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July 28th, 2016:

Full ban on shisha, emerging tobacco products in S’pore from Aug 1

SINGAPORE — The ban on shisha will kick in on Monday (Aug 1) after the end of a grace period.

Licensed tobacco importers and retailers who import or sell shisha tobacco will be prohibited from importing, wholesaling or selling tobacco, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Sciences Authority announced in a joint statement on Thursday (July 28).

Although it was banned since Nov 28, 2014, shisha tobacco importers and retailers were given a grace period until July 31, 2016 to allow them to restructure their businesses and deplete their existing stock.

The ban on shisha tobacco is part of a larger suite of measures to reduce tobacco consumption.

Also coming into force on Monday is the second phase of the ban on on emerging tobacco products available in Singapore, including nasal snuff, oral snuff, gutkha, kaini and zarda.

In June last year, the MOH announced the first phase of the ban on emerging tobacco products not already available in Singapore. The ban was put into effect on Dec 15, 2015, and prohibited products such as smokeless cigars, dissolvable tobacco or nicotine, topically applied tobacco, and any solution with tobacco or nicotine that could be used with e-cigarettes.

All licensed tobacco importers, wholesalers and retailers will therefore be prohibited from importing, wholesaling or retailing all forms of emerging tobacco products.

Anyone who flouts the bans on emerging smoking products and shisha could be jailed up to six months and/or fined up to S$10,000. Those with a prior conviction could be jailed up to 12 months and/or fined up to S$20,000.

As part of the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act (TCASA), there will also be a ban on the point-of-sale display of tobacco products. This will take effect on Aug 1, 2017 as retailers have a one-year grace period.

The existing ban on advertisements for tobacco products will also be extended to cover advertising for e-cigarettes and similar products. The ban on advertising for tobacco products, e-cigarettes and similar products will include advertisements published electronically. This covers advertisements and sales promotions originating from Singapore and those from outside of Singapore that can be accessed by people in Singapore.

Customer loyalty programmes and promotional schemes involving tobacco products are also not allowed.

Members of the public with information on retailers and importers contravening the ban may call the authorities’ reporting line at 6684-2036 or 6884-2037 during office hours.

Study reveals cancer-causing chemicals on e-cigarettes

Carcinogen, according to several dictionaries including the Merriam-Webster, is a substance capable of causing cancers in living tissue. That is to say, foods we eat or things available in the market that have high levels of carcinogen must be avoided at all times for longer life.

And now, a new study is putting a warning sign on e-cigarette–or, the electronic cigarette–a device used by many Americans including the one point seventy-eight million middle and high school students in 2012 according to the CDC, because it contains previously unidentified carcinogens.

As reported in the Washington Post, the research paper is for the ACS journal of Environmental Science and Technology, and it claims that the e-cig contains two previously unknown cancer-causing toxins. Both, the report adds, are considered ‘probable carcinogens’ by the government, and they are used in the device to create artificial smoke.

The team with author Hugo Destaillats, also a Berkeley Lab researcher, have analyzed vapor from two different kinds of e-cigarrete products filled with three different refill liquids, and found several vapor components like propylene glycol and glycerin. In addition to the irritants–which are also considered probable carcinogens–they’ve also identified twenty-nine other chemicals released in the device.

In a statement, Destaillats underlines the common statement of e-cig supporters, saying that its emissions are much lower compared to the conventional cigarettes. That may be true for certain users, he adds, but clarifies that using e-cig doesn’t promote good health. Regular cigarettes, he says, are “super unhealthy” while the e-cig are “just unhealthy.”

In May of this year, a Reuters poll revealed that about ten percent of the nearly ten thousand American adults that they surveyed use the device, the same percentage as in the similar poll they conducted in May of 2015. However, there’s a growing percentage of participants this year who expressed negative attitudes toward the electronic device.

Forty-seven of which said vaping was “not healthier than smoking conventional cigarettes,” compared to just thirty-eight percent of participants who felt that way a year ago. Meanwhile, forty-three percent said they did not believe that vaping could help people quit smoking conventional cigarettes, compared to thirty-nine percent who had the same belief in 2015. More people this year are also convinced that vaping can be addictive.

Hong Kong women and men enjoy world’s longest life expectancy due to low smoking rates, health experts claim

Second place held by Japanese women and Icelandic and Swiss men

Hong Kong’s women and men enjoy the longest life expectancy in the world, according to data released by Japan’s health and welfare ministry on Wednesday.

The average lifespan for women in Hong Kong is 87.32 years, and local men on average can expect to live to 81.24.

Japanese women took second place at 87.05, while Icelandic and Swiss men shared the second position in the men’s category at 81 years.

The overall life expectancy gap between women and men fell by 0.07 year last year, compared with the previous year’s figures.

Since 1985, Japanese womenhad the world’s longest average life expectancy. But this changed in 2011 when Hong Kong women overtook them after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in north-eastern Japan [2] in March that same year.

Japanese women then regained the top spot in 2012 and managed to retain it for three consecutive years until last year.

A Japanese health ministry spokesman said longer lifespans resulted from improved medical treatment and technology in beating diseases like cancer.

Meanwhile, local health experts expressed little surprise over the findings for Hong Kong.

University of Hong Kong public health professor Lam Tai-Hing said the city’s low smoking rates were the main reason for its life expectancy results. “Smoking in Hong Kong compared with 30 years ago has been reduced by half,” he said, adding that recent data showed 19 per cent of local men smoked and only 3 per cent of local women smoked.

Lam noted that, when compared with Japan’s number of smokers – 30 per cent of men and 10 per cent of women – Hong Kong would continue to eclipse Japan in life expectancy rates in future. Michael Ni Yuxuan, a clinical assistant professor of public health at HKU, agreed with Lam. “Hong Kong has extremely low tobacco rates compared with the UK, US and Japan,” he said.

Ni highlighted low infant and maternal mortality rates as another major factor. Department of Health figures showed infant mortality rates in the city dropped from 9.7 per 1,000 live births in 1981 to 1.3 per 1,000 last year.

But Lam cautioned that differences between Hong Kong and Japan had to be taken into consideration. “Hong Kong is a city. Japan is a whole country,” he said, explaining that Japanese living in rural areas may have worse nutrition than Hongkongers as well as less accessibility to health care and education – factors in life expectancy. “In general, people in the city have longer lives, and people in Hong Kong have good access to education, clean water and electricity,” he added.

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E-cig liquid nicotine containers often mislabeled

And as many as two-thirds of these containers may not be child-resistant, the researchers found.

Consuming even small amounts of liquid nicotine can harm a child, the scientists said.

“Mislabeling of nicotine in e-liquids exposes the user to the harmful effects of nicotine,” said study author Kelly Buettner-Schmidt, an associate professor of nursing at North Dakota State University.

“In areas without child-resistant packaging requirements, children may be exposed to harmful nicotine,” she said in a university news release.

The researchers checked 93 e-cigarette liquid containers from 16 stores in North Dakota. They found that 70 were labeled containing nicotine amounts ranging from 3 to 24 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL). However, actual nicotine levels in 51 percent of the containers were different from what was on the label. Thirty-four percent had less nicotine, while 17 percent had more than the label said.

The actual amount of nicotine in the mislabeled containers ranged from 66 percent less to 172 percent more, the study showed.

Of the 23 containers that claimed to have no nicotine, almost half had some nicotine. The average level was 0.19 mg/mL, and the highest was 0.48 mg/mL, researchers said.

Results were published in the July-August issue of the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.

E-cig vapor releases two cancerous chemicals, new study says

Vapor from electronic cigarettes contains two previously undiscovered cancer-causing chemicals, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found propylene glycol, an eye and respiratory irritant, and glycerin, a skin, eye and respiratory irritant, among 29 other chemicals released in e-cigarette vapor.

Both are considered “probable carcinogens” by federal health officials. They’re used in e-cigarettes to create artificial smoke.

Decomposition of those chemicals, caused by heating them inside an e-cig, also releases toxic chemicals such as acrolein and formaldehyde, according to the study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

“Advocates of e-cigarettes say emissions are much lower than from conventional cigarettes, so you’re better off using e-cigarettes,” Hugo Destaillats, the study’s author and Berkeley Lab researcher, said in a statement.

“I would say, that may be true for certain users — for example, long time smokers that cannot quit — but the problem is, it doesn’t mean that they’re healthy. Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy. E-cigarettes are just unhealthy,” he said.

Researchers simulated “vaping” with three types of “e-liquids” in two vaporizers operated at different battery settings.

The higher the temperature inside the vaporizer’s heating coil, the more chemicals were emitted. E-cigs with one heating coil instead of two released higher amounts of chemicals because the coil was hotter, the study found.

And puffs taken at different times released varying amounts of chemicals, the research showed. Vapes taken while an e-cig was heating up released lower levels of chemicals than when the device was used at a “steady state” with constant heat.

Previous studies have already shown e-cigarettes emit toxic chemicals. The FDA in 2009 warned that some e-cigarettes emit diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze. A 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found e-cigs give off formaldehyde, another carcinogen.

And e-cigarette use has also spiked in the United States. More than 13 percent of middle and high school students in 2014 had used an e-cigarette, triple the number that had used them the year before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Almost 13 percent of adults, and more than 21 percent of adults aged 18 to 24, reported using e-cigarettes in 2014, the CDC found.

The FDA banned the sale of e-cigs to minors in May.

Stub you: How a tobacco giant is bypassing packaging rules

IMPERIAL Tobacco has deployed a new trick to circumvent plain packaging legislation and it’s caught the Federal Government flat footed.

Packs of 20 Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes – manufactured by Imperial – are being sold with a lift out soft pack inside the olive boxes mandated by the Rudd/Gillard Government in 2011.

The move means people are able to throw away the cardboard box carrying warnings of cancer, gangrene, blindness and heart disease and instead use a shiny silver pack to carry their smokes.

Imperial Tobacco is inserting soft packs inside its packets of Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes to get around the Federal Government's plain packaging legislation.

Imperial Tobacco is inserting soft packs inside its packets of Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes to get around the Federal Government’s plain packaging legislation.

A spokeswoman for Imperial denied the company was breaking the law before adding: “we are providing a fresher, premium product to consumers.”

The Federal Department of Health said it would investigate the issue – after it was raised by Australian Regional Media with Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley.

Ms Ley and the department declined to comment further because the investigation is ongoing.

The Plain Packaging Act states that: “If the pack contains lining – the lining of the pack must be made only of foil backed with paper,” which the soft packs in question are.

And while there is also a section precluding tobacco companies from having fold out panels on their packets there is nothing that specifically addresses this latest move by Imperial.

The regulations which accompany the Act also fail to do this.

The maximum penalty for manufacturers who breach the plain packaging legislation is $36,000.

This is not the first time Imperial has used extras with Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes to entice smokers.

A report by Quit Victoria in 2011 mentioned the brand’s previous behaviour.

“In February 2006, one month prior to the adoption of picture‐based warnings on tobacco packages, Peter Stuyvesant cigarettes were being sold in ‘trendy retro‐style tins’ which, unlike soft packets of cigarettes with on‐pack printed warnings, had health warning stickers that were easily peeled off,” the report stated.

“Retailers reported that the tins were very popular with younger smokers.”

Ban on point-of-sale display of tobacco products from Aug 1, 2017; retailers will have 1-year grace period

The point-of-sale display ban on tobacco products – approved in Parliament in March – takes effect on August 1, 2017.

Retailers have a one-year grace period before the ban goes into effect, a joint statement by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on Thursday (July 28) said.

MOH has beefed up tobacco control measures in a bid to protect public health and reduce tobacco consumption, particularly among younger Singaporeans.

These include previously announced amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act on Monday (Aug 1), such as bans on emerging tobacco products and shisha.

MOH said the point-of-sale display ban on tobacco products aims to reduce the exposure of non-smokers, especially among the young, to the advertising effect of tobacco product displays.

It also hopes to help current smokers attempting to quit by minimising impulse purchases of tobacco products.

General tobacco retailers will be required to use plain, undecorated storage devices to keep tobacco products within their premises out of the direct line of sight of the public and potential customers.

A text-only price list, which must fulfil MOH’s requirements, may be shown, but only upon customers’ request.

MOH noted that globally, there has been a marked increase in the popularity of e-cigarettes, especially among young people.

The amended Act extends existing restrictions on e-cigarettes to include newer varieties which do not necessarily bear a physical resemblance to cigarettes or other tobacco products.

The component parts of such products will also be banned to prevent retailers from importing them and reassembling them locally for sale.

Existing prohibitions on advertisements for tobacco products will also be extended to cover advertising for e-cigarettes and similar products.

The ban on advertising for tobacco products, e-cigarettes and similar products will also be extended to advertisements published electronically, MOH said.

Advertisements and sales promotions originating from Singapore, whether targeting local or foreign audiences, and advertisements from outside Singapore which can be accessed by people in Singapore, will now be banned.

Customer loyalty programmes and promotional schemes involving tobacco products are also not allowed.

A ban on emerging tobacco products first imposed in June last year will now be extended to include the likes of nasal snuff, oral snuff and gutkha.

From Monday, the grace period for importers and retailers on the ban on shisha – first imposed in November 2014 – comes to an end.

Existing licensed tobacco importers and retailers who import or sell shisha will be prohibited from importing, wholesaling or retailing the product.

MOH said that any person who contravenes either the ban on emerging tobacco products or the ban on shisha can be fined up to $10,000, imprisoned up to six months, or both.

In the case of a second or subsequent conviction, they could face a fine of up to $20,000, imprisonment of up to 12 months, or both.

Members of the public who have information on the import, distribution, sale or offer for sale of emerging tobacco products or shisha can call the reporting line at 6684 2036 or 6684 2037 during office hours.

MOH said it remains committed to lowering smoking prevalence in Singapore through a multi-pronged approach towards tackling tobacco use. This, it said, includes public education, restrictions on tobacco advertising, easy access to smoking cessation services and taxation.

E-cigarettes emit harmful chemicals, research suggests

Researchers found as e-cigarettes get hotter the more toxic emissions they give off

E-cigarettes emit harmful chemicals with some models releasing more than others, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California found the disintegration of two solvents present in almost every e-liquid – the substance vaporised in e-cigarettes – leads to the emission of toxic chemicals, including acrolein – a severe eye and respiratory irritant – and formaldehyde – a cause of coughing, wheezing and nausea.

Published in the journal Environment Science & Technology, the study found emissions of toxic chemicals escalate as e-cigarettes get hotter with use.

Using a custom-built device that emulated realistic vaping, the study analysed three different types of e-liquids in two different vaporizers operated at various battery power settings.

One e-cigarette was a cheaper model with a single heating coil, the other was more expensive with two coils. Researchers drew on each e-cigarette by taking puffs lasting 5 seconds every 30 seconds.

Researchers used gas and liquid chromatography to discover what was in the vapour and found emissions levels increased dramatically from the first, initial puffs to later puffs when the device had reached a hotter “steady” temperature.

A single-coil e-cigarette operated at 3.8 volts emitted 0.46 micrograms per puff in the first five puffs, but at the “steady” state – after around 20 puffs – it emitted 8.7 micrograms per puff.

“When you apply the same voltage to the double-coil e-cigarette you see a lot less emissions,” said co-author and Berkeley Lab researcher Lara Gundel. “We think it has to do with lower temperatures at each of the coil surfaces.”

Assuming 20 puffs on an e-cigarette is equivalent to smoking a conventional cigarette, said Dr Gundel, the total emissions of acrolein for an e-cigarette are about 90 to 100 micrograms. Conventional cigarettes emit 400 to 650 micrograms of acrolein per cigarette.

Emissions of chemicals in e-cigarette vapour such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein – all carcinogens or respiratory irritants – increased with usage.

“In some cases we saw aldehyde levels increase 60 per cent between cycles 1 and 9,” said co-author and Berkeley Lab researcher Mohamad Sleiman.

Significant levels of 31 harmful chemical compounds were found in the e-cigarette vapour.

Previous studies have found e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals. In 2015, a study showed e-cigarettes emit formaldehyde, a carcinogen also found in cigarette smoke.

This latest study, however, found two chemicals never previously recorded in e-cigarette vapour – propylene oxide and glycidol – both of which are thought to be carcinogens.

Despite the findings, earlier this year a major report by the Royal College of Physicians concluded e-cigarettes are beneficial to public health and smokers should be encouraged to use them.

The 200 page report concludes that “among smokers, e-cigarette use is likely to lead to quit attempts that would not otherwise have happened”.

An estimated 2.1 million Britons use e-cigarettes; a figure which is steadily rising. Since their introduction in 2007, they have been marketed as successful tools to wean smokers off nicotine addiction as they reflect the sensation and practice of smoking while giving lower nicotine doses.

A study in March claimed almost 900,000 smokers in England used e-cigarettes to break their habit in 2014.

“Advocates of e-cigarettes say emissions are much lower than from conventional cigarettes, so you’re better off using e-cigarettes,” said Dr Destaillats. “I would say, that may be true for certain users – for example, long time smokers that cannot quit – but the problem is, it doesn’t mean that they’re healthy. Regular cigarettes are super unhealthy. E-cigarettes are just unhealthy.”

Who really won the legal battle between Philip Morris and Uruguay?

The tobacco giant has to pay $7m to the small South American nation in a dispute over cigarette adverts. But the case could still set a worrying precedent

This month, campaigners celebrated the legal defeat of tobacco giant Philip Morris by Uruguay at the World Bank-hosted international centre for the settlement of investment disputes.

Philip Morris filed its controversial $25m (£19m) claim for damages at the World Bank arbitration court six years ago, saying it had “no choice but to litigate” due to Uruguay’s introduction of graphic warnings on cigarette packets. On 8 July, two of the three arbitrators ruled that Uruguay had the right to continue its anti-cigarette campaign, and that Philip Morris should reimburse $7m (£5.3m) in legal costs.

The David-Goliath battle between Uruguay and Philip Morris is an iconic case because it so clearly illustrates the way corporations can use international investment treaties to attack regulations made in the public interest.

So does Big Tobacco’s defeat by Uruguay mean that the growing public opposition to these investment treaties is mistaken? The corporate arbitration lawyers that take up many of the cases – and their supportive political allies – are keen to say that it proves the system can work fairly.

The question however is for whom is the system working? In investment arbitration cases, states never win. States can never file lawsuits against investors, so the best-case scenario for them is if the tribunal dismisses the investor’s accusations.

In this case, although Philip Morris was required to contribute $7m for legal costs, Uruguay will still have to pay a further $2.6m in financial costs and much more in terms of the non-material resources it has taken to fight this.

And this is a case that should never have been heard as it contradicted both the terms of the bilateral investment treaty between Switzerland and Uruguay (used as the basis for the claim) as well as the framework convention on tobacco control – the only binding multilateral convention on public health.

The arbitration panel’s decision to hear the case put a brake on the adoption of similar tobacco control measures in Costa Rica, Paraguay and New Zealand, among others.

Moreover, the lawsuit may have encouraged legal threats and actions by other corporations, hopeful that they could secure either revision of government policies or financial compensation.

In the past few years, Katoen Natie (logistics), Botnia (pulp/paper) and Farmashop (pharmacy) have threatened Uruguay with lawsuits. In March, a US-based telecommunications corporation, Italba, filed a lawsuit against the country.

The real winners in this proliferation of investor-state cases – which have surged globally from six in 1996 to 696 now – have been the corporate law firms that work on these long and complex cases. Typical arbitration lawyers, employed by either the state or a corporation, earn up to $1,000 an hour.

Philip Morris hired three international law firms (Sidley Austin, Lalive, and Shook, Hardy & Bacon), whereas Uruguay was represented by Foley Hoag. The three arbitrators that decided the case also received wages: nearly $1m between the three of them.

But more disturbing than the profits lawyers make is the power that they are given. Juan Fernández-Armesto, a Spanish lawyer and expert on investment arbitrators, said (paywall):

It never ceases to amaze me that sovereign states have agreed to investment arbitration at all […] Three private individuals are entrusted with the power to review, without any restriction or appeal procedure, all actions of the government, all decisions of the courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from parliament.

The German association of judges said in February (pdf) that these arbitration systems not only fail to meet international requirements for technical and financial independence, but are also unnecessary as disputes can be resolved through national courts.

So while Uruguay can celebrate this particular win over a corporate Goliath, perhaps the victory’s most useful contribution would be to raise awareness among states of the dangers of signing up to a privatised court system that leaves decisions on public policies in the hands of corporate lawyers. Failure to do so will mean the arrival of many more transnational Goliaths, armed not with spears but legal papers.

Cecilia Olivet is a researcher at the Transnational Institute and Alberto Villareal coordinates the trade and investment programme of Redes-Friends of the Earth Uruguay