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April 22nd, 2016:

The Hague Court: Dutch alcohol and tobacco ID campaign in violation of anti-trust legislation

Teleconnect Inc (OTCBB: TLCO) today announces that the Court in The Hague has ruled that the Dutch Food Retail Association (CBL) and Jumbo Supermarkets have violated anti-trust legislation by ruling out the very effective age validation system ‘Ageviewers’ at the sale of tobacco and alcohol.

Instrumental for the infringement was the industry wide responsible alcohol retailing code and an ID-campaign in the Netherlands, similar to the ‘We Card Program’ in the US. The Court in The Hague, sitting in full bench, established that both the code and the campaign have the object of impeding the implementation and proliferation of the Ageviewers system and therefore are declared void and nonexistent. CBL and Jumbo are the first parties that have been found jointly and severally liable for all damages inflicted to Ageviewers since 2008.

The ruling does not only affect CBL and Jumbo. Among the many parties involved in the ID program are Dutch market leader Ahold, currently merging with Delhaize and operating in the US with brands as Stop & Shop, Giant and Peapod; the Dutch Brewers Association; the Wine Industry; Bacardi-Martini and Diageo.

Reaction Teleconnect Inc – Ageviewers

We are very happy with this judgment. Our business has been severely affected by this cartel since 2008 and our financial claim will be substantial. In our view, the boycott exposes an extensive morality and compliance problem regarding the sale of alcohol and tobacco to minors. We are investigating the consequences of the judgment in the US, as the boycott completely derailed our plans to implement the Ageviewers system in the American market, where our company is listed and where we have our roots.

We are requesting all parties involved in the production and sale of tobacco and alcohol, in responsible retailing and prevention institutes, to endorse and support our further efforts to implement Ageviewers in the Dutch and US market.

Smoking E-Cigarettes is 10 Times More Cancerous than Tobacco

So you probably thought you were fine now that you quit smoking. No cancer for you, no sir! No filthy chemically stuffed cigarettes for you! You’ve opted for that funky and cool alternative they call e-cig. Why shouldn’t you be that confident? After all, the CDC and FDA are fine with it, so it must be safe. Oh, but it isn’t; in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth! According to a recent study – that has nothing to do with the CDC/FDA – electronic cigarettes were found to be contain 10 times as much cancerous ingredients than a regular tobacco cigarette.

I bet you didn’t see that one coming!

You may wonder how in the heavens this has passed the FDA’s notice. Well, with $ 4.5 billion that is supposed to be funding for studies exactly like this one, the FDA didn’t seem to think it necessary to do any research on this product’s safety. If you go over to the FDA website and check out when they have to say about electronic cigarettes, you’ll find a bunch of quality control and standardization stuff. However, they do mention quite clearly that “FDA has not evaluated any e-cigarettes for safety or effectiveness.” There you have it. They admit it. So how the hell are you using this? How are you allowing your kids to play around with it, too?

Well, it’s not your fault; you’re unaware. And Japanese scientists have taken it upon themselves to make the world aware of this threat. The Japanese Ministry of Health commissioned a research about the safety of electronic cigarettes, and the scientists found around 10 cancer-causing carcinogens more than those found in a regular old school Tobacco smoke. They found formaldehyde and acetaldehyde in the liquid that you smoke through the electronic cigarette. They also found that these carcinogens fuel drug resistant pathogens that humans may contract.

Even before the Japanese found these shocking results, in 2015 the WHO asked governments to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to under age people. Furthermore, the UN health agency said that despite there not being any evidence about their unsafety, they wanted “to caution children and adolescents, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age”. They also tried to outlaw their use indoors.

Well, once again, thanks to the Japs for being smarter and more aware than the rest of the world.

Pressure grows for Commission President Juncker to end tobacco lobbying secrecy

Splits occur within European Commission, as European Parliament, Ombudsman and NGOs increase the pressure for implementing UN rules for contacts with tobacco industry lobbyists.

In February, European Commission President Juncker took many by surprise by flatly rejecting a European Ombudsman’s ruling recommending full transparency around tobacco industry lobbying. The previous autumn (after an investigation sparked by a complaint by Corporate Europe Observatory), Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly had slammed the Commission’s failure to comply with the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as ‘maladministration’. The ruling urged the Commission to publish details of all meetings with tobacco lobbyists online. Four months later Juncker responded by claiming that the Commission “complies in full” with the UN rules, repeating the unconvincing argument that its general rules in the field of transparency and ethics are sufficient.

In her speech “Combating tobacco industry tactics: State of play and a way forward” in the European Parliament a few weeks later, O’Reilly expressed strong regret “that the Commission declined to accept my recommendation to extend proactive tobacco lobbying transparency across all DGs and across all levels of the service.” “And, given the stated commitment of the EU to the Convention”, the Ombudsman added, “I confess to being puzzled as to why that is.” In the conclusions of her speech, O’Reilly offered at least a partial explanation, stating that “the sophistication of the tobacco industry’s global lobbying efforts is still seriously underestimated”.

The Ombudsman, fortunately, has far from given up. Within a few weeks, she will publish a final ruling on the case. O’Reilly is also organising an official hearing in the European Parliament on “Improving transparency in tobacco lobbying”. Among the speakers will be Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health. Andriukaitis has recently voiced strong disagreement with Juncker’s rejection of the Ombudsman’s recommendations. Last month, Andriukaitis revealed at a conference in the European Parliament that Juncker’s response to the Ombudsman had not been discussed in the College for Commissioners. He reported that it was drafted by the Commission’s Legal Services, signed by Juncker and sent to the Ombudsman without consulting other commissioners.

In a resolution approved in a plenary vote last month, the European Parliament added to the pressure on the Commission, stating its concerns about the Ombudsman’s finding that the Commission was “not fully implementing UN WHO rules and guidelines governing transparency and tobacco lobbying”, adding that the Parliament “is of the opinion […] that the Commission’s credibility and seriousness have been endangered”. The Parliament’s resolution “urges all the relevant EU institutions to implement Article 5(3) of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in accordance with the recommendations contained in the guidelines thereto”.

In his response to the Ombudsman, Juncker argued that tobacco lobbying transparency is not needed because the number of meetings between top officials and tobacco lobbyists has decreased since decision-making on the Tobacco Products Directive came to an end in 2014. This is a clear example of the European Commission seriously underestimating the lobbying efforts of the tobacco industry. Tobacco lobbyists are now targeting other issues, such as EU trade policy (TTIP and other trade negotiations), the renewal of the controversial agreements with four tobacco giants on combating illicit trade in tobacco, and the battle around the choice of technology for high-tech digital watermarks in tobacco packaging to prevent counterfeiting. New documents uncovered by CEO – see box below – show the tobacco industry is also making full use of the Commission’s flagship “Better Regulation” initiative in attempts to weaken tobacco control measures such as health warnings on cigarette packs. This has included attempts to bypass the health commissioner by lobbying the cabinet of Commission Vice-President Timmermans, who is responsible for ’Better Regulation’.

The European Parliament, the health commissioner and public health NGOs are calling on the Commission to accept the Ombudsman’s recommendations. So what is Juncker waiting for?

Tobacco industry lobbyists using the Commission’s “Better Regulation” agenda

After attending a BusinessEurope meeting with the Commission on the Commission’s “Better Regulation” package, Japan International Tobacco (JTI) requested a meeting with the cabinet of Commission Vice-President Timmermans to “discuss a number of specific areas”. When the meeting happened (November 25 2015), the JTI lobbyists only raised “a very specific issue” concerning “the placing of health warning on cigarette packs with bevelled sides”. JTI attempted to use the “Better Regulation” agenda in its lobbying on this issue and went to Timmermans’ cabinet to bypass the Commission’s health department. The cabinet member promised to contact the cabinet of the health commissioner “to hear their side of the story”, but the notes of the meeting also stress that “no further commitments were undertaken”. This meeting was disclosed because it involved a top Commission official, but how many more meetings like this are happening at lower levels?