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August 5th, 2016:

Tobacco industry to benefit from new vaping proposals

Tobacco companies are taking over the e-cigarette industry. Does this mean they’re changing their spots?

Why are tobacco giants welcoming the Government proposal on electronic cigarettes? Because they stand to benefit.

For the past decade the tobacco industry have been buying up e-cigarette manufacturers and suppliers and investing heavily in developing these product lines.

The three dominant tobacco players in New Zealand – Imperial, British American Tobacco, and Philip Morris – all have e-cigarette subsidiaries under their parent companies.

The Government are proposing nicotine e-ciggy sales should be R18, have constraints on advertising and be banned in smokefree areas.

All going to plan, nicotine-vapours will be part of New Zealand’s health policy to help Kiwis quit smoking. The Government are just trying to figure out how it would work.

Perhaps this is the dawn of Big Tobacco being the ‘good guys’ for once – but experts are not so sure.

The Government wants to clarify the law surrounding electronic cigarettes, Peseta Sam Lotu-liga says.

Imperial Tobacco are “certainly wanting to assist” in “shaping good, solid and sound regulations”, says its corporate affairs manager Louise Evans McDonald.

“We are very supportive of adults having the right to choose a product,” she said.

Imperial bought e-cigarette brand Blu in 2014, after member company Fontem Ventures bought Dragonite in 2013 for $75m.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga says the proposals on e-cigarettes are not about regulating who can supply them.

However, the corporation has never applied to Medsafe to have its products available to those that want to quit smoking. It’s been waiting on the Government to take a “lead steer” on regulations, Evans McDonald said.

At this stage, Imperial was just focused on selling tobacco in New Zealand. It made a 50 percent jump in profit from sales of $553m for the year ending September 2015.


It’s “unlikely” the tobacco industry are just wanting to be ethically responsible with their investments, says Otago University pubic health co-head Richard Edwards.

They’re really getting “a big slice” of the consumer pie by investing in a market that’s grown exponentially in the past few years, he said.

“It may mean it’s a way for them to get more influence over governments, and policy and so on, by appearing to be not so bad after all.”

Take a look at the track record of the industry’s court actions, he said, such as trying to prevent graphic health warnings in Uruguay, and losing the argument to prevent plain packaging in the UK.

“They’re still trying to prevent effective policies to reduce the harm caused by smoking. So that’s why I don’t think there’s any evidence that the tobacco industry has changed its spots.”


When asked if tobacco companies stand to benefit from the Government proposal, Associate Minister of Health Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga responded: “It is not a proposal to regulate who is involved in the provision of e-cigarettes.”

The proposal would treat e-cigarettes in a “similar fashion” to tobacco regulations, “which tobacco companies already operate within”, he said.

He had not had discussions yet with the tobacco industry on the issue.

Philip Morris, known for the Marlboro and Chesterfield cigarette brands, welcomed the consultation announced by the Government, said New Zealand general manager Jason Erickson.

He pointed out that advances in vaping technology was “transforming the tobacco industry”.

Philip Morris International teamed up with Altria to market e-cigarettes in 2013, selling these exclusively outside the US. In 2014, it bought Nicocigs to enter the UK market.


In 2013, British American Tobacco was the first international company to launch an e-cigarette (called ‘Vype’) in the UK.

Its website says it will continue to invest “substantially” in the research, development and commercialisation of a pipeline of products. They also plan to launch Vype in other markets.

It also says it was the first company to have a nicotine product licensed as a “medicine” – their nicotine inhaler.

“If we are successful in developing and bringing to market a range of products that meet the needs of adult smokers seeking less risky alternatives to cigarettes, this will help to meet the objectives of a number of leading public health professionals.

“And of course it will also make commercial business sense to us and our shareholders.”

Statistics about vapers in New Zealand are hard to come by because the nicotine products are illegal to sell.

However, in the UK and US there are already a high rate of users. It’s estimated that 2.8million adults in the UK are vapers, according to Action on Smoking and Health, correlating with a decrease in smokers. However two thirds of vapers were still smokers.

American vapers are counted as high as 10 per cent of the US adults, according to a Reuters poll last year.

British American Tobacco was contacted for comment on the Government’s proposal, but have not responded in time for this article.

WHO hails Azerbaijan`s ban on tobacco ad

The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended Azerbaijan`s imposing a ban on advertising of tobacco and tobacco products.

According to the Ministry of Health, in Twitter and Facebook posts, head of the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Tibor Szilagyi described the prohibition of any form of advertising for any form of tobacco product as one of the achievements of Azerbaijan, AzerTag reports.

Szilagyi also shared a photo reflecting WHO-promoted No Tobacco Day campaign in Azerbaijan.

Experts fear legalising e-cig nicotine

It’s feared young people could again be encouraged to take up smoking if nicotine is allowed to be used in e-cigarettes.

E-cigarette devices are legal in Australia but the sale and possession of the nicotine used in them is illegal.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is seeking public submissions on a proposal to exempt nicotine from the Schedule 7 dangerous poisons list, at concentrations of 3.6 per cent or less, in a bid to reduce the harm caused by tobacco.

The proposal comes from the New Nicotine Alliance, a not-for-profit body that advocates safer alternatives to tobacco smoking.

Alliance spokeswoman Donna Darvill says it’s “ludicrous” to ban low-strength nicotine when deadly tobacco cigarettes can be purchased at any petrol station.

“Keeping nicotine-containing vaping devices illegal deprives many thousands of Australian smokers a safer alternative to burning tobacco,” she said.

But experts warn the medicines regulator will be bombarded by big tobacco companies, looking to e-cigarettes as another opportunity to get people hooked.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris sells e-cigarettes in Japan and some European countries, while e-cigarette company Nicoventures is owned by British American Tobacco.

“They will receive a large number of totally commercially driven submissions from people who see this as an opportunity to make a lot of money,” University of Sydney public health Professor Simon Chapman told AAP on Friday.

He says big tobacco hasn’t taken its foot off the accelerator when it comes to opposing tobacco control.

Companies are still taking governments to court over plain-packaging laws and lobbying against tobacco taxation.

“They’re doing all of that while at the same time trying to be on the side of angels by saying, ‘Oh we’re into harm reduction’.”

Curtin University professor of health policy Mike Daube, who chaired the federal government expert committee that recommended plain-packaging laws, called for caution around any move that could allow big tobacco to renormalise smoking.

There was evidence raising concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes and harms from nicotine.

“Smoking trends in Australia are as good as anywhere in the world and we have to be very careful that we don’t allow anything to distract us from the measures that are proven to reduce smoking,” he told AAP.

Prof Chapman says evidence from the US and Poland shows e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway to smoking for young people.

The smoking rate among 12 to 15-year-olds is 3.5 per cent, the lowest ever seen in Australia, and that could be jeopardized if the e-cigarette genie is let out of the bottle, he says.

It could also become a crutch preventing smokers from quitting altogether, he warns.

But tobacco treatment specialist Colin Mendelsohn says there’s no evidence to suggest e-cigarettes are being used as a gateway to smoking.

E-cigarettes are a “fantastic” option to help people quit smoking, he says.

“What you die from is the smoke, not the nicotine – this is tobacco harm reduction and that’s saving millions of lives,” Dr Mendelsohn said.

“If tobacco companies make money out of it, I couldn’t care less, I want people to stop smoking.”

NZ won’t make smokefree by 2025 target – study–study-2016080420

A new study shows New Zealand is way off its target to become smokefree by 2025.

The Government has committed to a goal of reducing smoking to 5 percent of the population or less within the next nine years.

But researchers at the University of Otago, in a series of articles published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, say current efforts aren’t enough.

“We want to achieve pretty much nil smoking,” says Prof Richard Edwards.

“Or certainly less than 5 percent, in all groups of the population, and our evidence is that for Māori we’re not going to do that until 2060, rather than 2025.”

For smoker Rachel Beaumont, her story is a familiar one.

“I got addicted at a young age. Plus like both my parents smoke, my whole family smokes,” she says.

“I know it’s not good for me but it’s hard to give up, aye?”

Smoking is the single biggest preventable risk factor for premature death and morbidity in New Zealand – it’s worst among Māori and Pacific people.

Efforts are being made to lower rates – taxes on cigarettes are going up, there are health warnings on packs, and the Government’s looking to bring in plain packaging. Even smoking in public spaces is under threat as councils investigate new bylaws.

But are all these measures working?

While overall rates are slowly declining, now around 15 percent, more than a third of Māori (35.5 percent) and almost a quarter of Pacific people in New Zealand smoke (22.4 percent).

The rates among women are even higher.

“Being brought up like people around us smoked, so I guess we do it too,” says one woman smoker.

She’s trying to cut down because at 27, it’s already affecting her health.

“I’m down from a pack a day to about four cigarettes a day.”

Māori and Pacific people are at a much higher risk of hospitalisation or death from respiratory disease.

Ministry of Health figures show Māori are 3.5 times more likely to be hospitalised for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than non-Māori, and Māori children are one-and-a-half times more likely to have asthma than non-Māori children.

The Ministry of Health says while smoking rates have halved overall in the past 30 years, it has “priority populations where we need to do better – that includes our Māori and Pacific people, where there’s a high burden of harm caused by tobacco.”

Researchers says more could be done to raise awareness and reduce supply.

“Tobacco is available in every dairy, every supermarket, every gas station,” says Prof Edwards.

“We’re not trying to reduce the supply of tobacco and we’re not doing enough on the mass-media campaigning side.”

But for some, like Ms Beaumont, it will take more than money and health warnings to quit.

“If I got sick, if I got cancer or something, then yep, I’ll give up.”

Protests call for tobacco operating license reversal

‘SELLING POISON’:Allowing a Japanese tobacco plant to operate would encourage domestic smoking and turn Taiwan into an export hub for cigarettes, protesters said

The Executive Yuan should revoke the operating license for a massive new Japanese-owned tobacco factory, anti-smoking advocates said yesterday, blasting the government for approving the investment and providing subsidies.

“We do not want Taiwan to become a center for selling poison,” said Taiwan Medical Alliance for the Control of Tobacco founder Wen Chi-pang (溫啟邦), a professor at China Medical University, alongside 20 protesters from the John Tung Foundation and other groups outside the Executive Yuan in Taipei.

The protesters said that the Ministry of Finance should not have issued an operating license to Japan Tobacco International’s new factory in the Tainan Technology Industrial Park.

Japan Tobacco’s NT$9.2 billion (US$290.1 million) investment is reportedly to produce enough cigarettes to cover one-third of local consumption, becoming the nation’s second foreign-owned tobacco factory, following the establishment of an Imperial Tobacco factory in Miaoli County in 2009.

The groups say that the Japan Tobacco factory will encourage domestic smoking, while turning the nation into a base for exporting cigarettes to an export base to Southeast Asia because of favorable government incentives.

“The government says it is bringing in foreign investment, but a lot of the funds are coming out of taxpayers’ pockets,” foundation tobacco control division head Lin Ching-li (林清麗) said, adding that the government should not have granted the factory use of a 7.6-hectare site, as well as utility incentives and property tax exemptions.

Japan Tobacco will be able to use the factory to skirt cigarette tariffs, Lin said.

“Japanese firms plan to turn Taiwan into a huge factory base, but the government was too stupid to foresee this ‘beggar thy neighbor’ behavior,” foundation chief executive officer Yao Shi-yuan (姚思遠) said.

Yao criticized the government for allowing Japanese investment in the tobacco industry using the Arrangement for the Mutual Cooperation on the Liberalization, Promotion and Protection of Investment (投資自由化促進及保護協議) negotiated in 2011.

He said the government could still revoke the company’s license, as long as it provided compensation.

Lin Hsin-ho (林信和), a professor of law at Chinese Culture University, said that allowing the factory to begin operations could oblige the nation to allow similar investment from other nation’s according to the WTO’s most-favored-nation status provisions.

Lin added that the government’s approval breached the spirit of the Statute for Investment by Foreign Nationals (外國人投資條例), which forbids foreign investment in industries that have an adverse effect on public health.