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April, 2015:

Canine teams fight cigarette smuggling at customs Romania

Fiscal policy officials and representatives of law enforcement authorities in ten European and Asian countries met in Bucharest last weekend for two days to determine future strategies to halt the loss of billions of dollars due to illegal trade, counterfeit products and other aspects of the black economy.

“We are talking about a dangerous problem and growing, which is not only a fiscal matter. Apart caused substantial losses in state budgets, illegal restricts economic development, raise barriers and increase costs of international trade, produce significant health risks and presents many challenges for the authorities – from intellectual property infringement, to money laundering and organized crime, “said Daniel Witt, President, International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC). Some experts gathered to addressing the connection between the underground economy, tax evasion and illegal trade, there were experienced officials from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, World Customs Organization, INTERPOL and EUROPOL and private sector specialists and university professors . “One of the main issues related to the underground economy is illicit trade in tobacco products because it is linked to organized crime. In this context, cooperation between companies and authorities can help to achieve better results in combating black market cigarettes. This conference represents a unique opportunity to understand the latest trends in illegal trade and techniques to combat it. Officials attending the event will be better equipped in order to implement the strategies discussed in Bucharest in local context and will use the contacts established at the conference, sharing information in order to more widely in the future, “said Cristina Vasiloiu, CEO Euromonitor Business Consulting Services. “Given that cigarettes are excisable goods, smuggling of tobacco products, by significant losses due to budget represents a very serious problem. As I said, we need a new national strategy to combat illegal trade in cigarettes, nationwide, for the period 2015-2018, aimed at improving the regulatory framework and concrete measures to be implemented in concert by all institutions responsible. General Customs Department continues to implement firm measures to reduce smuggling. At the moment, are active in customs, supported by cigarette manufacturers, 33 canine teams specialized in detecting cigarettes and 11 canine teams with double capability – screening drugs and cigarettes.

Cooperation protocols were signed between NAFA and the major manufacturers of cigarettes, between DGV and the Customs Administration of Moldova and Serbia, in order to combat illegal trafficking. A similar document will be agreed with Ukraine. Also, since analyzes Customs, and Novel study reveals an increase in black market in the northern, western and northeast, as soon as the administrative capacity will allow, will be reintroduced at the border customs offices Sighet, Halmeu and Siret small border traffic monitoring certain products “, said Claudiu Ardeleanu, director general of the General Customs Directorate. “Simplify the legal framework which prevents illegal. It is necessary to develop an integrated strategy to combat illegal trafficking of goods and customs fraud in the EU’s eastern borders. Members of the Working Group which will develop and coordinate this strategy should come from OLAF, WCO, EUROPOL, INTERPOL, FRONTEX, SELECTION, EUBAM, the EU countries in the region and representatives of companies and authorities in member countries of the Eastern Partnership . An additional recommendation is the active involvement of EU member states, in order to create the necessary framework for business development and ensuring good conditions in countries bordering the European Union, “said Dorel Fronea, former head of the National Customs Authority of Romania and Mission was expert in the European Union Advice and Public Policy in Moldova. “International Conference on economy and taxes” was organized by the International Tax and Investment Center ( nonprofit research and education oriented on fiscal reform and public-private initiatives to improve the investment climate, and Euromonitor Business Consulting Services, provider of consulting policies and strategies for business development in Central and Eastern Europe

Cigarette brands with flavour capsules in the filter: trends in use and brand perceptions among smokers in the USA, Mexico and Australia

Cigarette brands with flavour capsules in the filter: trends in use and brand perceptions among smokers in the USA, Mexico and Australia, 2012–2014



To describe trends, correlates of use and consumer perceptions related to the product design innovation of flavour capsules in cigarette filters.


Quarterly surveys from 2012 to 2014 were analysed from an online consumer panel of adult smokers aged 18–64, living in the USA (n=6865 observations; 4154 individuals); Mexico (n=5723 observations; 3366 individuals); and Australia (n=5864 observations; 2710 individuals). Preferred brand varieties were classified by price (ie, premium; discount) and flavour (ie, regular; flavoured without capsule; flavoured with capsule). Participants reported their preferred brand variety’s appeal (ie, satisfaction; stylishness), taste (ie, smoothness, intensity), and harm relative to other brands and varieties. GEE models were used to determine time trends and correlates of flavour capsule use, as well as associations between preferred brand characteristics (ie, price stratum, flavour) and perceptions of relative appeal, taste and harm.


Preference for flavour capsules increased significantly in Mexico (6% to 14%) and Australia (1% to 3%), but not in the USA (4% to 5%). 18–24 year olds were most likely to prefer capsules in the USA (10%) and Australia (4%), but not Mexico. When compared to smokers who preferred regular brands, smokers who preferred brands with capsules viewed their variety of cigarettes as having more positive appeal (all countries), better taste (all countries), and lesser risk (Mexico, USA) than other brand varieties.


Results indicate that use of cigarettes with flavour capsules is growing, is associated with misperceptions of relative harm, and differentiates brands in ways that justify regulatory action.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Death of the Republic

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.” —Article IV, Section 4, US Constitution

A republican form of government is one in which power resides in elected officials representing the citizens, and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In The Federalist Papers, James Madison defined a republic as “a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people . . . .”

On April 22, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee approved a bill to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that would override our republican form of government and hand judicial and legislative authority to a foreign three-person panel of corporate lawyers.

The secretive TPP is an agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries that affects 40% of global markets. Fast-track authority could now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as next week. Fast-track means Congress will be prohibited from amending the trade deal, which will be put to a simple up or down majority vote. Negotiating the TPP in secret and fast-tracking it through Congress is considered necessary to secure its passage, since if the public had time to review its onerous provisions, opposition would mount and defeat it.

Abdicating the Judicial Function to Corporate Lawyers

James Madison wrote in The Federalist Papers:

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. . . . “Were the power of judging joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. . . .”

And that, from what we now know of the TPP’s secret provisions, will be its dire effect.

The most controversial provision of the TPP is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) section, which strengthens existing ISDS procedures. ISDS first appeared in a bilateral trade agreement in 1959. According to The Economist, ISDS gives foreign firms a special right to apply to a secretive tribunal of highly paid corporate lawyers for compensation whenever the government passes a law to do things that hurt corporate profits — such things as discouraging smoking, protecting the environment or preventing a nuclear catastrophe.

Arbitrators are paid US$600-700 an hour, giving them little incentive to dismiss cases; and the secretive nature of the arbitration process and the lack of any requirement to consider precedent gives wide scope for creative judgments.

To date, the highest ISDS award has been for US$2.3 billion to Occidental Oil Company against the government of Ecuador over its termination of an oil-concession contract, this although the termination was apparently legal.

Still in arbitration is a demand by Vattenfall, a Swedish utility that operates two nuclear plants in Germany, for compensation of €3.7 billion ($4.7 billion) under the ISDS clause of a treaty on energy investments, after the German government decided to shut down its nuclear power industry following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Under the TPP, however, even larger judgments can be anticipated, since the sort of “investment” it protects includes not just “the commitment of capital or other resources” but “the expectation of gain or profit.” That means the rights of corporations in other countries extend not just to their factories and other “capital” but to the profits they expect to receive there.

In an article posted by Yves Smith, Joe Firestone poses some interesting hypotheticals:

Under the TPP, could the US government be sued and be held liable if it decided to stop issuing Treasury debt and financed deficit spending in some other way (perhaps by quantitative easing or by issuing trillion dollar coins)? Why not, since some private companies would lose profits as a result?

Under the TPP or the TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership under negotiation with the European Union), would the Federal Reserve be sued if it failed to bail out banks that were too big to fail?

Firestone notes that under the Netherlands-Czech trade agreement, the Czech Republic was sued in an investor-state dispute for failing to bail out an insolvent bank in which the complainant had an interest. The investor company was awarded $236 million in the dispute settlement. What might the damages be, asks Firestone, if the Fed decided to let the Bank of America fail, and a Saudi-based investment company decided to sue?

Abdicating the Legislative Function to Multinational Corporations

Just the threat of this sort of massive damage award could be enough to block prospective legislation. But the TPP goes further and takes on the legislative function directly, by forbidding specific forms of regulation.

Public Citizen observes that the TPP would provide big banks with a backdoor means of watering down efforts to re-regulate Wall Street, after deregulation triggered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression:

The TPP would forbid countries from banning particularly risky financial products, such as the toxic derivatives that led to the $183 billion government bailout of AIG. It would prohibit policies to prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail,” and threaten the use of “firewalls” to prevent banks that keep our savings accounts from taking hedge-fund-style bets.

The TPP would also restrict capital controls, an essential policy tool to counter destabilizing flows of speculative money. . . . And the deal would prohibit taxes on Wall Street speculation, such as the proposed Robin Hood Tax that would generate billions of dollars’ worth of revenue for social, health, or environmental causes.

Clauses on dispute settlement in earlier free trade agreements have been invoked to challenge efforts to regulate big business. The fossil fuel industry is seeking to overturn Quebec’s ban on the ecologically destructive practice of fracking. Veolia, the French behemoth known for building a tram network to serve Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, is contesting increases in Egypt’s minimum wage. The tobacco maker Philip Morris is suing against anti-smoking initiatives in Uruguay and Australia.

The TPP would empower not just foreign manufacturers but foreign financial firms to attack financial policies in foreign tribunals, demanding taxpayer compensation for regulations that they claim frustrate their expectations and inhibit their profits.

Preempting Government Sovereignty

What is the justification for this encroachment on the sovereign rights of government? Allegedly, ISDS is necessary in order to increase foreign investment. But as noted in The Economist, investors can protect themselves by purchasing political-risk insurance. Moreover, Brazil continues to receive sizable foreign investment despite its long-standing refusal to sign any treaty with an ISDS mechanism. Other countries are beginning to follow Brazil’s lead.

In an April 22nd report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, gains from multilateral trade liberalization were shown to be very small, equal to only about 0.014% of consumption, or about $.43 per person per month. And that assumes that any benefits are distributed uniformly across the economic spectrum. In fact, transnational corporations get the bulk of the benefits, at the expense of most of the world’s population.

Something else besides attracting investment money and encouraging foreign trade seems to be going on. The TPP would destroy our republican form of government under the rule of law, by elevating the rights of investors – also called the rights of “capital” – above the rights of the citizens.

That means that TPP is blatantly unconstitutional. But as Joe Firestone observes, neo-liberalism and corporate contributions seem to have blinded the deal’s proponents so much that they cannot see they are selling out the sovereignty of the United States to foreign and multinational corporations.

Hawaii on tobacco road to becoming first state to ban smoking for under-21s

Hawaii is on its way to becoming the first ever US state to raise the tobacco smoking age to 21. The groundbreaking bill passed the Legislature on Friday and is awaiting the governor’s signature.

The bill was pushed through by the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii and scored an overwhelming 19-4 in favor.

It will affect the smoking, buying and possession of cigarettes, including the electronic kind.

“It’s definitely groundbreaking legislation,” the lobby group’s Jessica Yamauchi said, adding that it’s “amazing to be the first state in something. That’s very exciting for us,” she told the AP.

What remains is for Governor David Ige to sign the document and for his cabinet to look for potential legal issues that may arise.

“The departments will be doing their review and then we’ll have the opportunity to look at it,” Ige said.

The initiative was based around the simple math that around 12 percent of people could be prevented from picking up smoking if the law were passed, according to the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences.

If successful, fines will be put into place of $10 for the first offense and a possible $50 for subsequent violations. Community service will also be included as possible punishment.

Hawaii will have become the first state to ever pass the law, although local governments of Hawaii County and New York City have already taken the lead.

The state’s Health Department says some 5,600 youngsters there pick up the habit. Moreover, 90 percent of daily smokers in the state start before the age of 19. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids puts the annual death toll to 1,400. The medical bills associated with this top half a billion dollars every year.

“Today we have the opportunity to change the paradigm,” Senator Rosalyn Baker (d) said. She introduced the bill.

In most of the US states the legal smoking age is 19, while in a few states the limit is 19. But some cities and counties, including New York City and Hawaii County, have already set the limit at 21.

AP spoke to one young woman of 17, who is an active backer of the campaign in Hawaii, as she’s had enough of constantly inhaling electronic cigarette fumes when she enters a high school bathroom.

“You feel like you want to hold your breath because you don’t want to smell what they’re smoking,” she told the news agency.

But not everyone is excited. Opponents are striking out, alluding to a number of issues, like the fact that you’re deemed an adult when you turn 18. Sub Ohm Vapes shop owner Michelle Johnston said she finds it strange that “You can sign up and be in the military and basically give your life for your country [and] vote,” so “why shouldn’t you be able to choose if you want to buy tobacco products or vaping products, when you’re considered a legal adult?”

Senator Gil Riviere (d) was one of the four who voted against the document, shares the assertion, but doesn’t necessarily oppose the bill, if it were applied to everyone – not just the under-21 age group.

A huge rise in electronic cigarette smoking has occurred, especially among middle and high-school students, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. The fears over underage smoking are compounded by an increasing number of studies finding that e-cigarettes are actually much more dangerous than regular tobacco. Whatever the real medical truth, the Oxford English Dictionary named ‘vaping’ its number one word of 2014.


Hawaii is poised to become the first state in the country that will require anyone wishing to purchase a tobacco or nicotine delivery product to be at least 21-years-old, and all it will take is the governor’s signature.

The state senate passed SB1030 by a vote of 19-4 on Friday morning and it now heads to Gov. David Ige, who has said he isn’t sure if he will sign the bill, as his staff and state departments must first vet the bill for any legal issues. Should he put his signature on the bill, the change would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016, and persons under 21 would become subject to a $10 fine for the first offense, with each subsequent offense carrying a $50 fine or community service.

Tobacco and nicotine product retailers would also be subject to discipline, as they would face fines for selling those goods to persons under 21; $500 for the first offense and $500 to $2,000 for each violation thereafter.

Hawaii County, known as “The Big Island,” passed a similar age increase in November 2013, the day after New York City garnered major attention for raising the age to purchase tobacco.

Hawaii could be the first of several states to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products this year, as Washington, California, Utah, Rhode Island and New Jersey all have active legislation being considered, as does Washington, D.C.

Four states–Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah–have already raised the minimum age for tobacco from 18 to 19, while Texas has a bill to do the same in the legislature. While no change has been made at the state level, a growing number of cities in Massachusetts have increased the tobacco purchasing age to 21 in an attempt to make it the de facto state law.

Summary Report on the International Conference on the Shadow Economy and Taxation

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FTC expected to approve $27B tobacco deal

Big Tobacco can breathe easy.

The Federal Trade Commission is expected to approve Reynolds American’s $27 billion purchase of Lorillard by a vote of four to one, despite the objections of some agency staff, The Post has learned.

The deal will combine the second- and third-largest cigarette makers, and two of the three most popular brands among young adults, Newport and Camel.

Regulatory approval will clear the way for a three-way transaction that will reshape the tobacco industry. Reynolds and Lorillard also agreed to sell five brands for $7 billion to Imperial.

While there was some skepticism the FTC would approve the deal, the companies argued that the sale of Winston, Kool and other smaller brands would build Imperial into a strong No. 3 player.

Imperial, which has little presence in the US, also persuaded regulators that it can build its business here based on its success overseas, a source said.

While antitrust officials have looked askance at other mega-mergers in the cable and food industries, tobacco is an already tightly controlled industry that generates huge tax revenue.

Even so, critics have called on regulators to block the deal, in part because of concerns about marketing tobacco to children.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, warned last year that the merger could “increase the power of these companies to market to kids.”

Reynolds did not return calls. The FTC declined comment.


Hong Kong may move to ban e-cigarettes. Advocates claim it is the best alternative to reduce harm from smoking. Opponents claim the unknown makes it worth banning outright.

Alan*, a local academic, is a smoker. It was time to kick the habit when his family welcomed a newborn daughter. He hadn’t been able to stop in the past, but now had new incentive. Strong incentive. And a new option.

An alternative to conventional smoking cessation devices was presented to Alan in the form of a “vaping” device, aka the e-cigarette. Using a battery, an “e-liquid” is vapourised for the user to inhale producing a similar experience to smoking without any combustion involved. They can, but legally do not in Hong Kong, contain nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes. People can use them to control and reduce nicotine dosage and eventually give up nicotine altogether. Regular use of his e-cigarette enabled Alan to cut his smoking to one pack of cigarettes in three weeks, and then extended periods of zero smoking. He was on his way to reducing his nicotine dosage to zero.

Unfortunately for Alan, a recent crackdown by the government on e-liquids containing nicotine disrupted his use of e-cigarettes. He has reverted to smoking a pack of cigarettes per day.

Nipping it in the bud

His personal situation plays out against a broader campaign. On March 30th, the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) held a press conference advocating a total ban on e-cigarette products.

E-cigarettes, without nicotine, are easily accessible in Hong Kong. COSH claims some products “target youngsters”, and “normalise smoking behaviour”, potentially creating a (supposedly new) “tobacco epidemic”. COSH Chairman Antonio Kwong says, “COSH has serious concern on the spread of e-cigarettes. To protect public health, we advocate the Government for a total ban on e-cigarette to prevent its prevalence among the youngsters and stop it from becoming the gateway to smoking.”

A total ban on e-cigarettes would entail the “prohibition of sales, advertising, promotion and sponsorship, distribution, importation and manufacturing” of the product.

Hours after the COSH press conference, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man was quoted stating that the government was “inclined to agree” with the Council’s request citing possible health risks and the possibility that youngsters may pick up smoking [conventional] cigarettes after they begin smoking e-cigarettes. He added that detailed studies would be required before they could proceed with legislation.

Currently, under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, any e-cigarettes containing nicotine and marketed as nicotine replacement therapy must be registered before sale and possession, under threat of a maximum penalty of HK$100,000 and 2 year’s imprisonment. No nicotine containing e-cigarette product has ever been registered as pharmaceutical products in Hong Kong, creating a de facto ban.

Against the ban

Ray Story, founder and CEO of Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA), is an advocate for regulation, not banning it outright. Mr Story, an owner of several e-cigarette brands, successfully pushed for the legalisation and subsequent regulation of e-cigarettes in the United States and the EU. He was recently in Hong Kong to speak to the media on the matter after attending the Shenzhen International Electronic Cigarette Industry Expo where over 100,000 industry professionals gathered.

Mr Story claims that the focus is misplaced. He explains, “when you look at conventional tobacco and how it’s used, you create all different types of chemicals when you light a cigarette.” A conventional cigarette is known to have approximately 600 chemicals in it and produces up to 7,000 when burned, at least 69 of which are known carcinogens. “An e-cigarette has five ingredients. So by not having all those chemicals and tar through combustion, it is therefore less harmful than conventional tobacco,” claims Mr Story.

Instead, Mr Story believes banning e-cigarettes is unfair to current smokers. “To ban e-cigarettes, would only mean you will allow conventional cigarettes to continue,” he says. “Banning the product would therefore be extremely irresponsible.”

What lies within

The five main ingredients in an e-cigarette, are nicotine, water, propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavouring. There are e-liquid options on the market that contain no nicotine, which are currently on sale legally in Hong Kong.

Out of the five ingredients, water is obviously not a point of contention. Nicotine, on the other hand, is undeniably addictive. However, advocates suggest the e-cigarette is still a much less harmful alternative. Mr Story says, “Nicotine is not the problem in tobacco. It is the tar and the carcinogens and the chemicals that are the issue. E-cigarettes do not have these issues.”

Propylene glycol and glycerin, while found in many food items and cosmetic products, are often touted by opposers to cause health risks. At COSH’s press conference, Dr Daniel Ho Sai-yin, associate professor at University of Hong Kong, cited literature claiming the chemicals cause mouth and throat irritations, and, at high temperatures, form formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, known carcinogens.

Investigating papers referenced by Dr Ho muddles the argument. The conclusions found in the report in the New England Journal of Medicine, from University of Portland researchers, titled “Hidden formaldehyde in e-cigarette aerosols”, were criticised earlier this year due to methods failing to reflect realistic situations. The report described what happened when researchers used two different voltage settings on the vaping device: “At low voltage (3.3 V), we did not detect the formation of any formaldehyde-releasing agents (estimated limit of detection, approximately 0.1 μg per 10 puffs).” In other words, when they tested a tank system at a realistic voltage setting of 3.3V, no formaldehyde was detected. But at an unrealistically high temperature setting of 5.0V, formaldehyde concentrations five- to fifteen-fold that of cigarettes were measured. The experiment showed that when overheated, vaping devices yield unacceptable levels of formaldehyde.

Media reports, however, touted the more sensational conclusion, leading readers into believing that normal consumption of e-cigarette vapour can expose a user to cancer-causing chemicals more dangerous than conventional cigarettes. The vapour, if produced at such levels, would be so noxious and irritating to the airway that the user would be unable to inhale it anyway, according to Professor Peter Hajer, Director of the Health and Lifestyle Research Unit at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London.

For the ban

Nonetheless, COSH is adamant the time to ban it is now. Speaking to Harbour Times, COSH chairman Antonio Kwong said, “the e-cigarette is a new product that hasn’t been widespread in Hong Kong yet. If we need to wait for all the evidence to come out, say in 20-30 years, many people may have already picked it up by then and we’ll be asking ourselves why we didn’t ban it earlier. We feel we need to ban it to avoid this situation.”

The fact that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional tobacco products by “orders of magnitude”, as some claim, holds no water with COSH and, to them, doesn’t even bear examination. Kwong: “I can’t comment on [whether it is less harmful], we don’t have enough research to prove that. What we do know is, there are carcinogenic agents. A carcinogen is a carcinogen. What is a safe level?”

Glamour and gateway arguments

To COSH, health risks are only half the problem. “It took us a number of years to bring the smoking prevalence down from 23.3% in the 80s to the 10.7% today, and took major efforts to de-normalise this behaviour, so if this “re-normalises” tobacco use it could be very harmful, especially when we see its attracting a younger age group and non-smokers,” explains Kwong.

According to a survey conducted by COSH last year, while only 1.8% out of the 2,400 participants admitting to having used e-cigarettes before at least once, the study concluded that “young people were more likely to use e-cigarettes”. “The promotion of e-cigarettes remains unregulated. Nowadays, e-cigarettes come in all shapes and sizes and can be very attractive to curious young people,” explains Kwong.

Responding to these claims that e-cigarettes could become a “gateway” to smoking, or re-normalise the behaviour, Mr Story claimed, “to state that you use one product and that takes you to the next level to use another product is unfounded. Does it happen? Potentially. But is that the norm? There’s a lot more people that have gone from conventional tobacco to e-cigarettes, than the other way around. But I’m obviously not going to rule it out, because that would be ignorant on our part. The majority, however, goes from regular tobacco cigarettes, to e-cigarettes, and that has been the norm, and all the science backs it up as well.”

Official UK figures from a study on smoking behaviour by the UK’s Office for National Statistics conducted last year support Mr Story’s claim. The study found that about one in 10 current cigarette smokers surveyed and one in 20 of the former smokers said they were now using e-cigarettes. Over half of e-cigarette users surveyed said their main reason was to stop smoking. About one in five said it was because they thought they were less harmful than cigarettes.

Regulate not ban

“If there’s no regulation, we don’t know where they’re manufactured, what’s in them. All these issues need to be addressed, and can only be addressed once you have a conversation logically and responsibly,” explains Mr Story. “But if you don’t want to have that conversation, just ban it, pretend it’s not there, then you’re gonna have the same situation we’ve seen in other places, where the product will continue to sell, but without regulatory oversight.”

The regulations Mr Story proposes would go along the lines of: age verification for sales, advertising restrictions, nicotine content restriction, labeling, maximum capacity tanks, maximum nicotine strengths.

“The toxicity of any product is determined by its dosage. But if you regulate a product and allow them to only have 2 milliliters per cartridge, if you regulate the product and allow the bottle to only be 10 ml, just like we did in Europe, there’s no way it can hurt you,” claims Mr Story.

The right course of action

In 2009, when the authorities began cracking down on e-cigarettes by seizing shipments into the States, Mr Story took it upon himself to challenge the decision — and succeeded. American style.

“I sued them,” he says, with a dramatic pause. “I took them to court and put my foot down and said I want to talk, but if you won’t talk to me, I will take you to court and make you prove your position in court to where you’re right and I’m wrong and somehow, they couldn’t do it. Because to ban it because you don’t have any information, is ignorant. We try to build laws based on an abundance of information, not a lack of information.”

So will the TVECA replicate the process in Hong Kong? Mr Story says he truly hopes we won’t have to go there, but added “I will do what it takes.”

Kwong believes that what COSH is doing is the right course of action. “It’s actually quite like the total ban on smokeless tobacco by the HK Government in 1987.” The ban successfully kept the product off Hong Kong shelves up till today, and according to Kwong, Hong Kong has avoided the diseases related to smokeless tobacco.

“If you look at countries such as Sweden, Norway and Finland, or Pakistan and India, they have very serious problems related to smokeless tobacco, causing many cases of mouth cancers. Luckily we banned it and have no such issues. Therefore we hope the Government can do the same this time,” explains Kwong. Not known are the benefits Hong Kong missed out on from avoiding secondhand smoke had smokeless tobacco products been allowed for the past 28 years.

At the moment, Singapore and Thailand are among thirteen countries globally that have taken a similar stance on e-cigarettes, banning the industry altogether.

Alexander Basile, CEO and founder of e-cigarette developer Digirette, an American e-cigarette firm launching a Hong Kong office, urges the authorities to think about the 10.7% of Hong Kong people, “If you start looking at it from the public good and be open to the possibility that this technology can make a significant difference, then you’re going to be able to find the middle of the road. To ban it right now would literally be to condemn everybody in HK who would have transitioned to this, to death instead.”

The unapologetic Mr Basile feels that, if its young people who were going to smoke who are picking up vaping instead, then everyone should be happy about that. “We’re transitioning people through technology to a much better delivery system. Here with this technology, you actually have a chance to make a difference with people who are alive that you spend time with. If it’s going to make vaping cool, then so be it.”

To Mr Basile, and supporters of e-cigarettes alike, the bottom line is this, “It’s like driving on a freeway. If you’re smoking, you’re on the wrong side of the freeway and you’re driving against the traffic: you know that’s going to end badly. But vaping is equivalent to driving on the right side of the freeway. By no means is it harmless, but the likelihood of you dying from it is far less.”

*Name changed to protect anonymity.

SA economy losing billions due to illegal cigarettes trade

There have been allegations of licensed companies involved in manufacturing counterfeits cigarettes.

CAPE TOWN – The Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa says 23 percent of the local cigarette manufacturing and distribution trade is made up of illegal products.

Officials from the institute briefed Parliament’s Trade and Industry portfolio committee today on issues affecting the industry.

The institute’s Francois van der Merwe told members of Parliament the country’s economy has lost R22 billion to the illicit trade in cigarettes since 2010.

Van der Merwe adds there have been allegations that licensed companies are also involved in the manufacturing of counterfeit cigarettes.

On Thursday, Eyewitness News revealed former South African Revenue Service (Sars) spokesperson Adrian Lackay claims evidence has emerged that British American Tobacco (BAT), a private investigation firm, and State Security Agency officials have been involved in cigarette smuggling. BAT has denied involvement in any illegal activity.

Parliamentarians questioned why this continues unabated when there are numerous agencies tasked with cracking down on the trade.

They raised concerns the country will continue to lose money if the problem is not adequately dealt with.

China tobacco advertising to minors

BEIJING, April 24, 2015 (Xinhua) — China’s top legislature on Friday adopted an amendment to the Advertisement Law that places tougher restrictions on tobacco advertising to minors.

The amendment was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress at its bimonthly session, which closed on Friday. The amendment to the 21-year-old Advertisement Law will take effect on September 1.

Tobacco advertisements are forbidden on mass media and in public places, the revised law says, banning any kinds of advertisement targeting minors.

Advertisements for other products or services should not include the brand, trademark, packaging, design and similar contents of tobacco products, according to the new law.