Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

May 7th, 2015:

Tobacco industry has sights set on Indonesia, says expert

A professor of public health at the University of Indonesia’s School of Public Health, Hasbullah Thabrany, has warned that Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest consumers of tobacco and as yet not a signatory to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and with few regulations restricting children’s access to cigarettes, has become a main target for the tobacco industry.

“It seems that we are in a battle ground, where tobacco company owners are among the country’s richest people, making money from poor people addicted to their product,” Hasbullah said.

The National Commission on Tobacco Control (Komnas PT), together with civil and health groups concerned with tobacco control in Indonesia, has urged the government to ignore pressure from the tobacco industry, including pressure applied via the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC).

The ITIC is widely seen to directly and indirectly fight for the cigarette industry’s agenda.

Hasbullah said that if the government wished to regain its sovereignty over the economy, as stipulated in the Nawa Cita (President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s nine-point development program), Indonesia must instead implement a pro-people economic policy

Heart Foundation proposes licensing tobacco retailers

Palmerston North is being challenged to be the first city in New Zealand to licence tobacco retailers, and ban sales at dairies, supermarkets and liquor stores within 1 kilometre of schools.

Heart Foundation Manawatu heart health advocate Sally Darragh told a city council submissions hearing on Tuesday it could introduce a bylaw.

She believed it was empowered to do so under the Local Government Act in the interests of protecting public health.

Darragh said the council had already taken positive action to reduce smoking and the harm caused through tobacco.

She applauded its smokefree outdoor policy and work currently being considered about discouraging smoking outside cafes and bars.

But more was needed in order to reach New Zealand’s goal of a smokefree community where less than 5 per cent of the population smoked by 2025.

If tobacco sales licensing was introduced, it would help ensure retailers were complying with regulations, such as storing tobacco products out of sight and not selling to people aged under 18.

The council could also impose some other restrictions to reduce the availability of tobacco.

Her recommendations were that retailers would pay a fee for their licence, that tobacco could not be sold within 1 kilometre of a school, and could not be sold where alcohol was sold.

Darragh said controlling the supply of tobacco had to be part of the plan to discourage smoking.

“At the moment, it can be sold by anyone. Yet it is a dangerous and addictive drug.”

She said the exclusion zone around schools would discourage teenagers from buying smokes during their breaks, and severing the link between alcohol and smoking would support people trying to quit.

Darragh said licensing would ensure health authorities knew where tobacco was being sold so they could more easily check the rules were adhered to.

It would also provide a meaningful penalty, of losing the licence, if retailers did not comply.

She hoped it would reduce the clustering of tobacco outlets in poor areas where smoking rates tended to be highest.

Darragh said there was no central government move, yet, to consider licensing.

“It would be good to have this council’s leadership. No other councils are considering it.

“You would the first, but I think you are up to it.”

Tobacconist Richard Green, who disputes the claim that smoking causes cancer, said councillors should treat the submission with the disdain it deserved.

He said the exclusion zone around schools, together with a ban for anyone selling alcohol, would affect almost every retailer, dairy and supermarket in the city.

“It’s over the top.”

He said previous moves to hide cigarette displays had made no difference to smoking rates.

Repeated price increases did nothing but see children living in poverty going to school without lunch.

“People will smoke no matter what.”

He said it would drive tobacco sales underground, more people would grow their own, and tourists who smoked would avoid New Zealand.

In U.K. General Election, No Good Outcomes for Tobacco Companies

Britain’s tobacco industry is braced for a tough time, regardless of the result of the general election.

The Conservative Party earlier this year pushed through a law to ban branding on cigarette packs, surprising some observers who felt Prime Minister David Cameron’s party would stall on a vote before the election. The ban comes into force in 2016.

But worse could lie in store for cigarette companies if the opposition Labour Party is elected.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said last year he would bring in a U.S.-style “sin tax” on tobacco companies if his party wins. As in the U.S., the tax would be based on each company’s market share, meaning Imperial Tobacco Group PLC and Japan Tobacco Inc.2914.TO -2.43%—which between them control around 85% of the U.K. cigarette market—would be most affected.

Mr. Miliband said he hoped to raise at least £150 million ($228.5 million) a year from the levy, which would be used to fund spending on Britain’s National Health Service.

Imperial Tobacco said Wednesday it didn’t support any one party in the election, but said any additional tax likely would result in price rises. The average tax on a pack of cigarettes bought in the U.K. is 86% of the retail price, one of the highest proportions in the world.

“If the tobacco levy were to be imposed, the natural corollary is that prices would go up in the U.K. market,” said Matthew Phillips, Imperial’s corporate-affairs director. He added that higher prices would increase illicit cigarette trade in the U.K. and reduce the government’s tax from tobacco.

A spokesman for Japan Tobacco declined to comment.

Commission calls on EU to ratify FCTC illicit trade protocol

The European Commission called on the European Union to follow through on a commitment made more than two years ago to ratify the illicit tobacco trade protocol of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Only seven countries, including EU members Spain and Austria, have ratified the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products since it was approved at an FCTC meeting in Seoul, Korea, in November, 2012. Forty ratifications are necessary for the protocol to take effect, the Commission noted in its statement. Ratification by the 26 member countries that have not done so and the EU as a ratifying body would add raise the number of approving parties to 34.

FCTC is the first international treaty operating under the auspices of the World Health Organisation.

Manufacturers behind low cigarette taxes in RI: Commission

The National Commission on Tobacco Control (Komnas PT) is warning about the potential influence of manufacturers over the government’s ongoing efforts to determine the proper tobacco taxes that are currently being considered as a proven strategy to reduce smoking.“The cigarette industry can make such an intervention through various activities and high-level lobbying, one of which is via international institutions,” Komnas PT chairman Prijo Sidipratomo said in a release made available to The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He said cigarette prices in Indonesia were considered very low and affordable even for young smokers; thus, the maximum increase in cigarette taxes needed to be applied to limit cigarette consumption in the country.“High taxes can lead to a jump in cigarette prices in Indonesia, allowing the government to control cigarette consumption among susceptible groups, such as poor people and children,” said Prijo.He said limiting people’s access to cigarettes through high taxes was popular in other countries, especially those that had acceded to the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Such a strategy was also proven as a ‘win-win’ solution for the government’s revenues and its efforts to protect people’s health from cigarette smoking impacts, he added.

The Komnas PT chairman was speaking in response to the presence of several Indonesian fiscal and financial officials in the Asia-Pacific Tax Forum held by the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) in New Delhi, India, from May 5 to 7.

The ITIC is among the organizations blacklisted by WHO and the World Bank (WB) as it is sponsored by four multinational cigarette companies, namely Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and JTI.

The forum has drawn sharp criticism regarding, particularly, the sponsorship of the cigarette companies, forcing the WB to pull out its support. A number of financial officials from several countries also decided to not attend the forum because of the cigarette sponsorship. Unfortunately, Indonesia has decided that it will still take part in the forum. Komnas PT says the Asia-Pacific Tax Forum currently held by the ITIC is one of the interventions conducted by the cigarette industry to ensure the continuity of their business by working against efforts by countries to increase their cigarette taxes.

Manufacturers’ interventions on the government’s cigarette taxing policy can be seen when via the ITIC, an institution they are sponsoring, the cigarette companies invite representatives from various countries to attend an international forum to discuss the tax policies of those countries, the commission says

Breach of the Business Appointment Rules for civil servants by Mr Dave Hartnett

Download (PDF, 123KB)

It seems Mr Hartnett knows the UK Govt retirement rules well

CTA says: it seems Mr Hartnett knows the UK Govt retirement rules well, as the listed letters on the Acoba site show-

However Acoba has no record of Mr Hartnett joining ITIC as a director in 2013, well within the 2 years-after-retirement-need-permission regulation.

Did he just forget, or was it to do with the fact that ITIC is funded by Big Tobacco, Big Beverage, Big Energy and a litany of  lawyers and accountancy firm ?

‘Dave Hartnett’ David Anthony “Dave” Hartnett CB, is a former British civil servant who served as the Permanent Secretary for Tax at HM Revenue and Customs until his retirement in July 2012

Whitehall’s Most Wined and Dined – Mr Hartnett, who is in charge of the Britain’s tax system, was entertained 107 times, mostly at breakfasts, lunches and dinners, by some of the UK’s biggest banks, law firms and accountancy firms, among others. Companies that entertained him included Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and Deloitte

14/08/2014 New Board Member Mr D.A. Hartnett appointed
St Mary’s University Twickenham

Registered Details Short name David Hartnett

Date of Birth: 25/02/1951

Director ID: 919008755 Registered Address Waldegrave Road, Strawberry Hill Twickenham LondonTW1 4SX

Read more at:


Dave Hartnett, permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), was forced to defend revelations that he supervised and signed off a deal that saved Goldman £10m of tax – when he told MPs just a month ago that he did “not deal with Goldman’s tax affairs”.

Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said to him: “It seems to me you lied when you told the Treasury Select Committee on 12th September that, and I quote, ‘I do not deal with Goldman’s tax affairs’… we had access to a meeting on 8th December in the offices of your lawyers where it is stated that you had settled and had in fact shaken hands on a deal on their tax affairs.”

“I did not lie,” Mr Hartnett said. “I did not deal with Goldman Sachs tax affairs in the normal sense.”

Ms Hodge said that Mr Hartnett was “playing with words” and his denials were “laughable.” She told him: “It appears that £10m was lost to the taxpayer because of a deal you did with Goldman Sachs. We were ripped off.”

HMRC has been accused of forgiving Goldman for millions of pounds of tax that should have been paid on remuneration and bonus payments that were paid through an off-shore company in the British Virgin Islands.

After a clamp-down on the loop-hole by Gordon Brown, 21 firms settled with HMRC. Goldman held out because HMRC had made a technical mistake in its handling of Goldman’s case by assessing its UK company rather than the off-shore one.

It is the latest in a line of embarrassing errors made by HMRC which include a £1.25bn settlement with Vodafone over a £6bn dispute and the PAYE fiasco last year.

Mr Hartnett told MPs he had been asked by colleagues working on Goldman case to “assist in a very difficult relationship issue” between HMRC and the bank. He said the deal had been reached because a “mistake had been made” for which he was “very sorry.” Asked if there had been a “problem” in the way the settlement was reached, Mr Hartnett admitted there had been a “lack of objective assurance” in the process.

Asked if there had been any disciplinary procedure for the mistake he said: “None. We learned from that mistake as an organisation.” He said new procedures were being introduced to ensure that the mistake “can’t happen again.”

Mr Hartnett said he was often brought in on disputed cases because he was the only one of HMRC’s four commissioners “with deep tax knowledge.” MPs said they were “staggered” to hear that the other commissioners were not tax experts. He said two more commissioners were being hired.

He added that in future any case that a commissioner negotiated would be reviewed by two other commissioners “before the case can be settled.” He also suggested a new system, including the Finnish model of inserting an independent body between the revenue and the tax payer to resolve disputes.

India tobacco confab a ploy to sway policies, PH warned

MANILA, Philippines–Antismoking groups on Wednesday warned the government against participating in the three-day tax forum being held in India, saying it is a tobacco industry trap meant to sway government policies on public health and tobacco control in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to HealthJustice, New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) and the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca), the 12th annual Asia-Pacific Tax Forum, held from May 5 to 7 and organized by the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC), received funding from giant tobacco companies

The groups identified these companies as Philip Morris International, Imperial Tobacco Ltd., British American Tobacco and JTI Group.

They also noted that the website of ITIC, described as a known tobacco industry front group, claimed that government delegations, including from the Philippines, have confirmed their participation in the forum.

“The forum serves as a venue for the tobacco industry front group to influence governments in the Asia Pacific region… a clear violation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” said Irene Reyes, managing director of HealthJustice.

Reyes added that the forum was also an infringement of a joint memorandum circular of the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Health issued in 2010, which requires government officials to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

“Philippine delegates must keep in mind their obligation to protect life-saving tobacco control measures against the interference of tobacco companies. Public health interests should always be prioritized over the commercial interests of the tobacco industry,” added NVAP president Emer Rojas.

The groups also pointed out that the World Bank and India’s finance minister had formally withdrawn their participation from the tax forum.

If traditionally conservative institutions like the World Bank “have seen through” the ITIC and its objectives, the government should not allow itself to be a party to the event, stressed Reyes.

Tobacco, medicines dominate TPPA forum

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s request for tobacco to not be part of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiations and fears over the higher cost of medication dominated the floor at a forum discussing the trade agreement.

Forum participants railed against the opacity of the negotiations, a US-led initiative including 11 other nations on both sides of the Pacific at the forum on Thursday.

Participants wanted to know why, despite health warnings even in the United States, Malaysia’s suggestion for tobacco to be ‘carved out’ of the trade talks have not yielded any results.

The forum was interrupted midway when two persons from a patient-advocacy group unfurled a banner protesting against the perceived threat that the agreement would bring to medicine costs.

The chapter on intellectual property rights remains one of the most contentious of the outstanding issues with opponents of the TPPA arguing that medicine costs would go up as pharmaceutical firms extend the shelf-life of their patents

Video pranksters drench smokers in public to promote World No Tobacco Day

A prankster from MerlionTV splashing water from a bottle on a woman who was smoking in public. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

A prankster from MerlionTV splashing water from a bottle on a woman who was smoking in public. — PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE – Notorious pranksters MerlionTV are at it again – their latest video shows one member drenching unsuspecting people who were smoking in public.

Done purportedly to promote World No Tobacco Day, which falls on May 31, the four-minute video titled “#StopThePuff PRANK! – World No Tobacco Day” was uploaded on YouTube on May 3.

It has since garnered more than 16,000 views.

The video starts off with a man, who introduces himself as “Sebas” from MerlionTV, explaining the purpose of the prank. It is followed by him committing several pranks targeted at what appeared to be members of the public smoking in the open.

The faces of the victims were blurred to hide their identities. The four pranks included a man and a woman being splashed in the face with a bottle containing water, a man being kicked into a swimming pool and another man having a bucket containing ice water poured over his head.

Comments on Youtube ranged from supportive messages to those who criticised their actions. “This is not funny and it’s very mean,” said user Louis Kuan.

MerlionTV was in the news earlier this year when they posted a controversial two-minute video of them posing as plainclothes officers to terrorise illegal cigarette peddlers in Geylang, which sparked a police investigation.

Another questionable video prank by the group featured a masked, knife-wielding man scaring passers-by.