Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

September 8th, 2016:

Tobacco plain-packaging given tick by MPs

Legislation requiring tobacco products to have plain packaging has passed its final hurdle in Parliament.

The bill was first introduced in 2013 before legal action by tobacco companies in Australia put the legislation on hold.

However, that challenge failed last year.

Under standardised packaging all cigarettes and other tobacco products would be in brown or green coloured packaging, similar to what is required in Australia.

Mandatory health warnings would also cover at least three quarters of the packet, and tobacco company marketing imagery removed.

Brand names would be allowed, but there would be restrictions about how and where they could be printed.

Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said the passing of the legislation sent a clear message the government was serious about ending the unnecessary deaths from tobacco use.

“The bland packs will maximise the impact of health warnings and cut out any false impression that smoking is cool or glamorous,” he said.

“Standardised packaging, along with the existing suite of tobacco control measures and quit-smoking services, is a logical next step towards the Smokefree 2025 goal.”

Regulations needed for the law to come into force are currently under development following a public consultation that closed at the end of July.

New Zealand First and the ACT Party were the only parties to oppose the bill.

Plain packaging for tobacco confirmed

Plain packaging for tobacco is on the way after legislation passed its final hurdle tonight.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga took a large cigarette packet prop into Parliament’s debating chamber to show what plain packaging could look like.

“This is what will make a difference,” he said.

“When cigarette packs come out of a smoker’s pocket or are left lying around on the table where others can see, there will be nothing but a drab, ugly background colour and large, prominent, graphic pictorial warnings.”

Lotu-Iiga said no other product was so widely used and posed such a direct level of risk to users. Smoking led to between 4500 and 500 premature deaths in New Zealand each year, he said.

“This bill takes away the last means of promoting tobacco as a desirable product. It stops the promotion of smoking as cool, fun, glamorous.

“About 13 people die prematurely every day from smoking-related illnesses…this is a bill to protect children and young people from being tempted from trying cigarettes.”

The legislation passed 108 to 13 votes, with opposition from New Zealand First and the Act Party.

New Zealand First health spokeswoman Barbara Stewart said all parties would be in agreement as to the damage that smoking could cause.

However, New Zealand First had concerns about a lack of evidence that plain packaging was effective, and possible unintended consequences such as an increase in black market sales.

“We have to remind people that $1.6 billion in excise tax is going into the government coffers every year…there is a clear ulterior motive here, and it is not public health, as it should be.

“We remain unconvinced that plain or standardised packaging is effective at reducing tobacco consumption.”

Plain packaging is part of measures designed to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025, a key goal of the Maori Party.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox referenced her confrontation with Imperial Tobacco spokesman Dr Axel Gietz on TV3`s The Nation in June.

Fox stormed out of the TV interview after accusing Gietz of “peddling death and destruction and misery”.

Tonight, she said last night she was visited by a person whose wife had recently died after being a smoker for 40 years.

“He came to bring me his wishes to tackle tobacco control in this country. He said she tried everything…e cigarettes, patches, cold turkey.

“She could not kick the habit, and eventually she died trying. Today I want to remember her.”

Plain packaging for tobacco is likely to be in place early next year.

The government in May released draft regulations and a consultation document which aims to standardise the look of cigarette packs.

New Zealand had been keeping an eye on the outcome of legal challenges against Australia’s plain packaging, one from tobacco firm Philip Morris and another from tobacco-producing countries via the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Australia won the case against Philip Morris in December.

The WTO challenge is ongoing, but the Government received advice late last year that the Government was on a “firm footing” to progress plain packaging because several other countries, including the UK and Ireland, had introduced it.

These countries did not face a challenge under the WTO.

A pack of 20 cigarettes in New Zealand will increase from about $20 now to around $30 in 2020 after hefty excise increases were announced as part of May’s Budget.

The tax on tobacco will rise by 10 per cent on January 1 each year for the next four years.

That is expected to bring in an extra $425 million in tax over that period.

It will affect the about 15 per cent of adult New Zealanders who smoke each day – about 550,000 people.

That rate increases to 35 per cent for Maori, and 22 per cent for Pacific people.

Lotu-Iiga last month released a consultation document that includes a proposal to legalise the sale of e-cigarettes in New Zealand.

Nicotine patches and gum can be bought, but nicotine e-cigarette liquid must be bought from overseas.

Other countries, like the UK, allow the e-cigarettes or vaporisers to be sold in supermarkets and dairies.

The products would not be allowed to be used in smoke-free areas, and safety measures including child-proof containers will be considered.

Total 73 Macau smoking lounges await approval: govt

Applications for a total of 73 smoking lounges across Macau’s casino market were pending government approval as of early July this year, said Health Bureau director Lei Chin Ion in a written reply to a question from Macau legislator Ella Lei Cheng I.

The official statement, publicised on Wednesday, did not specify which casinos had applied for the smoking lounges. It did state that a total of 86 smoking lounges were designated as government-approved facilities in the city’s casino market as of early July, but didn’t list where they were. Of that number, 83 were located on main or ‘mass’ gaming floors; while the remaining three smoking lounges were situated in “areas restricted to certain gamblers”.

In October 2014 the Macau government banned smoking on casino mass floors. An exception was made for tobacco use in enclosed smoking lounges – facilities without gaming – located on some casino mass-market floors in the city. Having a cigarette while gambling is at present still allowed in VIP rooms.

The main floor ban had brought an “apparent improvement” in the air quality inside casinos, Mr Lei remarked in his answer to Ms Lei, a legislator affiliated to an influential local labour grouping called the Macau Federation of Trade Unions. Some local casino workers have complained that smoking lounges do not sufficiently protect them from secondhand smoke.

As of the first half of this year, a total of 277 people have been fined for smoking in unauthorised areas inside the city’s casinos, Mr Lei stated. His department has also received 561 complaints in the period regarding alleged smoking rules violation inside casinos, of which 90 percent of the cases were transferred to the city’s casino regulator Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau for further follow up.

The government is now pushing for a full smoking ban inside casinos as part of a scheduled revision of the city’s tobacco control law. But the majority on the Macau Legislative Assembly working committee asked to scrutinise the revised tobacco control bill currently supports the retention of smoking lounges on casinos. The working committee is currently on its summer break: it will only continue reviewing the bill after October 15 at the earliest, once the Legislative Assembly’s two-month recess ends.

A number of investment analysts have said that were smoking to be banned outright from the city’s casinos, it could have a negative affect on gaming revenue generated from smokers; as they would spend less time at a gaming table or a gaming machine if required to step outside to pursue their tobacco habit.

Increasing tobacco tax: Another smart move by Jokowi?

Cheap cigarette prices in Indonesia are driving a health crisis of increasing numbers of smokers and spiralling associated death rates. But with huge numbers of people employed in the tobacco industry, raising prices to reduce this risk is a dangerous move by Jokowi’s government.

By Fawnia

Since rumours about rises in cigarette prices made it to the news a week ago, there has been endless debate, discussions, and surveys. The differences of opinion, which revolve around the effectiveness of the policy and the reasons behind it, show substantial divisions in public opinion.

The price hike is heavily influenced by a recent study from the Centre for Health Economics and Policy Studies at the University of Indonesia. It says that according to a survey of 1,000 people across 22 Indonesian provinces, 82% of the respondents said they approved the idea of a rise. Meanwhile, 72% of smokers agreed they would quit smoking if the price of cigarettes went above Rp 50,000 ($3.80)

At the same time, the results showed that 67% of adult males in Indonesia, or around 70 million people, were smokers and that this number has been increasing sharply since 1995. Compare this to public health figures that explain 217,400 deaths every year are caused by non-communicable diseases and the problem becomes apparent. Of these deaths; smoking cigarettes is the highest risk factor. If you accept that the increase in the number of smokers goes hand in hand with increases in cigarette production, it is also worrying to know that Indonesia will produce 125.3 billion more pre-rolled cigarettes over the next ten years.

Twice the price, twice the risk? Current cigarette prices in Indonesia range from just Rp 12,000 ($0.9) to Rp 20,000 ($1.5), and this low price makes it easy for teenagers as young as 12 years old to smoke. A survey completed by the World

Health Organization in 2014 supported this suggestion, showing around a third of boys between the ages of 13-15 in Indonesia were regularly smoking. That figure will almost certainly have risen.

Despite this pressing evidence the proposal to raise cigarette prices to Rp 50,000 has triggered a range of responses. One member of the House of Representatives believes that although the rise would discourage smoking, the government should be concerned about the fate of people working for tobacco companies. On a similar note, East Java Governor Soekarwo has said the increase would be a significant challenge to employment in the province.

Soekarwo explained his region depends heavily on tobacco industry employment for 6.1 million people, while taxes from smoking products make up the majority of East Java’s locally generated recurring revenue. Indeed, as the tobacco industry is one of the largest sectors in Indonesia, the decision to double the price cannot be made hastily.

At the same time, steps would also need to be taken to rule out an increase in the circulation of illegal products as a result of a price hike. Rumours of the new pricing are already a big concern for Indonesian tobacco farmers, and according to industry insiders, wholesalers are taking advantage by bidding for their stocks at a low price.

This situation has spurred peaceful demonstrations in Central Java by members of the Association of Indonesian Tobacco Farmers (APTI). They are worried for their livelihood and demand the government reduces tobacco imports and cancels the change in pricing. According to another industry group, the jobs of more than 1.5 million workers are at stake.

The significant increase has yet to be finalised, and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati says there is no decision yet regarding the new ruling on prices or taxes. Will the government succumb to the public’s angry protest, or will it be a ground-breaking measure that reduces the number of smokers in Indonesia? In the balance of the health of the economy versus the health of the people; there is an enormous amount at stake.