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November 9th, 2015:

Indonesia’s Shame: Documentary shows SHOCKING images of Indonesian children addicted to cigarettes

Seeing Indonesian children smoking unfortunately isn’t such a shock to us anymore. After all, Indonesia is home to Aldi, arguably the most famous smoking baby in the world, who, for all the wrong reasons, became a viral sensation and was even featured on HBO’s “Last Week With John Oliver”.

But Aldi’s case is just one snapshot of a much bigger problem of underage smoking in Indonesia.

The mini-documentary above, which comes to us from Seeker Stories, manages to provide greater insight into the magnitude of the problem. It showcases the work of Canadian photojournalist Michelle Siu, who travelled to Jakarta to snap photos of children – from teenagers to those as young as four – who are hooked on cigarettes.

In addition to the damning stories about boys throwing tantrums if they don’t get their fix, or how almost all the Indonesian men addicted to cigarettes started smoking before the age of 19, what really makes these images so shocking is how these small children appear so at ease with lit cigarettes in their hands, as if they’re seasoned smokers.

As Siu writes on her website, “Young smokers begin the cycle of addiction but at a health cost for generations to come. The juxtaposition of young boys smoking like seasoned addicts is jarring yet this project is intended to not only shock and inform viewers but to demonstrate the lack of enforcement of national health regulations and to question the country’s dated relationship with tobacco.”

Sadly, there seems to be little in the way of new tobacco regulations in Indonesia to prevent children from smoking. The government at least added graphic warning on cigarette packs, but ours are arguably quite tame by comparison to the graphic warnings in other countries.

Meanwhile, tobacco advertisements and sponsorship are still plentiful and underage smoking is still a common sight. Indonesia has still got a long way to go and some very powerful tobacco companies to beat if it’s ever going to quit its addiction to the world’s deadliest drug.

To view Michelle Siu’s ‘Marlboro Boys’ photo series on Indonesian children smoking, visit her
website at

Yale to go tobacco-free

Over the next year, Yale will become the fifth of 26 universities in Connecticut to take steps toward eliminating tobacco from its campus.

On Thursday, University President Peter Salovey sent an email to the Yale community announcing that the University would become tobacco-free. Students widely criticized the timing of the email announcement, as the administration had at that point remained silent about two controversial incidents that drove campus discussion on race and discrimination. The email came around 4 p.m. on Thursday, less than an hour after a three-hour protest held on Cross Campus about issues of race and discrimination on campus. Salovey told the News he wishes the long-scheduled date of release had been changed, but still thinks the initiative is important for the health of students, faculty and staff on campus. Salovey said that the Schools of Public Health and Medicine have long been interested in establishing the initiative, which will include awareness events and smoking cessation support programs. Organized by the Department of Human Resources and Administration, the initiative will hopefully benefit both smokers and the rest of the Yale community, Salovey added.

“The idea is not just to have cleaner air for everyone to breathe, but to make it easier for people to quit,” Salovey said.

Two posts on “Overheard at Yale” — a popular Facebook page — expressed student frustration with administrative silence on two incidents: allegedly discriminatory behavior at a Sigma Alpha Epsilon party on the weekend of Halloween and a controversial email sent by Silliman College Associate Master Erika Christakis about culturally appropriative Halloween costumes. One contained a screenshot of President Salovey’s announcement and another showed an edited version of the email, altered to announce that Yale would “become a racism-free campus.”

Tobacco researchers and public health activists have applauded the announcement of Tobacco-Free Yale, with many calling it a positive step forward for the well-being of the University community.

Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the nature and structure of the campaign.

In a Sunday email to the News, Ruth Canovi, director of the American Lung Association for Connecticut, said she welcomed the initiative. She said that the program would not only reduce risks to campus associated with secondhand smoke but would also prevent students from starting to smoke cigarettes, adding that college students were among the most likely members of the population to smoke for the first time.

“We know that cigarette smoking rates are higher in the 18-25 age population than in youth,” Canovi said. “In 2012, almost 32 percent of 18-25 year-olds nation-wide smoked cigarettes, while 6 percent of 12-17 year-olds smoked cigarettes. College is often a time that people pick up the habit of smoking; tobacco-free policies on our college campuses can help change that.”

Sherry McKee, psychiatry professor and director of the Yale Tobacco Treatment Clinic, said that she expects the initiative to be well-received by smokers among the student body, staff and faculty.

She noted that nicotine replacement methods are not as effective for women as they are for men but that varenicline, the most effective medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration, works equally well for men and women.

Marc Potenza, director of the Yale Program for Research on Impulsivity and Impulse Control Disorders, said that the Tobacco-Free Yale campaign marks an important step in the University’s historical attitude toward tobacco.

He noted that 100 years ago, certain tobacco brands carried the Yale name, and called the current initiative a “stepwise progression from [Yale’s] idle perspective [on tobacco-related health issues]” that has resulted from an increasing understanding of the negative health effects of tobacco consumption.

Grace Kong, an associate research scientist in psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine who is involved with Yale’s Tobacco Research in Youth, said now is the appropriate time for a campaign of this nature due to the increased use of non-cigarette tobacco products among college students. She added that she expects the campaign will not only focus on cigarettes but other popular tobacco products including hookah, cigars, cigarillos, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

Stephanie O’Malley, director of the Division of Substance Abuse Research in Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, said that now was a great time for the implementation Tobacco-Free Yale because of recent anti-tobacco measures instituted by the city of New Haven, which include steps toward the prohibition of smoking in schools, parks and other city-owned property.

The rate of tobacco use among adults in Connecticut is 16.5 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The rate of tobacco use among Connecticut high school students is 13.5 percent.

Try, try again: Smokers may need to quit 6 to 9 times

Every year, on the third Thursday of November, smokers across the nation take part in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout.

What started back in the 1970s continues to motivate smokers to quit each year.

About 20 percent of adult Delawareans smoke. Annually, 1,400 Delawareans die from the effects of cigarettes. Smoking kills more people than alcohol, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.

There are a number of reasons why smokers light up. First and foremost, nicotine is an addictive substance, making it VERY difficult to quit. Past failed attempts can also feed into the notion that quitting is futile.

The average smoker may attempt to quit six to nine times before they’re successful. The message? Try, try again. More than 46 million Americans have quit for good.

Another reason for not quitting is the fear of weight gain. Packing on the pounds is not inevitable if you approach your quit date with a plan.

Even if you do gain, having to lose weight pales in comparison to the risks associated with continuing to smoke.

The amount of weight gain depends on the individual and can range from a few pounds to more than 25 pounds.

Weight gain is caused in part by a decrease in your metabolic rate after quitting. An improved sense of smell and taste can result in increased food consumption. Using food to replace the hand-mouth motion of smoking a cigarette is also a contributing factor.

New research published in the International Journal of Obesity has identified some trends and data.

Smokers who had fewer than 15 cigarettes daily and quit smoking weighed the same as non-smokers after 10 years. Heavy smokers and obese individuals tended to gain the most weight after quitting. The heavy smokers gained 23 pounds while the obese smokers gained 16 pounds on average.

An important message for smokers is that quitting is the single most important thing they can do for their health.

To avert weight gain, make a plan to engage in healthier habits starting the same day you quit. View it as a replacement – adding healthier lifestyle choices in place of a lethal one.

Increase your activity level. Not only will activity help you manage your weight after you’ve quit, it’s also helpful in managing cravings and elevating your mood.

If you’re currently sedentary, try walking – start out with 10-15 minutes, and gradually increase your minutes in motion. A daily 30-45 minute walk will counteract changes in your metabolism.

Also come up with a plan for how you’ll handle cravings. A list of activities to keep you busy – cleaning out the closet, calling a friend, taking a walk – can help. If the urge to eat strikes, reach for healthy snack options, and be sure to drink plenty of water

Try chewing sugarless gum or sucking on a cinnamon stick. Toothpicks, plastic straws and sugar-free hard candies are also ideas.

Talk with your healthcare provider about quitting. He/she can counsel you about the use of medications or nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum, inhaler), which greatly improve your chances for success.

Delaware residents can contact the Delaware Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free telephonic or face-to-face cessation counseling. Dependent on income, residents may also be eligible for free nicotine replacement therapy or medication.

This year’s Smoke-Out is scheduled for Nov. 19. Smokers are encouraged to abstain from smoking or use that day to make a plan to quit.

Good luck.

Marianne Carter is a registered dietitian and certified health educator. She’s the director of the Delaware Center for Health Promotion at Delaware State University.

Smoking myth gives slim cigarettes rising popularity in China

BEIJING, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — China’s 300 million smokers are turning to slim and super-slim cigarettes in the mistaken belief that they will be exposed to less harmful chemicals than traditional brands.

The world’s largest tobacco consumer and producer, production and sales of slim cigarettes doubled in China in 2014. A total of 15 billion slim cigarettes were sold that year, a drastic increase from 2007 when the figure was a mere 500 million.

Smokers are under the impression that slim cigarettes are “healthier” compared with the regular cigarettes. “It’s the lesser of two evils,” said Zhang Qingyu, a middle-aged chain smoker who switched to slim three years ago.

“My family support me on the switch because, you know, smoking kills and with such a ‘healthier’ alternative, I may live longer,” he added.

Most disturbingly, slim cigarettes are popular among young smokers and fashion conscious white collars, a large proportion of them being female.

At a cigarette store at Beijing’s Xuanwumen, colorful packs of slim cigarettes are prominently displayed in glass counters.

“We have over a dozen slim brands with prices ranging from 12 yuan (approximately 1.8 U.S. dollars) to 32 yuan,” said the shop owner. “There are a growing number of slim brands and they sell well,” he said, adding that most of his customers are young people.

China’s vocal anti-smoking lobby believes that slim cigarettes are “less harmful” myth is a dangerous one, which they describe as a “beautiful trap.”

Wu Yiqun, executive vice director of ThinkTank, a Beijing-based NGO committed to tobacco control, said the hazards of slim cigarettes have been greatly underplayed in China.

“There has been no evidence that a smoker is exposed to less chemicals and poisons after switching to slim cigarettes,” said Wu, one of China’s most prominent anti-smoking campaigners.

“Smokers feel slim cigarettes are less ‘fulfilling’ so they use other tobacco products, smoke more of them or simply take more drags,” she said.

Xu Guihua, deputy head of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, said that promotion of slim cigarettes by the tobacco industry misleads consumers.

“There is no such thing as ‘safe’ cigarettes no matter how slim they are,” she said, adding that slim cigarettes are a marketing hoax used by the industry to dupe and extract more profits from the world’s largest tobacco market.

Ling Chengxing, head of the China’s State Tobacco Monopoly Administration and China National Tobacco Corporation told a meeting earlier this year that the slim cigarettes are “in line with the trend of consumption and tobacco product innovation” and are of “lower costs and cause less harm” compared with the regular smokes.

An article on the corporation’s website says that slim cigarettes have a”huge potential market.”

China’s tobacco industry generated almost 956 billion yuan in taxes and profits in 2013. More than 1 million people die in the country from tobacco-related illness annually – around 3,000 people every day – around 150,000 U.S dollars of profit for each death.

KL panel to study health impact of e-cigarettes

PETALING JAYA • Malaysia’s Health Ministry has formed a special committee to study the health implications and other issues surrounding the vape industry, following a heated debate over a proposed ban on vaping and the unpopular raids by the ministry on e-cigarette stores nationwide last week.

Health Minister S. Subramaniam said the committee would be the point of reference over vaping issues to prevent conflicting statements emanating from other government departments, The Star newspaper reported yesterday.

The committee’s formation came about after Dr Subramaniam said his ministry was considering legislation to control vaping last week, only to have Rural Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob saying the next day the Cabinet has agreed not to ban e-cigarettes.

But the day after Datuk Ismail’s announcement, there were surprise raids on more than 300 vape stores, leading to protests from store owners and vape users.

A Health Ministry spokesman said the raids were carried out to monitor the nicotine content of vape liquids, and that some stores did not possess a valid licence to sell nicotine-based products.

The issue is also muddled by various views on whether using e-cigarettes helped to reduce smoking, or is in fact smoking by another name as nicotine is part of some of the vape liquids sold.

A subtext to the debate is the prevalence of Malay entrepreneurs who have invested tens of thousands of dollars to open vape stores, with many young Malays using e-cigarettes. The government is wary of upsetting its Malay vote bank.

The Health Ministry in August recommended a temporary halt to shisha and e-cigarette smoking until findings on the risks were announced. But this has been largely ignored.

Adolescent E-Cigarette Use Tied To Breathing Problems

(Reuters Health) – Adolescents who reported using e-cigarettes were about 30 percent more likely to report respiratory symptoms than those who never used e-cigarettes, in a study from China.

The increased risk of breathing problems – like a cough or phlegm – varied depending on whether or not the adolescents also smoked traditional cigarettes.

“Among never smoking adolescents, e-cigarette users are twice as likely to report respiratory symptoms than non-users,” study author Dr. Daniel Ho, of the University of Hong Kong School of Public Health.

“E-cigarettes are certainly not harmless and serious health problems of long-term use will probably emerge with time,” Ho added in an email to Reuters Health.

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine through a vapor, which contains propylene glycol and flavoring chemicals known to be bothersome to the respiratory system, the researchers write in JAMA Pediatrics.

While past research found some short-term respiratory effects in adults after e-cigarette use, the researchers say no study had looked for these effects in adolescents.

The new findings are drawn from data collected between 2012 and 2013 from over 45,000 schoolchildren in Hong Kong with an average age of about 15.

Overall, 1.1 percent of students reported smoking e-cigarettes within the past 30 days, and about 19 percent of all students reported respiratory symptoms.

Students who smoked e-cigarettes were 30 percent more likely to report breathing problems, compared to those who didn’t use the devices.

The difference in breathing problems was most pronounced among students who said they never smoked traditional cigarettes. These students were over twice as likely to report breathing problems as those who didn’t use e-cigarettes.

Students who reported using e-cigarettes and also smoking traditional cigarettes at some point in their lives were at a 40 percent increased risk of breathing problems, compared to those who didn’t use the devices.

While the study can’t prove the devices caused breathing problems among children, the researchers say the findings support the World Health Organization’s recommendation to regulate e-cigarette use among children.

“Other studies have also shown that adolescent e-cigarette users are more likely to initiate cigarette smoking than non-users,” Ho said. “One in two smokers will be killed by tobacco; two in three if started from a young age.”

Parents, he said, can prevent e-cigarette and traditional cigarette use among their children by not using the devices or tobacco, not exposing their children to secondhand smoke and setting strict smoke-free rules at home.

“E-cigarette use is a controversial topic,” Ho said. “While supporters are optimistic about the potential for harm reduction in the minority of established cigarette smokers, (for) which convincing evidence is lacking, this does not seem to justify the potential harm of re-normalizing cigarette smoking, delaying smoking cessation, and escalating to real cigarette smoking, especially among the majority non-smoking young people.”

New CDC Data: More Than 9 Million Adults Vape Regularly in the United States

A recently released report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that in 2014, 3.7 percent of American adults used electronic cigarettes or vapor products on a regular basis. That figure represents more than 9 million adult consumers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

E-cigarettes are tobacco-free technology products, which are increasingly being used as smoking cessation tools for traditional cigarette users. The National Health Interview Survey also revealed that 12.6 percent of adults in the U.S. have tried an e-cigarette at least once.

Key CDC Survey Findings:

About 3.7 percent of adults used e-cigarettes every day or some days;
Almost one-half of current cigarette smokers (47.6%) and more than one-half of recent former cigarette smokers (55.4%) had ever tried an e-cigarette;
About one in six current cigarette smokers (15.9%) and nearly one in four recent former cigarette smokers (22.0%) currently used e-cigarettes;
Fewer than 4 percent of adults who had never smoked conventional cigarettes have ever tried an e-cigarette.

The academic research and evidence suggesting e-cigarettes are at least 95 percent and as much as 99 percent healthier than combustible cigarettes continues to mount. Despite the potential boon to public health, tax-hungry lawmakers and fraudulent “public health” groups have waged a war on vaping, pushing for excise taxes on the products throughout the U.S.

Listen to U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) call for an end to the e-cigarette industry:

Read more about the war on vaping in this National Review piece, “Vaping for Tax Freedom.”

The same groups that for years argued we had to raise taxes on cigarettes to decrease use are now pushing for tax hikes on the products actually achieving that exact goal among adult smokers.

Threats of imposing excise, or “sin taxes” on e-cigarettes have varied state by state. States like Washington, Vermont, and Oregon have considered wholesale tobacco taxes as high as 95 percent. The reaction of the small business vape shops, working in their communities to help smokers quit has been consistent. The threat of taxation stands to kill their businesses, and the public health benefits they are providing.

A recent tax hike imposed in the District of Columbia immediately resulted in the closure of at least one business, which couldn’t afford to compete and comply.

Politicians waging a war on vaping are doing so to balance bloated budgets on the backs of smokers trying to live healthier lives. If these big government bureaucrats wanted to help people actually quit smoking, they would embrace the growing evidence suggesting these products could save governments billions in health care costs and millions of lives.

9 million adult consumers aren’t going to sit idly by as the products they accurately attribute to saving their lives are under the threat of prohibition. With the growing number of adult e-cigarette consumers in the United States, vapers represent a significant single-issue voting bloc. Candidates for federal, state, and local office would be wise to recognize this constituency as the latest addition to the “Leave Us Alone” coalition, especially in swing states and close elections.

As Health ‘Goes Up in Smoke,’ Lebanon’s Youth Battle Over Tobacco

Seventeen university students sit in a café in Kaslik, a coastal town half an hour’s drive north of Beirut. Ten boys and seven girls, all sucking on water pipes – waiters wade through a thin but unmistakable pool of smoke in the air.

This is the new face of youth smoking in Lebanon and indeed across the Middle East. It’s more girls, it’s more smoke and sadly, in Lebanon, it’s still indoors.

“Some of them are in here everyday,” the café’s owner tells Lebanese Streets. “It’s very social and, you know, they’re young.”

More young people smoke water pipes in Lebanon than perhaps anywhere else on earth and in 2011, the government moved to ban smoking indoors as part of Law 174. But the tobacco and restaurant industry mustered a campaign many believe was highly and typically misleading that wound back the public smoking ban earlier this year.

The consequence of this is young Lebanese have been left with policies that fail to decrease their risk of smoking at a time when the behaviour of smokers are changing, perhaps for the worse.

“When it comes to water pipes we’re talking about almost the same toxins, the same cancerous agents, just in greater volumes,” says Associate Professor Rima Nakkash of the American University of Beirut.

Nakkash helped shape Law 174, which included three main strategies, or “pillars”, to help reduce smoking rates in the Lebanese population. She isn’t optimistic about the prospect of reversing the U-turn the government has made on smoking in public places.

“This current government would be really a waste to work with. They have so many issues and they’ve shown to be impotent. We have to wait and hope the new government or next policy-making body is receptive to advocates pushing for the law to being implemented again.”

Lebanon’s young people have a particular taste for water pipes, also known as hookah or shisha. As these graphs from peer review journal Tobacco Control clearly show, more Lebanese boys and girls smoke waterpipes than all other young people in the Middle East except boys from the UAE. They only equal Lebanon’s girls.

Further, the extent of the preference amongst young people for water pipes over cigarettes is larger than anywhere else in the region.


Global water pipe smoking data is sketchy because it’s only come back into fashion in the last decade or so. However, given the practice is clearly most popular in the east Mediterranean, it looks likely more young Lebanese smoke water pipes than any country in the world.

And the World Health Organisation is concerned water pipe smoking could be working as a gateway to cigarette smoking as well as a false ‘halfway house’ between smoking cigarettes and quitting – cigarette smokers use water pipes as a strategy for quitting, only to go back to cigarettes.

The restaurant syndicate argued, amongst other things, that hookah is a rich part of Lebanese culture and the ban on smoking in public areas would hurt their revenue. Researchers counter that hookah only came back in the last decade, which is why they don’t have a handle on precisely how damaging it is to the user’s health.

“We don’t have a lot of long-term health effect studies, because this is a phenomenon that’s started in the last ten years,” says Nakkash. “So we need to be able to follow up smokers who regularly smoke waterpipes and do similar studies to see the long-term effects of this health habit.”

The World Health Organisation also laments that research on the precise health impacts of water pipe smoking against cigarette smoking remains patchy. But it also stresses, “every study to date has found that waterpipe tobacco smoke contains ample quantities of toxicants known to cause diseases in cigarette smokers, including cancer”.

Additionally, anti-tobacco campaigners point out the predictions of massive losses in revenue from the hospitality sector due to a public smoking ban had no international examples to back them up.

While anti-smoking advocates have universally received the public smoking ban U-turn as a big defeat for the cause, Law 174 had two more of three “pillars” that are still standing.

The first of the other two is better health warnings for tobacco products. Lebanon’s cigarette packets now have bigger textual warnings on them. Unfortunately this doesn’t apply to hookah in Lebanon. Turkey, for example, has extended the warning labels to the water pipe bottles.

The second is an advertising ban, which has been well monitored by the Consumer Protection Office, according to Nakkash. However, she adds the tobacco companies consistently try to undermine the laws with ‘selling’ campaigns, instead of classic marketing or promotional campaigns. This tendency by the tobacco companies to ignore or undermine Lebanese legislation goes back to the early 1970s.

Indeed the tobacco industry’s behaviour worldwide shows any additional steps Lebanon might take in the future to drive down smoking rates will probably be met with stiff resistance.

The next international frontier against smoking is not just bigger warnings on cigarette packets, which Lebanon has, as well as graphic pictures of the consequences of smoking, but neutralising the branding of the cigarettes themselves. It’s called plain packaging.

Nakkash acknowledged plain packaging is world’s best practice, but she says the political and social conditions within Lebanon mean it’s unrealistic to push for plain packaging straight away. A gradual improvement in standards for packaged cigarettes is an acceptable strategy. Indeed, given the speed with which the public smoking ban was overturned, such an approach is probably necessary.

Australia has successfully legislated plain packaging and other countries in the Americas and Europe are expected to follow. However, the tobacco industry launched court action in Australia that involved some strange legal manoeuvres.

Phillip Morris comprehensively lost that court case, but Nakkash doesn’t expect the industry to heed any lessons from that it when other countries push for plain packaging.

As the students in the Kaslik café continue to pass around the water pipe, Lebanese Streets asked the owner whether he was aware of the complex, international battles going on over tobacco consumption of cigarettes and water pipes.

He said “not really,” adding later, “In Lebanon, we have a lot to worry about.”

‘Only pharmacists, doctors can sell nicotine e-cigarettes’

Electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine can only be sold by licenced pharmacists and registered medical practioners, says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“E-cigarettes with nicotine require registration under the Control of Drugs and Cosmetic Regulations 1984, Sale of Drugs Act 1952.

“It can only be sold by licenced pharmacists and registered medical practitioners and must be recorded,” he said in a statement today after chairing a special committee meeting on e-cigarette in Kuala Lumpur.

Unauthorised sale of nicotine is an offence under the Poison Act 1952.

The ministry on Oct 30 said the Cabinet had decided not to ban e-cigarettes or ‘vape’.

Last week the ministry carried out an operation to seize e-cigarettes that contain liquid nicotine.

TPP: Australia could be “sued for billions”

A leading expert on intellectual property (IP), Associate Professor Kimberlee Weatherall, has warned that Australia “could be sued for billions” if it ratifies the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. From The Canberra Times:

“The Intellectual Property (IP) chapter of the TPP is an extraordinarily complex, extremely prescriptive chapter that locks in IP settings established decades and even a century ago – at the very time that the Productivity Commission is looking critically at Australia’s entire IP arrangements,” Ms Weatherall said.

“[And] the adequacy of carve-outs for IP in the Investment Chapter is extremely concerning.”

“We could get sued for billions for making some change to mining law or fracking law or God knows what else. We could literally have damages of more than a billion, but we don’t actually know. And we won’t know until any [law] suit gets started, and then we won’t know for another five years while it works through the process.

Ms Weatherall’s criticism follows others such as Dr Matthew Rimmer, intellectual property law professor at the Queensland University of Technology, who says the section on foreign investors is “labyrinthine”.

In signing on to the TPP, Trade Minister Robb did at least achieve a ‘carve-out’ for tobacco, which is something. But it still leaves a bunch of areas where Australian taxpayers could be sued.

While Robb has labelled such concerns “scaremongering”, Canada’s experience with the US under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provides a stark warning of what could be in store for Australia if it ratifies the TPP. As explained last month by Kyla Tienhaara, Research Fellow Regulatory Institutions Network (RegNet), Australian National University:

Australia and Canada have a great deal in common – a British colonial past; large and sparsely populated territories; and resource-intensive economies.

Two other similarities also bear mentioning: the economies of both countries are dominated by US investors (27% of foreign investment in Australia and nearly half in Canada).

But there is a one major difference: up until now, Australia has never agreed to provide American investors with access to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), whereas Canada has.

In total Canada has faced 35 challenges, 23 of these in the last ten years. Australia has been subjected to only one ISDS case.

Canada has been sued more times than Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and at a global level it has been involved in more ISDS cases (35 in total) than any other developed country. Canada has already lost or settled seven claims, paid out damages totalling over CA$170 million and incurred untold millions more in legal costs.

At the same time, Canadian companies have been rather unsuccessful in ISDS. In general, the claim that ISDS will primarily benefit the “little guy” isn’t borne out by the statistics.

What kinds of policies are being challenged in ISDS? While much attention in Australia has rightly been given to Philip Morris’ challenge of the plain packaging legislation, many cases around the world actually focus on environmental protection and resource management.

Such cases account for 63% of disputes involving Canada. So carving out tobacco from ISDS, as has reportedly been done in the TPP, is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. If anything, it signals that the “safeguards” in place in the agreement are, on their own, insufficient to protect public policy.

Australia is opening a can of (really expensive) worms with the TPP. And significantly, it isn’t a can that can easily be closed again.

Clearly, Australians should be very concerned about the gremlins lurking in the TPP, the full extent of which are likely to come to light long after Trade Minister Andrew Robb has left his post.