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May 3rd, 2016:

Significance of Following Fair Trade Rules in Open Economy

Right from its initiation in early-90s, International Tax and Investment Center has hunted for the consistent ways, methodologies and mechanisms that can greet open trade practices in globalized economy. The Washington based group has strong belief that when it comes to global progression, each nation should trail their compulsion and step forward with a hearty business attitude. With a mutual understanding a comprehensive development is possible. To make sure conformity in trade practices worldwide, the International Tax and Investment Center Tobacco has initiated a series of brilliant measures.

Out of them one is the Regional Cooperation Agreements widely known as RECs which talks about the measures and practices that nations should undergo to welcome healthy trade systems globally. Interestingly, based on this mechanism the expert group has worked in collaboration with the ministers of finance, commerce and other public authorities of East African Community, Asian Economic Group Community, Eurasian Economic Community, and South-African Development Community and has guided them the ways following which they have gained trade practices and in finding investors

In reality, apart from the developing nations, even the highly developed or affluent countries cannot ignore the crucial factors like poverty, illiteracy or unemployment problems. By bringing in a comprehensive change in trade policies, as a national can encourage local business, it can also attract overseas as well as inland investors. Thus, with the growth in trade and commerce, it is possible to slow down the major issues and uplift the national income plus economy. The different ways International Tax and Investment Center extends its services are

o Working on a series of agenda in relation to tax structure including VAT, GST, levies like excise duty and allied ones; the International Tax and Investment Center is also activated to find great ways to invite fair business setting together with investment possibilities;

o Supports all client nations, affiliates and corporate business enterprises with expert advices that are entrenched in globally established healthy business practices and policies; Remains down-to-business to response appeals and demand-based requirements found from the public departments seeking for expert advices and solutions from ITIC

o Working untiringly to find ways out to discontinue unlawful business practices; a special pool of ITIC is prepared to stay watchful about the illegitimate transactions typically done in the boundary zones; it also alerts its associate nations as well, those who are not its members about these unfair deals

o Welcoming affiliates to share the Neutral Table platform with other bodies globally and helping them avail tangible benefits by joining its international forum.

The great approach of ITIC’s Solution Finding Triangle, branded as ‘NUTRAL TABLE’ has been globally accepted and is an established process which is capable to offer positive solutions. The first experiment of its research based solution was convened in Russia and then in Kazakhstan during 1990. The subject of the trial made was implementation of VAT and assessing its effectiveness. The experience was successful which strengthened the position of International Tax and Investment Center Tobacco in global market.

Australia To Charge Cigarette Smokers A$45 Per Pack By 2020

Australian cigarette smokers will pay over $45 per pack (about $33.86 in US Dollars) by 2020, in a move the Australian government hopes will cut back on smoking Down Under, as well as raise $4.7 billion in tax revenue.

As The Guardian reports, Australia intends to raise the cigarette tax incrementally, 12.5 percent each year beginning in 2017 and ending in 2020. Some of the additional revenues raised by the tax will go to fight smuggling of cigarettes into the country, which the government believes will increase due to the high taxes.

The Australian cigarette tax increase comes as the nation undergoes an aggressive, decades-long nationwide anti-smoking campaign. Backers of the high cigarette taxes say the high tax rates along with other measures taken by the government, have cut cigarette smoking rates in Australia from 25 percent of the population in 1993 to less than 15 percent in 2013.

In addition to high cigarette taxes, the Australian government also tightly regulates cigarette packaging, according to a November 2011 Guardian report. Smokes are sold in plain, olive-green boxes – determined to be the least-appealing color – and the manufacturer and brand names are only allowed in small print. Much of the space on the boxes is given over to government-mandated warnings containing disgusting and disturbing photographs intended to deter smokers.

“If this legislation stops one young Australian from picking up a shiny, coloured packet and prevents them becoming addicted to cigarettes then in my view it will have been worthwhile.”

Meanwhile, Scott McIntyre, spokesman for British American Tobacco Australia, said that the Australian government is taking property – that is, valuable space on the packaging – from tobacco manufacturers.

“The government can’t take away valuable property from a legal company without compensation.We’re a legal company with legal products selling to adults who know the risks of smoking. We’re taking this to the high court because we believe the removal of our valuable intellectual property is unconstitutional.”

Australia’s strict cigarette-packaging laws are the subject of an international lawsuit, and some of the money raised from the increased taxes will be set aside to fight that lawsuit.

Worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on governments to aggressively fight tobacco use, through bans on tobacco ads, graphic warnings on packaging, strong efforts at fighting cigarette smuggling, and high taxes on cigarettes.

“The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing around 6 million people a year. More than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while more than 600 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.”

In the United States, the price of a pack of smokes varies widely from state to state, as each state adds their own unique taxes. The most expensive place to be a smoker in the US, according to International Business Times, is New York City. Thanks to a state excise tax of $4.35 per pack, and a city excise tax of $1.60 per pack, a pack of smokes in the Big Apple costs over $14.

The cheapest place to be a smoker in the US is Kentucky. With a total tax bil of only $.60, a pack of smokes in The Bluegrass State costs about a third of what a New Yorker pays – around $4.96 per pack.

Tobacco company ‘furious’ over more taxes–furious–over-more-taxes.html

Cigarette makers are ‘furious’ the federal government opted to hike taxes on tobacco.

The tobacco excise will rise 12.5 per cent in each year to 2020 which is likely to lift the cost of a packet of cigarettes to $40 or more.

Imperial Tobacco Australia has now accused Treasurer Scott Morrison of going back on his word after he smacked Labor for considering a similar plan.

‘They’ve now contradicted their own statements entirely. We justifiably furious,’ Imperial head of corporate and legal affairs Andrew Gregson said.

Mr Morrison’s budget change will deliver the coalition government an extra $4.7 billion over four years.

Imperial argues the only group that will be happy about it will be organised crime, which already reaps more than $1 billion a year in excise from taxpayers through the sale of under-the-counter tobacco products.

‘The government needs to stop treating Australia’s three million plus smokers like second-class citizens and respect their right to make informed choices about what is a legal product,’ Mr Gregson said in a statement on Tuesday.

‘This will infuriate them.’

Australia is one of the most regulated countries in the world in which to smoke.

Imperial Tobacco Australia’s ultimate parent is the UK-headquartered Imperial Brands which sells tobacco products across the world and has interests in logistics.

Tobacco tax increase will cut smoking rates, say public health experts

The number of smokers in Australia has dwindled over recent decades, from about a quarter in the early 1990s to closer to 13 per cent now, partly due to previous tobacco excise increases, and public health measures like banning smoking in public areas and plain packaging laws.

Smokers will be slogged again in the federal budget, with the Government announcing it is matching Labor’s policy to keep increasing tobacco excise.

There will be a series of 12.5 per cent increases in excise for each of the next four years. That means a packet of cigarettes will cost about A$40 in 2020.

Samantha, 22, who is a student said the cost would be enough to make people quit.

“That would mean [I would] just quit straight up. I can’t afford $40. It’s not worth the habit. It’s already expensive as it is. I find at the end of the week I’ve probably spent $200 just on smokes,” she said.

For almost two decades tobacco excise was indexed to inflation, until 2010, when there was a one-off increase in excise to 25 per cent.

In 2013, the former Labor government increased the excise by 12.5 per cent per year for four years.

That has seen cigarettes increase from about A$15 a pack six years ago, to around A$25-30 now.

Yalcin, 25, said it was not only more expensive being a smoker in Australia than in his homeland of Germany, but less acceptable.

“I even get the impression that smoking marijuana for example is much more accepted from the community and society than smoking cigarettes, because you’re just considered as a bad person if you smoke in Australia. That’s my impression.”

Joanne, 52, has been smoking for 40 years and said the price rise would not stop her from smoking.

“No, not at all. They’re targeting the wrong area. I think we’re just a scapegoat for revenue raising,” she said, adding that a price hike would see her cut back on travel rather than cigarettes.

“It’s not going to stop me. You either want to smoke or you don’t.”

The chief executive of the Cancer Council of Australia, Sanchia Aranda said price is an important factor in people’s decision to smoke.

“Every time you increase the excise consumption goes down. We anticipate if there were four of these recurrent tobacco increases over time, that about 320,000 current smokers would attempt and be likely to quit as a result of all four increases, and about 40,000 teenagers would be deterred from taking up smoking. In the longer term that means tens of thousands of cancer deaths would be prevented,” Professor Aranda said.

Professor Aranda said lung cancer was still the most significant preventable cancer.

Going up in smoke: Terrorist financing and contraband cigarettes

A strange bond exists between smokers, contraband operators and terrorists around the world, as contraband cigarettes indirectly fund terrorist activities.

In 2000, the United States authorities caught two Lebanese brothers for running a multimillion-dollar smuggling operation, moving low-tax cigarettes from North Carolina to high-tax Michigan.

It was a major coup for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But the bureau was shocked when it realised where the profits of the syndicate were diverted to: designated terrorist organisation Hizbollah.

The bureau quickly stepped up its focus on the ties between cigarette smuggling and terrorism.

Today, 16 years later, the links between cigarette smuggling and terrorism are no longer surprising. There is increasing evidence that the nefarious plots of terrorists are often funded by a burgeoning global trade in illicit cigarettes.

During the Charlie Hebdo attack last year, a terrorist involved had traded in counterfeit cigarettes.

The Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a terrorist group operating mainly in Algeria and Mali and responsible for several bloody attacks in northern Africa this year, had banked millions by controlling cigarette-smuggling routes in the region.

When a suicide attack was carried out on Istanbul’s main shopping street in March this year, outlawed Kurdistan fighters claimed responsibility. The factions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party have long relied heavily on illegal cigarette sales, funnelled through Iraq, to finance their operations.

Even the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS, which has banned smoking in its controlled areas, is not above making money from cigarette smuggling. The Turkish-Syrian border has seen a doubling of such illegal movements since the start of the Syrian civil war.

A new study from the Macdonald- Laurier Institute in Canada in March addressed the links between illicit cigarettes and terrorism squarely.

“Canadian law-enforcement seizures of contraband tobacco routinely include high-powered weapons, hard and designer drugs, stolen vehicles and other merchandise, and lots of cash,” it said in a report. “Globally, money from contraband tobacco and cigarettes is a major source of revenue for the likes of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Hizbollah.”


Trading in cigarettes is a popular choice for terrorists because they are easy to smuggle, have low barriers of entry, enjoy a huge market and provide high profits. As a legal product in almost all countries, it does not carry the same risks and draconian penalties as drugs. The wide differences between the prices of legitimately sold cigarettes across countries and even within the same country – as seen in the case of the Lebanese brothers – offer fertile ground for profitable smuggling.

For instance, the price of a packet of the most expensive cigarette brands is about $13 in Singapore, compared with $5.90 in Malaysia just across the Causeway and $2 in Indonesia. This makes contraband cigarettes attractive to illegal cigarette factories that seek to quadruple their earnings in a fraction of the time and cost needed for legal cigarette companies.

These factors make it attractive to terrorists to turn to cigarettes as a valuable source of funding. This is especially so as funding in terrorism has evolved from the big-budget central model to its current localised low-cost style.

While Al-Qaeda transferred money to both the Sept 11 hijackers and the Bali bombers, ISIS has a different modus operandi.

ISIS trained and helped conceive the Paris attacks last year, but the terrorists relied on local funding for their attacks in the French capital. They did not need as much money because of their choice of soft targets.

Security experts have estimated that the Paris attacks required less than €10,000 (S$15,000), most of which went to weapon purchases on the black market, materials to make explosives, as well as logistics and communications expenses such as safe-house rentals, rental cars and mobile phones.

This low-cost budget is largely funded through petty crimes by the terrorists in their European home ground, including the smuggling of illegal cigarettes.

This is possible, said France’s Centre for the Analysis of Terrorism in a report in March, because of “porous frontiers, weakness of governments, an absence of checks and corruption”.

“In some cases, especially in war zones, cigarette smuggling is organised by terrorist… organisations under the guise of humanitarian aid (former Yugoslavia),” it added.


Such a transition in the funding stream of terrorism requires the close attention of governments in South-east Asia, as much as their counterparts in Europe.

As it is, this region has been ranked poorly for illicit tobacco use.

A study of 11 countries and territories in 2012 by an international tobacco firm placed Brunei at the top of the list, followed by Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. Closer to home, the latest tobacco industry estimates show that the contraband situation in Malaysia has surged from 36 per cent in August last year to 46 per cent as of last December, following a massive 40 per cent tobacco tax increase.

The 2012 research also showed that 66 billion illegal cigarettes were sold across the region that year, costing the governments US$3.4 billion (S$4.6 billion) in lost taxes. Asean countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam are known to house numerous illegal cigarette- manufacturing factories.

Interpol has warned that the contraband cigarettes in this region could be used to fund terrorism too. As the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore frequently says in its media statements related to cigarette smuggling, the same methods of concealment used by contraband smugglers may be used by terrorists to smuggle arms and explosives to carry out attacks in Singapore.

It is critical for governments to not lose sight of the unintended consequences of funding terrorism in their quest to cut smoking rates.

Higher taxes, proposed flavour bans and raising of the legal age for smoking, for instance, may help control tobacco consumption.

But they would also unwittingly offer smugglers the opportunities to undercut legal tobacco products, obtain higher profits and invest more heavily in the lucrative illicit cigarette trade.

The same is true of standardised packaging of tobacco products, an emerging trend that has been adopted in Australia and is about to be implemented in Britain, France and Ireland. Plain packs are also being considered by the health authorities in Singapore and Malaysia.

Late last year, a public consultation was held here to hear views on the plain boxes with graphic health warnings, thus removing all promotional aspects, such as trademarks, logos and colour schemes.

Such a change will almost definitely make it easier and cheaper to manufacture counterfeit, or fake, cigarettes – a new threat in South-east Asia. Thus far, illicit cigarettes in this region have been restricted to contraband, which are cigarettes manufactured legally but smuggled into a territory to avoid duty.

Instead of producing various types of cigarette packaging for different brands and flavours, the syndicates would have to make only plain boxes. It is raising a red flag to smuggling bulls.

Terrorism, as most political leaders in South-east Asia have said, looks like it is here to stay. Its funding ties to illicit cigarettes are also growing stronger.

The authorities in this region must make every effort to stymie the links. Relying on border officials will not be sufficient. Policymakers should also ensure that their decisions do not end up aiding this lucrative flow of money from smokes to bombs.

•The writer is associate professor and head of management and security studies at SIM University.

Zambia faces up to blight of child labor

Thirteen-year-old Wamundila Sibeso complains of nausea, headaches and dizziness – symptoms likely linked to her work picking tobacco on one of the many Zambian farms that rely on child labor.

“Every time I leave work, I feel nausea, which leads to vomiting sometimes,” she told Anadolu Agency. “The common problem I often feel is headaches, dizziness and lightheadedness.”

Wamundila, who was sent to work harvesting tobacco leaf at the age of 10, is among the hundreds of thousands of children working in Zambia, primarily in the agriculture and mining industries.

According to a report by the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank, more than one in three children aged 7 to 14 were at work in 2008.

The 2012 report said that while the country had witnessed a substantial reduction in child labor, a best case scenario would still estimate just below one million children in employment in 2015.

“My work on the plantation involves collecting ripe tobacco leaves,” Raphael Mupinganjila, 15, said. “Sometimes we’re forced to work in tobacco fields while [pesticide] spraying is going on.”

It is not the hard work that preys most on Raphael’s mind but the education he is missing.

“I would love to go to school like other kids, but I’m from a poor family who can’t afford to send us to school,” he said. “Instead, my siblings and I have to join our parents to contribute a family income.

“I don’t like this job but I have to work to eat and help my parents.”

Zambia’s tobacco farms constitute an overwhelming 75 percent of the nation’s child labor problem, according to Chris Lunneta, Zambia’s UNICEF children’s rights ambassador.

Lunneta told Anadolu Agency that children working on tobacco farms are not only treated inhumanely but are also exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides.

“Farm workers in Zambia face many challenges, including not only poverty and widespread health risks but also a high debt burden,” he said. “In order to supplement a living, parents engage their children in farm work, and this has perpetuated child labor in Zambia.

“In some cases, farm owners directly hire children to work on tobacco farms to work alongside their parents and [they] are paid slave wages.”

Dr. Mannesse Phiri, a medical researcher, said exposing children to tobacco leaves puts them at risk from a number of health issues.

“Exposing children to tobacco dust subjects them to hazardous diseases, like green tobacco sickness, including extreme coughing and other negative respiratory effects the children working on farms often face,” he said.

“Nicotine causes nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness and difficulty breathing, including fluctuations in blood pressure.”

Phiri said although the law prohibits the sale of tobacco to under-16s, children work on tobacco farms without protective clothes, exposing them to toxic chemicals.

He suggested the urgent replacement of unsustainable tobacco production with healthy food systems and strengthening collective action among tenant farmers to resolve the health issues facing tobacco workers, as well as strengthening tobacco control policies.

“Extending protection to farmers is a key to the tobacco supply chain and will provide an essential component which will allow farmers to exert greater control over production practices while minimizing the influence of tobacco industry initiatives meant to disrupt tobacco control,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“Accordingly, this could be greatly improved by giving tobacco workers access to alternative sustainable livelihoods and by enforcing international labor standards, such as freedom from debt servitude, the right to collectively bargain and the elimination of the worst forms of child labor.”

– Cheaper, more docile

If farmers are able to bargain collectively without fear of retribution, Phiri said, tobacco farm workers would be able to create better livelihoods for themselves and their families.

Zambia’s Labor and Social Security Minister Fackson Shamenda said tobacco farmers employed children because they are cheaper and more docile.

“This is despite the existence of prohibitions on employing children in laborious work, which subject children to all forms of abuses during the course of duty,” he said. “Sometimes children develop habits such as taking drugs or smoking.”

Zambia’s Central Statistics Office shows that child labor is still rife in rural areas of Zambia – as high as 45 percent. This is due to the high levels of poverty among rural families, although in recent times the trend has been slowly shifting to towns, where many households are headed by children due to the rise in HIV/AIDS.

Last month, the government launched an initiative to cut child labor.

The Achieving Reduction of Child Labor in Supply of Education (ARISE) scheme reported that more than 1,000 children had been taken out of work and sent to school in Zambia’s Western province.

Among the initiative’s sponsors is Japan Tobacco International (JIT), the world’s third-largest tobacco company.

Since entering the Zambian market in 2011, the company has employed more than 7,000 farmers in the Eastern and Western provinces and plans on investing more than $12 million in the local tobacco industry.

Speaking at the launch, Western Province Permanent Secretary Mwangala Liomba welcomed the involvement of tobacco companies in the fight against child labor.

Mike Roach, the managing director of JTI-Zambia, said the company was committed to eradicating child poverty. “With the help of cooperating partners, JTI-Zambia will provide resources aimed at supporting the fight against all forms of child labor in Zambia,” he told Anadolu Agency.

By Francis Maingaila

#TTIPLeaks and Bridging the gap between trade and public health

EPHA believes that greater transparency is vital to ensure proper democratic and public debate about the impact of trade policy on population health, following Greenpeace Netherlands’ release of classified TTIP negotiating documents

The following key public health aspects of the leaked texts merit further attention from EU trade negotiators:

Transparency is essential to ensure decisions about health standards are made democratically, particularly regarding policies such as TTIP which influence public health.

As Greenpeace has stated, there has been worldwide criticism, including from the European Ombudsman, about the ongoing refusal to reveal what is being negotiated under TTIP. Whilst some EU documents are disclosed, US negotiators disclose almost nothing at all.

While Commissioner Malmström has argued in her latest blog in reaction to the leak that the consolidated texts are not the final text in TTIP, EPHA still maintains its concerns regarding how those texts will be negotiated into the final, legally binding treaty. To allay public and civil society concerns, the documents need to be made freely available.

While the main focus is on non-tariff barriers and the right to regulate, there are still significant tariffs on some health-harmful goods including tobacco and processed foods high in salt, sugar and fats. We must not miss the point that removal of tariffs on health-harmful goods will also further accelerate the epidemic of chronic diseases in Europe, such as type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and cancers. So far the Commission has neglected to evaluate the health impact, but no doubt it would offset a significant portion of the purported economic benefits of TTIP.

Concerning the public health relevance of the 13 leaked documents, particular attention should be paid concerning the following sections:

• Regulatory cooperation: While the reference to public health impact assessment is welcome, the consolidated document maintains worrying elements such as ‘Transparent Development of Regulation’, ‘Trade effects’, ‘Retrospective Review of Regulations’, ‘Regulatory Impact Assessment’ which may delay, weaken or prevent further regulation. Greenpeace link –

• EU-US revised Tariff offers on products – such as tobacco, refined sugar, chocolate, meat and food preparations, where consumption is linked to the increase in Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) – are particularly critical for health and are notably excluded from the EU-US offers. Greenpeace link –

• Government Procurement – It is problematic that the chapter would make local procurement more difficult for local providers while it is not clear if appropriate safeguards on health service providers (eg. Hospitals) will be built in in the text. Greenpeace link

• Cross Border Trade in Services – Public services essential for population health (social, healthcare, education, water and sanitation) are not generally excluded – like the film and music industry. To assess the impact on health systems the content of the Annexes is key. Greenpeace link –

• Investment Dispute Settlement – It is worrying that this does not appear to include appropriate safeguards for the right to regulate for public health in the proposal and interestingly, there is no general exception of tobacco control measures ( ‘tobacco carve out’). EPHA is calling for a public health carve out instead of a tobacco carve out.

Greenpeace link –

• Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures – While the final safeguards should be checked, it is worrying that there is no recognition of the latest EU proposal on antimicrobial resistance (tackling drug resistant infections) in the text. Greenpeace link…

• Agriculture – As well as our concerns regarding the link between increased trade of agricultural products and diet-related chronic diseases, it is particularly worrying that the EU proposal on Wine and Spirits in this chapter does not mention either reducing alcohol related harm, health-specific aspects of labelling or health NGO involvement.

Greenpeace link

• Technical Barriers to Trade – While the incorporation of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade raises some questions, the impact of the chapter on public health regulations remains to be seen

Throughout EPHA’s campaign for a healthy trade agreement, we have highlighted seven key areas of concern for the ongoing negotiations:

1. TTIP should support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) – Today’s main public health challenges both in the EU and the US are chronic diseases, overweight and obesity, largely avoidable and linked to unhealthy food, tobacco and alcohol, as well as the rising threat of drug-resistant infections (antimicrobial resistance) which could undermine all the progress made against infectious diseases around the world in recent decades. TTIP cannot be sustainable if it fails to address the public health aspects of trade. We call for a Public Health Sustainable Development chapter in TTIP, to ensure that trade agreements actively support healthier societies.

2. TTIP must reinforce the global Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – Given the deadly impacts of tobacco consumption around the world, TTIP should not be neutral in relation to tobacco. It must not increase the availability, affordability or attractiveness of tobacco products. TTIP must be brought into line with the FCTC, meaning tobacco lobbyists must be actively excluded from influencing the trade negotiators in both the US and EU. Governments must be actively encouraged to introduce stricter tobacco control policies such as plain tobacco packaging.

3. TTIP must take a responsible stance on alcohol – Like tobacco, alcohol is a commodity where increased availability and lower prices are likely to have a negative impact on public health, society and economy. When negotiating the ’Wine and Spirits’ Chapter, which is a priority for the EU, negotiators should take into account the findings of a recent OECD report on alcohol related harm.

4. Consider health impacts of removing tariffs on unhealthy food – There are still significant tariffs on unhealthy processed foods from the US that TTIP may seek to remove. Increased consumption of unhealthy food (processed foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt) is not beneficial for the consumer nor the country as a whole, as high rates of diseases related to malnutrition, overweight and obesity impose a threat to economic productivity. While public interest civil society organisations raised concerns about Agriculture as a sensitive issue, the European Commission has not yet assessed the significant health impacts of tariff reductions on unhealthy food or looked at measures to mitigate harm to health.

5. TTIP should aim to make medicines more affordable – While there is no discussion yet of ’Pricing and Reimbursement’ measures in TTIP which would undermine governments’ ability to make policy decisions, TTIP should tackle the different forms of abuses of patent protection which make essential medicines unaffordable for many.

The negotiations on regulatory cooperation on pharmaceuticals aiming at eliminating duplications in trials and testing, should aim to make medicines cheaper. Medicines price evolution should be monitored by the Commission to ensure this is the case.

6. Investment protection must not undermine public health legislation – Neither an Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) nor a parallel Investment Court System (ICS) are necessary in TTIP as both the US and the EU are stable democracies, with mature established Court systems and legislatures. Nevertheless, any investment protection system should not allow claims questioning public health legislation (eg. those tackling key causes of disease such as alcohol, tobacco or unhealthy food).

7. Horizontal chapters on Regulatory Cooperation and ’Good Regulatory Practices’ must not restrict future public health policy – Regulatory Cooperation should not limit the health policy space available for governments to protect and improve public health. Regulatory autonomy is required for governments to tackle today’s main public health challenges: chronic diseases, overweight and obesity, and drug-resistant infections.

Don’t Be Fooled By The Tobacco Industry’s Misleading Ads

The tobacco industry has been raising a hue and cry via newspaper advertisements against the decision to have pictorial warnings covering 85% of cigarette/bidi packaging. They are calling the warnings a global conspiracy and outlining the impact it will have on the livelihoods of tobacco farmers. This is a wily effort to evoke public sympathy and mislead the government.

Let me explain why I think so.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of a concerted globally coordinated opposition by the tobacco industry to hamper implementation of the provisions of the FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, WHO) to which India is a signatory.

Tobacco is the only legal product that kills if used as directed, causing the death of one person every six seconds…

The sole objective of this crusade are diversionary techniques to cloak the tobacco industry’s deep commercial interests in not having these pictorial warnings cover 85% of the package area on both sides of tobacco packs. From a health advocacy perspective, it is one of the best, cheapest and most effective mediums to spread knowledge about the life-threatening illnesses which befall tobacco consumers, a large number of which in India are illiterate. Tobacco is the only legal product that kills if used as directed, causing the death of one person every six seconds; half of the current users will eventually die of tobacco-related diseases like cancers, heart disease and stroke amongst others, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

Yet, until now the tobacco industry in this country has never been effectively dealt with, in spite of India accounting for one million of the world’s six million tobacco-related deaths.

Just take a comparative look at how tobacco farmers are dealing with global curbs on tobacco use. Farmers in the USA and Brazil have already started looking to alternate crops rather than being dependent on tobacco. Closer home in Bangladesh, tobacco farmers have begun shifting to food crops. At the government level, Australia and France have implemented plain packaging for tobacco products along with graphical warnings thus obviating the marketing techniques and surrogate advertising employed by the tobacco industry, resulting in a lower burden of tobacco users.

[O]ur tobacco industry is inserting advertisements in national dailies rather than [supporting] the government’s socially responsible cause of keeping the illiterate and poor informed….

It is, therefore, shameful that our tobacco industry is spending more of its resources perpetuating the tobacco farmers’ lobby by inserting advertisements in national dailies rather than throwing its weight behind the Government of India’s socially responsible cause of keeping the illiterate and poor informed of their choices.

Measures such as the Government of India’s insistence on complying with the FCTC impact the quality of life for our future generations. The Uttarakhand Youth Tobacco Survey (UYTS-2013) has shown that 20.8% boys in the age group of 13-17 years studying in Government Inter Colleges are tobacco users and 86.3% smokers are initiated into smoking by the age of 15 years. Predictably, the 85% pictorial warning has outraged the tobacco lobby as it hits them where it hurts them the most–keeping away new smokers, most of whom are in their adolescence.

The absence of these measures is costing the country dearly too. Direct and indirect economic costs due to major tobacco-related illnesses–including respiratory ailments, cancers, cardiac diseases and tuberculosis–accounted for ₹1,04,500 crore (US $ 22.4 billion) in 2011 amongst persons aged 35-69 years. This is 1.6% of GDP and 12% more than the combined state and central government expenditure on health. The total central excise revenue from all tobacco products in 2011-12 amounted to ₹18,000 crore, only 17% of the estimated economic costs of tobacco.

We need punitive action for those in the tobacco industry not complying with relevant global and domestic laws, specifically on stark pictorial and written warnings…

It is evident that we do not have the wherewithal to enforce the provisions of COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act). In many places, we still see the existence of tobacco vends within 100 yards of educational institutions and smoking is common in public places, in blatant violation of the law. Besides, the Indian tobacco industry, which has earned billions of dollars, easily escapes paying legal damages to the poor, who directly suffer by the use of their products.

Already in our very own quasi-federal structure, we are witnessing how effectively states like Maharashtra, Bihar and Gujarat have started impounding smuggled tobacco products and punishing those not conforming to the stipulated pictorial warnings. The Centre has now started adopting tobacco-control measures to give states the tools to save lives.

To raise awareness of the harms of smoking, smokeless tobacco and second-hand smoke, mass media campaigns have been developed in India. These campaigns educate people about the disastrous health effects of tobacco, encourage people to comply with and speak up in support of new, stricter national smoke-free laws.

We laud the Government of India’s move to wean away smokers and stop fresh recruits as we believe it will help curb surrogate advertisement by the Indian tobacco industry.

For how long will we allow human and financial costs to be outweighed by consideration of powerful tobacco lobbies?

We need punitive action for those in the tobacco industry not complying with relevant global and domestic laws, specifically on stark pictorial and written warnings, on all sides