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May 16th, 2016:

Sheila Duffy: Standard designs part of package to tackle smoking

CTA says:

Why is there no Government movement in Hong Kong towards standardised packaging ?

FROM Friday, cigarettes will be sold in plain packs, writes Sheila Duffy

Plain, standardised tobacco packaging will come in throughout the UK from Friday. It will make the packaging for an addictive and toxic substance more truthful and will prevent tobacco companies peddling the pack images, colours and designs that have helped entice generations of young people to start experimenting with their brands.

Retailers will have a year to sell through their existing stock before plain packs become mandatory.

This is not primarily intended to reduce adult smoking rates, although it might help. For example researchers in Australia, where standardised tobacco packaging has been in place since late 2012, report that smokers say they are less inclined to pick up the sludge green packs with their simple fonts and prominent picture health warnings, and that they say the cigarettes don’t seem to taste as good in plain packs. Reducing adult smoking rates would be a welcome side-effect if it happens here, but it is not the main aim of standardised packaging nor should we expect to see quick results.

Plain packaging is a long-term measure. It aims to disrupt the carefully targeted brand recognition and image-mongering which tobacco companies use to build familiarity and hook the interest of new and mainly young consumers.

Cigarettes are highly engineered products and for many consumers they can easily become habit-forming or addictive, which undermines free choice. Tobacco packaging has long been used as a lure to entice people to try the contents, and to buy into the sizzle of carefully designed and targeted marketing imagery. It’s what profit-making corporations do.

Tobacco companies go much further than marketing in seeking to protect their profits. They have a long and well-documented history of public scaremongering and of seeking to derail or delay public health measures that aim to reduce tobacco use. Tobacco company Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has seeded the media with misleading images of stark, white packs omitting the mandatory picture health warnings, juxtaposed with unfounded claims that illicit tobacco will increase following their introduction. Tobacco company Philip Morris International (PMI) has weighed in with inflated claims about illicit tobacco which fail to stand up under scrutiny.

If you listened only to the tobacco industry and their allies and vested interests, you would think that black market tobacco was booming here. Actually the rates of illicit tobacco in the UK have been declining since the start of the century according to the official figures from HMRC. Illicit tobacco remains a real problem, but not in the way the industry claims. No credible links have been demonstrated between illicit tobacco and either standardised tobacco packaging or tax increases. In fact since 2000 the size of the illicit market in the UK has declined by more than half even though the price of cigarettes has risen significantly over that period.

The Tobacco Retailers’ Alliance (TRA), a tobacco industry funded campaign group, recently posted an article under the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association’s ‘Friends of the Scotsman’ slot that perpetuated many myths about the impacts of tobacco reduction measures, in particular the predicted effects on small retailers. For those of us who ten years ago lived through the opposition arguments to proposed legislation to remove tobacco smoke from enclosed public spaces, it is all depressingly familiar.

Standardised tobacco packaging will not stop existing adult smokers buying their usual brands at their usual retail outlets, but it should make the packaging less of a brand accessory or statement for young people. It will work alongside covered-up point of sale displays by putting tobacco branding out of sight and out of mind in our society.

There is no reason why it would increase the illicit tobacco trade, and no evidence that it has done so in Australia. Those working in enforcement say that they will have no problems detecting illicit tobacco just as readily with the new packaging.

Most of all, standardised packaging is truthful packaging. It signals to the next generation that this is a product that damages people’s bodies and their lives. The images of tumours, rotten teeth, infertility and early death represent the contents far more accurately than the previous bright colours and stylish designs. These picture health warnings will also increase in size from Friday. I am wondering where the tobacco companies plan to spend their vast marketing and promotional budgets next.

• Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive, ASH Scotland

Tribunal Publishes Redacted Version of Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility

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No good news on packaging regs

The European Court of Justice has backed the EU Tobacco Directive and told producers of packaging for tobacco products that they cannot use fancy substrates, designs or techniques to differentiate brands following the plain packaging requirement that comes into force on 20 May.

One such firm is Amcor, whose designs include the ‘scissor’ pack, which opens sideways to reveal hidden branding.

The directive will also ban packs of 10 cigarettes, rolling tobacco in packs under 30g and all menthol cigarettes, from 20 May 2020. Packs across the EU are required to have health warnings across 65% of their surface.

Meanwhile, the sector is on tenterhooks awaiting the decision of the UK High Court in an intellectual property case brought by Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.

Many businesses due to be affected by the legislation are reserving comment until the decision comes through but the mood is not good. In Australia, which introduced plain packaging in December 2012, a similar high-profile and very expensive legal battle between the Australian government and tobacco titans did not go the tobacco lobby’s way.

Mike Ridgway of the Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance says: “A lot of printing will be badly affected by the implementation of plain packaging. Plain packaging means standardised packaging doing away with branding and ID, having health warnings and an olive green background with a small font.

“It’s not just graphics, it’s the construction and the substrates. There’s no hot-foil stamping, no embossing, graining or anything that gives the pack any sort of particular graphical marketing characteristics.”

While the plain packaging law, barring a last-minute reprieve by the court, will be introduced in the UK, Ireland and France, the EU directive affects all EU states. Any converter who has decided to make up for lost printing income through focusing on packaging shape, will find itself at the mercy of a double whammy.

Ridgway, a former Chesapeake Branded Packaging executive, adds: “I’m a non smoker; I just think it’s excessive regulation and there’s no proof it works, from a packaging and printing point of view it’s affecting tins, pouches, the whole packaging industry. They have really got issues.”

The pro-plain packaging lobby, however, claims Australian cigarette packs which feature large, gory photographs, do work.

Research by the Cancer Council, published in the medical journal Tobacco Control last year, found 20% of smokers were trying to quit the month before the ban and 27% the month after.

UK substrate manufacturer API is one company that was actively targeting tobacco packaging and at Packaging Innovations at London’s Olympia in September last year, cigarette packets featuring its signature Fresnel Lens PET laminate took pride of place on its stand. API also produces foils used on the front of cigarette packs and the plain packaging legislation has “badly knocked” its business, according to Ridgway.

Printed tobacco packets will not suddenly disappear from shelves. Retailers have a year for ‘sell-through’ and the introduction of standardised packaging could also produce opportunities for creative businesses.

When the Australian ban was introduced in December 2012, enterprising label printers, including Box Wrap and Stickerette, decided to print sticker covers for cigarette boxes.

Stickerette has patented its whole pack wraps and now calls itself a global brand which aims to increase sales in the UK and the US under its ‘Your Pack – You Decide’ slogan.

The standardised plain pack design can be produced litho or even digitally, according to Ridgway.

Parkside, Amcor and Multi Packaging Solutions are among the packaging firms likely to be hit. The latter prints cigarette packets on gravure. Amcor Tobacco Packaging president Jerzy Czubak said the legislation posed “a real risk” to consumers.

“Standardised packaging lowers barriers of entry into the tobacco market, leading to de facto creation of scale benefits for criminal organisations trading in counterfeit tobacco. Consumers are exposed to hazardous contents in illicit tobacco products and there will be a limited capacity to authenticate and differentiate between products.

“Amcor Tobacco Packaging believes that standardised packaging represents an unnecessary intervention into not only tobacco, but also packaging in general – a legitimate and essential industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.”

Another gravure printer which is likely to be affected by the rules is Benkert. Its Alva, Clackmannanshire plant prints the paper which goes around cigarettes.

“Our argument has always been that if you take complexity out of the packs you’re opening the market up to illicit trade,” Ridgway says. “Over £2bn is lost through tax revenue losses per year through counterfeiting. That’s £8m a day. This business about increasing price is just not going to help. The projection is that by 2020 a packet of  cigarettes will be £20 and 14% of trade will be illicit.”

Countefeiting also concerns the BPIF. General manager at BPIF Cartons Neal Whipp, says: “BPIF Cartons supports any packaging initiative that has been proven to improve public health by reducing smoking. However thus far we have not seen sufficient evidence to this effect and so there is a risk that plain packaging may make matters worse by facilitating more counterfeit products at lower prices.”

Another fear is that the incoming rules will have a knock-on effect, in other countries and in terms of other sectors coming under the plain packaging microscope.

Alcohol is the obvious contender but concerns, espoused by the anti plain-packaging fraternity at least, is that fatty and sugary foods could also be in the firing line, as a way to be seen to be doing something to appease the health lobby.

The government claimed sound reasons for pressing ahead with plain packaging. In 2012-13 it spent £87.7m on services to help people stop smoking. It says the new packs will save lives and, in addition, money. Public Health England estimates a £500m healthcare saving if the fall in smoking seen in Australia is mirrored here.

So why not ban them completely? In 2014-15 the government received £9.5bn in revenue from tobacco tax and that excludes VAT. So we have a compromise which benefits some, but packaging printers and converters least of all.

E-Cigarettes: What Vaping Does to Your Body

By Cari Nierenberg, Live Science Contributor

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, have been on the market in the U.S. since 2008 and have gained wider use in recent years. Now, evidence is beginning to emerge on e-cigs’ short-term effects, and their positive and negative impact on people’s health.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid — usually containing nicotine mixed with the chemicals propylene glycol and glycerin, and often flavorings ranging from bubble gum to watermelon — into a vapor that users can inhale. They deliver nicotine, a highly addictive drug, to the body without producing any smoke.

This month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that its authority to regulate tobacco products will now extend to include e-cigarettes. The devices — along with cigars, hookah and pipe tobacco — will now be regulated in a similar way to conventional cigarettes. The new rules, which take effect on Aug. 8, also banned the sale of these products to people under age 18 both in stores and online.

But because e-cigs are relatively new nicotine-delivery products, there are many unanswered questions about their safety and health impacts, including questions about their long-term use and effectiveness in helping traditional smokers to quit. What, exactly, is in an e-cigarette, and how do these chemicals affect the heart and lungs as well as a person’s overall health? Live Science asked two tobacco experts for their insight into these questions, and here is what they said.

What’s known about e-cigs

“There is no question that a puff on an e-cigarette is less dangerous than a puff on a conventional cigarette,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine and the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

Because e-cigarettes create a vapor rather than produce a tobacco smoke, they generally deliver less nicotine to users than cigarettes do, Glantz said.

However, this doesn’t mean the devices always represent a safer step down from cigarettes. In fact, one of the most dangerous things about e-cigarettes is that they may keep people smoking conventional cigarettes longer, rather than encourage them to attempt to quit, he said. Although estimates vary, anywhere from 70 to 90 percent of e-cigarette users are “dual users,” meaning they continue to smoke regular cigarettes after they begin vaping, Glantz said.

But regardless of how the nicotine is delivered — whether through e-cigs or conventional cigarettes — it still has effects on the body. The drug is a cardiovascular stimulant, and can potentially worsen heart disease in people who already have severe heart conditions. However, it’s not known whether nicotine alone can cause heart disease in people who don’t have heart problems, said Dr. Michael Siegel, a tobacco researcher and professor of community health sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health.

But there’s some evidence that e-cigarettes can have a substantial effect on blood vessels, and may increase people’s heart attack risk in that way, Glantz said.

What’s more, nicotine is poisonous in its concentrated, e-liquid form, and there have been an increasing number of cases of infants and young children accidentally ingesting it, Siegel said.

Nicotine also has effects on reproductive health, and exposure to nicotine during pregnancy, regardless of its delivery method, can harm the developing fetus and lead to babies born with low birth weights, he said.

The use of e-cigarettes by kids of high school age has soared – CDC statistics show that 1.5 percent of high school teens had tried e-cigs in 2011, compared with 16 percent in 2015. The rise has occurred even as researchers are finding more evidence that nicotine can be toxic to a young person’s still-developing brain and body systems, Glantz said. Studies have also shown that kids who use e-cigarettes have more respiratory problems and take more days off from school, he said.

In addition to the nicotine, e-cigs’ other chemicals may also affect health. Research on the vapors emitted and inhaled from e-cigarettes has shown they deliver particles small enough to reach deep into the lungs and that they are not the “harmless water vapor” that marketers may claim, Glantz told Live Science.

Propylene glycol, a chemical found in e-liquids, can irritate the eyes and airways, Siegel said. Early studies have also revealed that when propylene glycol or glycerin are heated and vaporized, they can degrade into formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, he said. Both of these chemicals are considered carcinogens, although it’s not yet clear how repeated exposure to them may cause cancer, he said. [10 Scientific Quit-Smoking Tips]

One of the biggest safety risks of e-cigarettes is the potential for their lithium-ion batteries to explode, sometimes into a person’s face or eyes, Siegel said. There is clearly a need for standards to make these batteries safer, he said.

But all in all, even if e-cigarettes involve some health risks, they are not more toxic than smoking cigarettes, and so anything that can get people away from tobacco is moving them in the right direction, Siegel said. He believes that vaping gives people a safer alternative because although users are still getting nicotine, they are getting lower levels of some of the toxic substances and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke, he said.

Eventually, the goal is to get people off vaping and to quit completely, but people have to start somewhere, Siegel said. He also acknowledged that many of his colleagues in public health don’t share his opinion. Rather, they view e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking conventional cigarettes, especially for young people, or as a method of getting nicotine that actually diminishes people’s interest in quitting.

Glantz falls into this latter category. In an analysis he and a colleague published earlier this year, they found that adult smokers who use e-cigarettes are about 30 percent less likely to stop smoking than people who attempt to quit smoking without turning to vaping, he said. One possible explanation is that people may generally use e-cigarettes as part of a “taper-down” strategy, which is less effective than quitting cold turkey, he suggested.

The unknowns about e-cigs

Studies evaluating whether e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes have been inconclusive, according to a review of studies published in the journal Tobacco Control in May 2014.

Moreover, the long-term health effects in people who get nicotine in a vaporized form over time are not known, Siegel said. It’s also unclear whether propylene glycol, a known irritant to the respiratory tract, could result in lung problems after decades of vaping, he said.

And because e-cigarettes have been on the market for only about 10 years, there have been no long-term studies of people who have used them for 30 to 40 years. Therefore, the full extent of e-cigs’ effects on heart and lung health, as well as their cancer-causing potential, over time is not known, Glantz told Live Science.

Another unanswered question is how the flavorings used in the devices may affect people’s health. Nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes are currently on sale, according to the American Lung Association. This wide variety of flavors has helped make vaping appealing to young people.

It’s not yet known whether these flavorings have any respiratory effects when they are vaporized and inhaled, Siegel said. More research is needed to identify any hazards associated with the potential inhalation of flavoring agents, he said.

In addition, little is known about how the flavoring agents in e-cigarettes may influence nicotine’s addictive qualities, Glantz said.

More work needs to be done to understand the dynamics between smoking traditional cigarettes and also using e-cigarettes in people who are dual users, he said. Future research also needs to look at whether using both traditional cigarettes and e-cigs interferes with the desire to quit, and whether using e-cigarettes is an effective strategy for quitting smoking compared with other methods, such as the nicotine patch and behavioral counseling, Glantz said.

The FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid, he added.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.