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February 18th, 2016:

2016 global tobacco control Hot Spots



Many new hot spots have flared up in global tobacco control in 2016; others remain from last year.

There are two recurring themes:

1/ Governments are tightening regulations on packaging as a main vehicle for tobacco advertising, as per the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC); 2/ The tobacco industry continues to fight implementation of these and other FCTC measures, sometimes publicly, often behind the scenes.

We update progress on plain packaging in a separate map. Please let us know if you think we’ve overlooked other burning, or simmering, issues.

The federal government elected late last year has pledged to adopt plain packaging of tobacco products. No details have yet been released.

Watch our video.

Tobacco control measures are gradually being approved and put into place. They include bans on public smoking in the capital Beijing and 10 other cities and on tobacco advertising.

Read our article.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Tobacco control advocates are hoping that a new law will be passed this year. The legislation has been in the making since 2006, and has faced intense opposition from the tobacco industry.

Read our article.

Tobacco control advocates are hoping that a new law will be passed this year. In February, authorities in the capital Addis Ababa said they would start enforcing public smoke-free areas.

European Union
The European Commission is scheduled to adopt a proposal on tracking and tracing of tobacco products, as a tool to fight illicit trade. Tobacco industry lobbying has accelerated in response. Simultaneously, the EC has postponed its decision on whether to renew a controversial deal that protected some tobacco firms that agreed to cooperate with anti-smuggling measures from smuggling charges.

Read this article from the Head of the FCTC Secretariat.

Watch our video.

Like Ireland and the UK, France is scheduled to have plain tobacco packs (free of colours, logos and all other branding), on store shelves by May.

Read our article

Delays in passing enabling legislation have put on hold the measures in the tobacco control law, which were approved in 2013 after five years of intense advocacy led by civil society, opposed by the tobacco industry.

Read our article.

Despite passing its tobacco control law four years ago, Ghana has still not implemented its provisions. The enabling legislation needed to put the law into force has been under discussion in parliament for over a year.

Watch our video.

After postponing in 2015 a plan to introduce larger graphic health warnings, covering 85 percent of tobacco packages, the central government now says this will happen on 1 April 2016. New Delhi will host the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties to the FCTC on 7-12 November.

Read our article.

Indonesia is one of the largest countries that is not yet a Party to the WHO FCTC; it’s estimated that more than two-thirds of adult males there are smokers. There have been some positive steps recently. For example, in 2014, graphic health warnings became mandatory on tobacco packages.

However, in 2015 the Tobacco Bill was introduced into Parliament. Unlike an earlier bill, it emphasises the economic impact of tobacco rather than the disastrous health effects.

Watch our video.

Like France and the UK, Ireland is scheduled to have plain tobacco packs (free of colours, logos and all other branding), on store shelves by May. In December 2015 the European Court of Justice, in a preliminary ruling, rejected a challenge to the legislation by tobacco giants Philip Morris and British American Tobacco.

The tobacco industry, via British American Tobacco (BAT), has fought all attempts to implement regulations for the Tobacco Control Law, including suing the government for violating the constitution in its consultation process. The matter is now in the courts.

Activists are pushing the government to take action against BAT after a BBC-TV program accused the company of trying to bribe influential policy makers in order to hamper the implementation of tobacco control measures.

Read our article.

In 2001 Imperial Tobacco signed a 25-year deal with the Lao Government to limit increases on tobacco taxes for tobacco products produced and sold in the country. FCA member SEATCA says that by 2020 the tobacco industry will more than double its income in Laos, from US$187 million in 2013 to $424m in 2018.

After a long struggle by tobacco control advocates, Nigeria passed a law in 2015. However, it has still not approved enabling legislation.

In February 2015 the Government of Pakistan announced it would increase the size of graphic health warnings on tobacco packages to 85 percent of the pack surface, but it has rescheduled the due date several times. In January 2016 it said it would give the tobacco industry one more month to comply with the new regulation.

Delays in passing enabling legislation have delayed the measures in the tobacco control law, passed in 2014. Included in the law is a ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Read our article.

The Government of Singapore is holding consultations until 29 March 2016 on a series of proposed measures: plain packaging, raising to 21 the minimum age to buy tobacco products, and restricting sales of flavoured tobacco products.

United Kingdom
Watch our video.

Like France and Ireland, the UK is scheduled to have plain tobacco packs (free of colours, logos and all other branding), on store shelves by May. In response the tobacco industry sued the UK Government: a decision is expected soon.

Watch our video

A decision is expected in the first half of 2016 in the case launched by tobacco industry giant Philip Morris International at the World Bank against Uruguay’s packaging measures. The government has announced that it will introduce plain packaging soon after the decision is known.

Read our article.

Plain packaging another step closer

The Māori Party is thrilled plain tobacco packaging is another step closer to becoming law, now the Government has signalled plans to progress the Bill in Parliament.

“This is a message to international tobacco companies that New Zealand will not be intimidated by their threats of legal action,” says Māori Party Co-leader Marama Fox.

The Government has indicated that the Bill could return to the House for its second reading before the end of the year.

The Plain Packaging Bill drafted by the Māori Party went before the Health Select Committee in August 2014, just six months after it was introduced into the House by Dame Tariana Turia.

She was internationally recognised for her leadership in tobacco reforms.

Māori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell says the Bill is not about punishing smokers.

“Research tells us that plain packaging will turn people off who haven’t started smoking. It’s better to deter people from picking up the habit than having to support them to quit later on,” says Māori Party Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

“It’s time to get the ball rolling again because the Māori Party will not stand by idly while 5,000 New Zealanders die each year of smoking-related illnesses,” says Mrs Fox.

Smoking has steadily declined largely as a result of Māori Party initiatives including the tax increase on cigarettes, banning shops from displaying them and securing Government funding for programmes to support people who want to quit smoking.

The Government says it remains committed to the Māori Party’s target of a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025.

‘Brain movies’ show nicotine affects men and women differently

Innovative research being done in Israel demonstrates, on film, how short-term bursts of brain activity are prompted by stimulants

A 'dopamine movie' (screenshot)

A ‘dopamine movie’ (screenshot)

Addictions are hard to kick. Just ask all cigarette smokers who keep puffing away despite the boatload of evidence that they are killing themselves.

Now, new research being conducted in Israel shows that addictions work differently in women and men. A study being conducted largely in Israel by Evan Morris, an associate professor of Radiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Psychiatry at Yale University, shows this clearly. In fact, Morris and his students have even made a movie out of it.

“Our dopamine movies show the effect of nicotine on the dopamine levels in the body, and those movies – which essentially show how the brain reacts when the chemical is released – shows clearly that there is a difference in brain activity for men and women who smoke.”

Those findings are interesting, Morris told The Times of Israel, but the real point is to show “how short-term bursts of brain activity are prompted by chemical changes. This could have all sorts of implications for treating symptoms like PTSD and other stress-induced conditions, where there can be radical changes in brain activity for short periods of time.”

Morris is a world-renowned expert on Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging using tracer kinetic modeling to create functional images of the brain.

“With PET, you can see in how the brain changes – based on mathematical formulas – in response to induced changes,” said Morris. “One of the most difficult challenges facing researchers is developing models of short-term changes – changes in the brain that pass quickly, perhaps in just a few minutes or so.”

It’s clear that with a supercharged emotion taking over the body – anger, ecstasy, or anything in between – there are changes to the brain, “but generally researchers have been able to capture only changes that linger, with the imaging of the short-term changes unattainable.”

That’s what makes a study of smoking so attractive. “When a person smokes, the chemicals they inhale – especially nicotine – engender a response that releases dopamine, the brain’s primary motivation neurotransmitter.”

Dopamine is released in response to environmental and internal stimuli – food, sex, or pleasurable events – as well as in response to chemicals that stimulate the central nervous system, like nicotine.

The sensation involved with nicotine – as with other drugs – is fleeting, with dopamine levels rising sharply but briefly. PET scans, said Morris, provide an opportunity to see how this fleeting sensation physically affects the brain.

“We are able to scan the brain’s reaction using a tracer that mimics dopamine. With our method, we are able to see how brains react to the chemically induced changes associated with addiction over time, creating a movie which shows the changes – and that is where we noticed how male and female brains differ when it comes to smoking.”

The results of the study, which was largely carried out at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem with Dr. Nanette Freedman of the Nuclear Medicine Dept., were published in a recent edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The findings, according to the report, show that “male smokers smoking in the PET scanner activate dopamine in the right ventral striatum during smoking but female smokers do not. This finding—men activating more ventrally than women—is consistent with the established notion that men smoke for the reinforcing drug effect of cigarettes whereas women smoke for other reasons, such as mood regulation and cue reactivity.”

Based on these results, said Morris, who collaborated on developing the method with Yale co-researcher Prof. Kelly Cosgrove, researchers will be better able to understand what makes smokers tick – and develop more effective ways to get them to kick the habit. “It could be, for example, that you need different kinds of nicotine patches designed for men and women, since they react differently to nicotine.”

But besides what the study means for smokers, it also has implications far beyond nicotine addiction.

“Any short-term event that affects the brain could be ‘filmed’ for analysis, to see which part of the brain is affected, and how,” added Morris.

Just like adrenaline flows in a moment of danger providing extra strength in a moment of need, brain changes in response to those dangers could teach researchers about how people think and react – and how to “turn on” parts of the brain that can enhance thinking, among other things.

“PTSD, ADHD, and other conditions in which an individual’s mood and actions change depending on stimuli could be better understood using this method,” said Morris.

Morris, an associate professor of diagnostic radiology, biomedical engineering and psychiatry at Yale University, is in Israel on a Fulbright exchange program scholarship, which each years brings dozens of American researchers to Israel to work on innovative medical and technology projects in the start-up nation for a year, while sending Israeli researchers to work in the US for the same amount of time.

One reason Morris chose Israel is that he needed a young adult population that had recently taken up smoking in order to find recently addicted people.

“Part of what we are trying to determine is the development of addiction. Are there people more prone to addiction?” he said. “To see that kind of progression, you want people who are recent smokers so you can see over time what their brain patterns are, and how they change the more they are exposed to the cause of their addiction.

“In the US, most of these early stage smokers are kids – under 18 years of age, study of which entails all sorts of legal and disclosure issues. In Israel, many of the young smokers pick up the habit in the army – so they are already over 18, and it is much easier legally to recruit them for studies like these, that entail using the radioactive material we need for the PET tracer,” he added.

Morris will be discussing this and other findings of his research, along with other uses and research being conducted with PET, at a special event at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital on February 29, in a one-day symposium on Advances in Brain Imaging. The symposium is funded by Fulbright, Yale, Hadassah, and the US National Institutes of Health, which is also helping to fund Morris’s Hadassah research.

“Smoking was a good place to start, but we certainly don’t intend to stop there. The movies we created showing brain changes induced by stimuli can ‘star’ many more chemicals besides dopamine, giving us more insight into how the brain works.”