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July 18th, 2016:

Teens Are Vaping Because It ‘Looks Cool,’ Study Finds

Is it time to start producing after school specials about vaping? A new study published Monday found teens who vape are predominantly motivated by looking cool, and while that may not be the most Earth-shattering finding, it adds to growing concerns about teens vaping.

There’s no doubt that vaping is becoming increasingly popular among teens. But what’s not so clear is how concerned we need to be over this trend. Are kids who would have smoked choosing e-cigarettes instead, which are widely shown to be less harmful than cigarettes? Or are kids who wouldn’t have smoked at all getting drawn in by vaping and eventually going on to smoke real cigarettes?

A survey study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal went straight to the source to find out more about which kids are vaping and why. Over 2,000 high school freshman from Ontario’s Niagara region were surveyed on their smoking and vaping habits. While only 10 percent of respondents said they had tried an e-cigarette—and the majority of those kids, 56 percent, had only tried it once—most of those teens said they tried vaping because it was “cool, fun, or something new.”

It also showed that the teens who had tried e-cigarettes were also more likely to have risk factors associated with smoking, like having family members or friends who smoke. So it raises the question: are e-cigarettes a less harmful path for kids that were probably going to smoke anyway or a gateway for kids who might have avoided tobacco if not for a new trendy gadget?

“I don’t know if you can necessarily tease that apart,” Dr. Michael Khoury, a pediatrician and lead author of the study, told me over the phone. “We just have to be careful. When we see what happens to adolescent cigarette smoking rates in the coming years, that will be a suggestion as to whether or not e-cigarettes have played a role.”

Proponents of vaping tend to get testy about studies that suggest teens are vaping more, or that vaping is a gateway to smoking. They’re worried that overemphasizing the problem will lead to regulation that will strip away this harm reduction tool from the adults who need it. A study published last week in Nicotine and Tobacco Research projected that e-cigarettes could lead to a 21 percent reduction in smoking-attributable deaths, and another recent survey found an estimated 6.1 million European smokers had quit by switching to vaping.

Khoury said that while there’s growing evidence that vaping can be a successful harm reduction tool among adults looking to quit smoking, this survey shows that—at least in this one population of youth—that’s not what’s motivating teens to vape. And if teens are vaping for other reasons, particularly if they then go on to smoke as some studies have shown, that should be cause for concern.

“I’m not saying it’s a fact, but it’s a cause for concern and we need to be looking at it within the scope of something that could be useful to adults,” Khoury said. “It’s not like we’re talking about heroin or alcohol or any other drug. We’re talking about something that could be potentially useful under the right circumstances as a harm reduction device.”

In other words: just because vaping can be a harm reduction tool doesn’t mean it’s harmless in all scenarios. The best way for vaping to be more widely accepted for the good it does is to reduce the harm it may have, and that means keeping it out of the hands of kids trying to look cool.

Japan’s JT Buys 40% Stake In Ethiopian Tobacco Monopoly For A Record $510M

Japan Tobacco Inc. (JT), the seller of Camel and Winston cigarettes outside the U.S., announced on Sunday it had won a bid to buy 40 percent of the National Tobacco Enterprise S.C. from the Ethiopian government for a record $510 million.

JT said in a press release (in Japanese) that it has signed a share purchase agreement of $510 million with the Ethiopian Government for 40% of the total shares in the country’s tobacco monopoly after submitting a successful bid last May.

“The JT Group is delighted to be entering the Ethiopian market where we currently have no presence,” said Mutsuo Iwai, executive vice president and president of the tobacco business.

“Ethiopia will be an important expansion of our geographic footprint in emerging markets. As the largest shareholder, we expect to be able to exert significant influence over the direction of the company. The country is currently experiencing double-digit economic growth, with industry volume also expected to continue to increase.” Iwai added.

The more than half a billion dollar bid by the publicly listed Japanese company was the highest offer ever made for any Ethiopian state-owned enterprise, Addis Fortune reported.

It was more than double its closest rival British American Tobacco – maker of brands such as Rothmans and Dunhill, which offered $230 million for the same stake, Bloomberg reported in May.

Other companies that were involved in the bid included Phillip Morris International, known for Marlboro and a Chinese company—China Logistics Company Ltd. They were among the five bidders, including an unnamed individual from Niger.

The National Tobacco Enterprise S.C., a company established in 1942 as the Imperial Ethiopian Tobacco Monopoly, is one of the four public companies the Ethiopian government said it will privatize in 2016.

The country’s Ministry of Enterprises said in March it plans to sell some of governments shareholding in Bahir Dar Textile S.C., Kombolcha Textile S.C., National Tobacco Enterprise S.C. and Ethiopian Crown Cork and Can Manufacturing Industry S.C.

National Tobacco Enterprise S.C. was first privatized in 2008 when 22 percent of its shares were sold to a Yemeni company, Sheba Ethiopia Investment Plc, for $35 million.

Sheba’s bid to beef up its share by 20 percent was however disqualified after its representatives arrived late for the bid opening meeting in May, Addis Fortune reported.

With JT’s purchase Sheba’s stake in the Ethiopian company is now valued at $255 million, seven times the amount they paid in 2008.

In 2012, Ethiopia offered to sell over 40 public enterprises, including several large farms, a winery and a big hotel, over the next three years, Reuters reported.

While it managed to sell some firms, several other still remain unsold due to lack of interest from foreign investors.

Graphic warnings on tobacco packs ready

The Association of Tobacco Industry of Cambodia announced on Saturday that new cigarette packaging, including graphic images and warning text, was ready – as required by the government as of July 23 – but may not hit the market for a few months as businesses get rid of old stock.

According to a law adopted on October 22, 2015, and clarified by the Ministry of Health on February 15, graphic photos need to cover 50 per cent of the cigarette packets, and a written message in Khmer must cover another 5 per cent.

Fines are 4 million riel (about $1,000) for noncomplying tobacco companies; 2 million riel for distributors and wholesalers; and 10,000 riel for retailers.

Mom Kong, executive director of the Cambodia Movement for Health, said the cigarette companies should roll out the new packaging immediately.

“The government gave the companies nine months to prepare. That is a very long time, and I don’t think the companies need to take any more time,” Kong said.

“In Laos, the government gave companies four months, other countries had six or seven. So nine months for Cambodia is enough for companies to sell their products with the new warnings.”

“I will see if there are no new warning packages on the market by the end of July,” Kong said. “We will be a watchdog on the market and monitor how the companies obey, for Cambodians’ health.”