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September 10th, 2016:


Tobacco poses serious health risks U.S. troops and veterans, costing our military $1.6 billion a year for medical treatment of smoking-related illnesses. The military in recent steps has taken steps to discourage tobacco use and encourage soldiers to kick the habit and save lives.

But now Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) is fighting to allow tobacco companies to give free cigars to U.S. military personnel. Hunter has taken $42,011 from the tobacco industry since 2010, including over $13,511 for his 2016 campaign, according to Open Secrets.

Asked about threats posed by tobacco to soldiers’ lives and health, as well as the high costs of caring for veterans suffering from tobacco-related illnesses, Hunter stated, “I don’t care. When it comes to guys overseas fighting, I don’t care,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Hunter, a combat veteran and former artillery officer, has said he believes tobacco helps calm nerves of soldiers and improve morale in high-stress situations. Hunter has said he smoked while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has since switched to vaping (electronic cigarettes) and occasionally cigars.

In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control found that 29% of veterans were smokers and that the smoking rate among those who served in combat could be as high as 50%, U.S. Medicine reported. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is four times higher than in the general population and 80% of COPD deaths are due to smoking, Dr. David Au, an investigator in the Veterans Administration Northwest Center of Excellence.

Tobacco related illnesses can also weaken combat readiness of troops, the Defense Department has said. Before health dangers were widely known, the military used to put free cigarettes in field rations, but halted that practice over 40 years ago.

In the past, tobacco companies routinely gave cigarettes and other tobacco products to U.S. soldiers, an action that led many soldiers to become addicted to nicotine, costing countless lives.

A new Food and Drug Administration regulation that just took effect bars tobacco companies from giving away products and imposes fines for violations. Hunter, in a letter to the FDA, Hunter wrote,” It would be unacceptable for the FDA to prohibit the distribution of tobacco products to service members who are fighting to protect those very rights that may be restricted.”

This isn’t Hunter’s first outspoken action on behalf of smokers. In February, he drew controversy for vaping on the House floor to argue against a ban on e-cigarettes on airplanes, CNN reported, with video.

But with the health hazards of smoking well known and US$42,000 in tobacco industry donations lining his campaign coffers, the burning question remains: just whose interest is Rep. Hunter truly representing?

Tobacco giant warns of plain packet ‘black market’

New Zealand adopting plain packaging on cigarettes will fail to deter smokers, a global tobacco company has said.‘black-market’

A bill which will mean cigarettes can only be sold in bland brown or green packaging passed its final reading in Parliament this week.

The bill means mandatory health warnings will cover at least three quarters of the packet and tobacco company logos will be removed.

It’s taken three years for the legislation to pass after tobacco companies tried to sue the Australian government.

That legal battle failed last year, and even though the law was still facing challenges, such as by the World Trade Organisation, with other countries also introducing plain packing, legal action was less likely.

But British American Tobacco’s New Zealand spokesman Saul Derber said plain packaging in Australia had been a failure – and it would fail here too.

“Not only is the Australian tobacco plain packaging experiment failing to meet its objectives, the policy is having serious unintended consequences,” he said.

“The tobacco black market has grown by over 20 percent in Australia since the introduction of plain packs, costing the Australian government about $NZ1.5 billion in lost revenue in 2015, Mr Derber said.

He said with no graphic health warnings, no controls preventing sales to youth and no tax it was likely the introduction of plain packaging would grow the black market here as well.

Yadayadayadayada “Plain packaging is an attack on companies’ intellectual property rights and undermines the principles on which international trade is founded,” he said.

Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said yesterday the government was confident it could win any legal action taken by tobacco companies.

“We can’t determine what will happen in the courts, but we feel like we’ve seen the evidence from overseas, we’re pretty comfortable with that, and we’re going to move forward,” Mr Lotu-liga said.

Plain cigarette packaging is expected to hit New Zealand shelves from next year.