs of a well-known international brand in an ‘under the counter’ transaction.

Intelligence from the test buyers was that organised criminal groups control the illicit tobacco supply in Stirling, especially around pubs, and threaten anyone else trying to sell illicit products with violence.

But Professor Bauld, who has advised both the UK and Scottish Government about standardised packaging of cigarettes, said: “Every time there’s a new piece of legislation about to clamp down on smoking, the tobacco industry says it will fuel the increase of illegal sales.

“They did it when we brought in the point of sale legislation, meaning packets had to be hidden from view in shops.

“The police and HMRC have strategies to deal with illegal sales, and it’s thought just one in 10 tobacco sales is now illegal – it used to be one in three.

“I would be amazed if we had a huge problem in Stirling. This is just scaremongering. And to say illicit cigarettes are dangerous is a bit of a cheek, since tobacco itself kills one in two users.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, said: “We know that removing brands and logos makes tobacco less attractive to young people. Why do you think the tobacco companies are spending millions of pounds opposing it?

The tobacco companies have a long history of opposing regulation by paying for scaremongering studies and reports that suit their agenda. Put simply you cannot trust work paid for by a tobacco company. They have been proved wrong before and I am sure they will be proved wrong again.”

A Stirling Council spokesperson said: “Trading Standards actively pursue the prevention of the sale of illicit tobacco products. Recent successes, helped by our trained detection dog, have included operations at local markets, retailers and mobile traders. All reportings of alleged sales are investigated and appropriate action taken.”

22 Nov 2013

Sydney MH: Public servants’ super fund scraps tobacco investments

by Dan Harrison, reporting for the Sydney Morning Herald:

The superannuation fund for federal public servants and military personnel is the latest to ditch its investments in tobacco.

News that the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation had sold off its tobacco holdings – valued at about $100 million – emerged in response to questions from Greens Senator Richard Di Natale in a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

The corporation’s chief executive, Peter Carrigy-Ryan, told the hearing it made the decision to divest on October 22 and was in the process of selling its tobacco investments.

The tobacco holdings represent about 0.33 per cent of the approximately $30 billion managed by the corporation.

Mr Carrigy-Ryan said increased regulation of tobacco, such as plain packaging and tougher restrictions on where smoking is permitted, and the risk of further controls, had influenced the corporation’s decision to divest.

Mr Carrigy-Ryan said while the corporation had a policy of trying to engage with companies on environmental, social and governance concerns, this approach would not work with tobacco because of the harmful nature of the product and because tobacco products were generally the only products produced by tobacco companies.

‘‘In other words, we did not think that our engagement process was going to have any level of success in relation to that particular product,’’ he told the hearing.

Senator Di Natale congratulated the corporation on the move.

‘‘I think it is an important decision, and the fact that we have now in the ballpark of $100 million of your members’ money out of companies like Philip Morris and British American Tobacco is something that you should rightly feel proud of,’’ he said.

In February, the Future Fund announced it would sell its tobacco investments – valued then at about $222 million – citing the damaging health effects and addictive properties of tobacco.

Superannuation funds including HESTA, UniSuper and First State Super have previously dumped their investments in tobacco.

20 Nov 2013

Edmonton Journal: Alberta legislature passes new rules on smoking in cars, use of water pipes

by Keith Gerein of the Edmonton Journal:

The Alberta legislature has passed new tobacco control legislation that will ban smoking in cars carrying children, and prohibit the use of water pipes in public.

The Alberta legislature has passed new tobacco control legislation that will ban smoking in cars carrying children, and prohibit the use of water pipes in public. This is one of the anti-smoking warnings on cigarette packages. (Edmonton Journal/Alberta Federal Government)

The approval of Bill 33 late Wednesday, combined with a separate bill to ban the sale of flavoured tobacco products, gives Alberta some of the most aggressive tobacco-control restrictions in the country, says a leading advocate.

“We are definitely at the forefront in Canada,” said Les Hagen, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health. “Taken together, these two bills will go a long way to prevent tobacco use among youth.”

However, he said a fight still remains on the issue of menthol cigarettes.

Bill 206, which was passed Monday, includes provisions for banning the sale of tobacco with a “characterizing flavour,” such as candy-scented cigars and cigarillos and fruity spit tobacco that appeal to youth. But the exact list of banned products will be set later through government regulation, and Hagen said the tobacco industry is lobbying hard to have menthol cigarettes exempted.

Eric Gagnon, director of corporate affairs for Imperial Tobacco, said his company does not make any “confectionary” style products but believes menthol should be allowed to continue to be sold to Alberta adults.

“We do believe that anything that is overtly confectionary — cherry, bubble gum or fruity flavoured — is appealing to youth and should be banned,” he said. “But menthol has been in the marketplace for decades, it represents a very small percentage of the marketplace, and the research demonstrates that it is consumed by a more senior adult population.

“I think we need to divide these two products completely.”

However, Hagen said the recent Youth Smoking Survey, conducted in 2010-11 by the Propel Centre at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, indicated menthol is now being used by a substantial number of youth smokers in Alberta.

He said it is arguably the worst flavouring of all because it “has a medicinal impact, soothes the throat, opens the airways, and it assists with nicotine absorption into the bloodstream.”

Among the other new rules passed by the legislature is a ban on the use of water pipes or other “tobacco-like” products in bars, restaurants or other public places where smoking is already prohibited. The province has said establishments that feature the pipes, or hookahs, will be given 12 to 18 months to transition before the legislation comes into effect. But an advocacy group called Safe Shisha has warned that as many as 70 businesses may close across the province.

The legislation also makes it illegal to smoke in vehicles when children are present. Some details of enforcement still have to be worked out, but the province has said the law will be complaint-based. Violators will usually get a ticket of $250, though fines of up to $5,000 could be imposed for egregious cases and multiple offences. An exact date for putting the law into force has not yet been determined.

In addition, the bill includes a ban on tobacco sales to minors, making Alberta the last province in Canada to take that step, Hagen said. A federal law already prohibits selling to minors, but is not consistently enforced.

29 Nov 2013

Crikey: Simon Chapman honoured as Skeptic of the Year – a good time to look back on the historic tobacco plain packaging campaign

by Marie McInerney, reporting for Crikey:

It’s an opportune time to publish the recent speech Simon delivered as the 2013 Cunningham Lecture to the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, Australian National University, on: Plain packaging of tobacco products: a case study in radical health policy adoption and the role of advocacy.

A precursor to the book he is writing about the landmark campaign, the speech is packed with sharp insights into how to design and pursue policy change, including how plain packaging even got on the agenda (“I doubt there was anyone in the room who expected that the proposal would have any life other than as an historic but merely “noted” recommendation in a report.)  Simon looks at the role of research and multi-disciplinary academic expertise in informing and supporting policy change, the central role of news media in providing ‘foundational narratives’ over many years, and, of course, the instrumental role of the Health Minister Nicola Roxon, “the real super hero in all this”.

You can watch the speech being delivered here, or read the full transcript below.

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Understanding the emergence of the tobacco industry’s use of the term tobacco harm reduction in order to inform public health policy

Download (PDF, 240KB)

No place to hide: two pilot studies assessing the effectiveness of adding a health warning to the cigarette stick

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24335476

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To examine whether health warnings printed onto the cigarette stick would increase intentions to quit.

METHODS:

Two experiments with smokers were conducted. The first study was conducted in Scotland on 88 adult (aged 18 or over) smokers recruited around two university campuses. The second study was conducted on 120 adult (aged 16 or over) smokers recruited around inner city cafes in Greece. Study 1 tested smokers’ ratings of the attractiveness of cigarettes printed with either ‘minutes of life lost’ (minute condition) or ‘toxic constituents’ (toxic condition) against a control cigarette as well as the change in participants’ pre-exposure and postexposure quitting intentions. Study 2 only assessed the effect of the minute condition on smokers’ change in quitting intentions. Analysis of variance and paired-samples t tests were undertaken. Participants in Study 1 were shown a picture of the stimuli, with participants in Study 2 given the actual cigarette to hold.

RESULTS:

The analyses revealed increases in quitting intentions postexposure for the minute condition (mean paired difference=0.68, p<0.001) and the toxic condition (mean paired difference=0.23, p<0.05) in Study 1. Similar findings were found for the minute condition (mean paired difference=0.38, p<0.001) in Study 2.

CONCLUSIONS:

These results suggest that printing a public health warning on the cigarette stick may result in higher intentions to quit smoking. However, many other messages (eg, benefits of quitting, harmful effects of secondhand smoke) which can be printed on the cigarette stick have not been tested in the current studies.