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November 5th, 2015:

Anti-Smoking Campaign Uses Ink Extracted From Smokers’ Lungs

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If TV ads, print ads, and morbid images of diseases caused by tobacco products were not enough to keep you away from cigarettes, then the Thai Health Promotion Foundation’s new anti-smoking campaign definitely will.

This Thai health organization collaborated with BBDO Proximity Thailand and the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok to bring their anti-smoking campaign to a whole new level by making ink from tar extracted from smokers’ donated lungs. The organization used this ink to create a large number of ads and even distributed samples of the ink around the country.

You may consider this campaign morbid or you may not, but one thing is certain: it proved to be very effective. After its launch, the campaign has gotten a lot of attention on various news segments and social media, which has helped spread the anti-smoking message. According to BBDO’s video (which you can check out below), five times more smokers applied for Thai Health Promotion Foundation’s program to quit smoking.

Apart from grossing out smokers, I am sure that this campaign will be just as effective at dissuading anyone who is considering taking up this nasty habit.

Report | ‘One in three cigarettes illegal’ findings questioned by experts

A report published last month, which found that one in three cigarettes in Macau SAR are illegal, has continued to come under scrutiny after experts and regional organizations questioned its creditability.

The report, entitled “Asia-16: Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2014”, was jointly commissioned by the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) and Oxford Economics (OE), and found that around 34.5 percent of all cigarettes consumed within Macau were illegal.

Last month, the Times reported on a press conference held by OE in Macau, outlining the main findings of the report. Since then, we have been alerted to recent critiques of versions of the reports from 2012 and 2013, including one which was published by Professor Hana Ross on May 20, 2015 titled “A Critique of the ITIC/OE Asia-14 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2013”.

According to Ross, who is the Principal Research Officer of Economics of Cape Town’s University Tobacco Control Project, the 2012 and 2013 reports both fail to provide scientifically sound and unbiased information to policy-makers. She contends, “The figures and statistics [that they report] are the product of either incorrect or unverified/unverifiable estimation methods applied to often questionable data from multiple sources that do not blend.”

She added that “the results are not comparable across countries and are inconsistent with results of other studies.”

In her critique, Ross explains that the problems associated with the “Asia-16” report fall into four general categories: scientific method and data-gathering issues; a lack of detail allowing others to replicate the survey; the selective presentation of results; and what Ross terms “plain mistakes and errors.”

The main argument for tackling the illegal trafficking of cigarettes, according to the “Asia-16” report, is to prevent national governments from losing out on missed tax revenues. Some however, believe that the results may have been influenced by the interests of large tobacco organizations.

Oxford Economics was forthcoming at the time of the press conference in revealing that supporting data had been provided by both Nielson and the tobacco firm, Philip Morris International (PM). Indeed, the disclaimer at the beginning of the report reads that OE and ITIC “prepared the Report in accordance with specific terms of reference between Philip Morris International Management” and that “financial support was provided by PM.”

In the 2013 edition, the disclaimer read, “should any party choose to rely on the report, they do so at their own risk. ITIC and OE will not accept any responsibility or liability for the report.” Ross highlighted this in her criticism and reiterated that she “would caution any stakeholders against relying on this report when assessing the trade in illicit cigarettes in their country or in the region.” This may be considered one of the reasons why this part of the disclaimer was not included into the 2014 edition, “Asia-16”.

An additional critique, also authored by Ross, was published last month. It is a review of another report from ITIC, entitled “ASEAN Excise Tax Reform: A Resource Manual”. The October critique was commissioned by The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), which according to their own descriptions, “supports ASEAN member states in developing and implementing effective, evidence-based tobacco control policies in line with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

Skeptics point out that the ITIC report “focuses only on tobacco taxation” whilst failing to mention the overall implications of tobacco products for public health or the overall economy. “Governments should be wary of the recommendations in this manual,” wrote Ross.

A media and communications representative from SEATCA told the Times: “We have not seen the Asia-16 report [2014 edition], however we have seen earlier editions and have commissioned a critique of Asia-14.”

When asked about the role of tobacco firm financing, the representative answered: “If Asia-16 is anything like those [previous] reports, we would not be surprised if it was funded by tobacco money.”

The report was based on a survey of 1000 packs allegedly discarded in Macau. Survey organizers collected the discarded packages and determined the origins of the cigarettes. According to Adrian Cooper, CEO of Oxford Economics, this is the most accurate method of ascertaining the proportion of illicit cigarettes in a given area as “people are not always forthcoming or honest” when they are asked about the origins of their cigarettes.

The main conclusions from the survey were that countries which impose higher taxes on cigarette sales and which are located within close proximity to cheaper locations “tend to see a higher rate of illicit consumption.” The results of the study pertaining to Macau look at data exclusively from 2014, and so did not reflect the recent regulations introduced in 2015, including a new tax hike and a reduced personal duty-free allowance.

Govt sizes up Philip Morris WTO claim

Commerce staff deny opposing lawsuit


The Office of the Attorney General has prepared to indict Philip Morris in a tax evasion case but a World Trade Organisation ruling is giving pause. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The government is not sure whether a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling cited by tobacco giant Philip Morris will have any impact on a lawsuit it is set to file against the firm.

Philip Morris (Thailand) Limited (PMTL) is accused of making false declarations about the value of cigarettes it imported from the Philippines and depriving the government of an estimated 68 billion baht in tax revenue.

According to a probe by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) launched in 2005, PMTL under-reported the value of its products when declaring them to the Customs Department between 2003 and 2007.

Philip Morris claims the WTO ruling stems from a trade dispute between Thailand and the Philippines.

The company says the world trade body issued a ruling against Thailand in 2010 which clearly stated Thailand had no grounds to reject the import price of cigarettes from the Philippines.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Wednesday three issues arise over the ruling claims made by the tobacco giant.

First, he questioned whether the WTO really ruled against Thailand.

If Thailand really lost this dispute, it needs to consider whether it has something to do with Thailand’s legal action against the company, Mr Wissanu said.

The second is whether Thailand can still appeal against the ruling, and lastly what would happen if the country does not comply with the ruling, the deputy premier said.

If it is worth ignoring the ruling, the country can take that risk, he said.

Mr Wissanu said the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) is due to indict the company on Nov 25, and he has informed the cabinet of current events.

The company rejected the government’s allegations.

“The media reports that resurfaced recently completely ignore the fact that PMTL’s import prices have already been reviewed by various Thai and international agencies having the expertise and authority to address customs matters, and all of them concluded that PMTL did nothing wrong,” Pongsathorn Ansusinha, director of PMTL’s Corporate Affairs department, said.

The company welcomed the government’s recent move to look at the dispute carefully before rushing to any decision, adding: “We believe that this is about Thailand’s significant interest in the area of international trade.”

Meanwhile, the Commerce Ministry dismissed media reports the ministry had urged the OAG not to indict the PMTL out of fear of a trade backlash.

Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn said the ministry has a clear stance that legal procedures intended to protect the national interest must not be violated by other countries or overseas parties.

“The WTO has no authority to interfere in the judicial procedures of its members in a case of tax evasion,” Ms Apiradi added.

Also on Wednesday, the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation Thailand (Ash) urged the government to ignore concerns that legal action against the company would affect Thai and US trade.

Foundation executive director, Prakit Vathesatogkit, said even US state agencies have filed lawsuits against Philip Morris in several cases.

“If the firm is confident it is innocent, it should prove it in court,” he said.

Electronic cigarette marketers manipulate antitobacco advertisements to promote vaping


A device commonly used by public health advocates is the alteration of cigarette advertisements to convey an antismoking message.1 ,2 Well-known examples include ‘Joe Chemo’ for Joe Camel and ‘Fool’ for Kool.3 Our group has assembled an online collection of some 162 cigarette advertising ‘knock offs’ (unauthorised modifications) encompassing 35 brands created by enterprising antitobacco advocates.4

Recently, a new genre of adapted advertisements has appeared in which the electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) industry or its supporters have modified antismoking advertisements for the purposes of promoting vaping. These advertisements, which were originally intended to communicate the adverse health consequences of smoking, were altered to promote the supposed healthfulness of e-cigarettes. We have identified 12 educational advertisements that were altered either by e-cigarette brands or vaping advocacy groups.

Australian Government campaign: Stop Smoking Start Repairing

Four advertisements in our sample modify the Australian Government’s “Stop Smoking Start Repairing” advertisements to read “Stop Smoking Start Vaping” (figure 1). The original antismoking campaign was intended to raise awareness of the health benefits of quitting traditional cigarettes, a promotional tactic also widely used by e-cigarette brands.