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October, 2016:

Tobacco law loophole under review

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1123185/tobacco-law-loophole-under-review

The Excise Department may ask the government to allow the legal import of electronic cigarettes and baraku, which would be taxed like cigarettes, says director-general Somchai Poolsavasdi.

He said the department has noticed a loophole in the current tobacco law, which does not define these products as new types of tobacco-related goods intended to replace conventional cigarettes.

“We are still uncertain whether we will allow them to be imported legally or not, but if we decide to allow it we will have to tax them for sure,” said Mr Somchai.

“We have decided to take the first step to treat them properly by adjusting the legal definition of tobacco to cover all of these items. It not only concerns electronic cigarettes and baraku, but everything that has been created to be consumed in place of cigarettes,” he added.

Under the Tobacco Act 1966, tobacco products are defined as those made from tobacco leaf only, hence, it cannot govern cigarettes in electronic form or water pipes, also known as baraku, which are also now available in electronic form.

“Once we define these goods as taxable items, it will be easier for us to tax them later if we allow them to be imported legally,” said Mr Somchai.

While new ways of smoking and vaping have been available on markets worldwide for years, it is illegal to import such items into Thailand, resulting in them being smuggled in.

“It is quite complicated as tobacco is a sensitive issue here. We have to study thoroughly the pros and cons of allowing them to be imported legally,” he said.

It is still debatable whether e-cigarettes or baraku are healthier alternatives to cigarettes and cigars.

The amended law on excise tax has been passed by the Council of State after earlier being approved by the cabinet. It is now under consideration of the National Legislative Assembly. If the NLA approves the revised law, it will come into effect 180 days after it is announced in the Royal Gazette.

The excise tax restructuring is part of the Finance Ministry’s comprehensive tax reforms, while the Tobacco Act is a part of the tax reform plan. The legal amendments will switch the excise tax basis to state-recommended retail prices from ex-factory prices. The change is expected to come into force by mid-2017.

Switching the method of calculation will standardise duty collection and create more fairness and transparency, said the director-general.

Under the current system of calculating excise tax, importers have used loopholes to understate the value of costs, insurance and freight (CIF) in order to reduce their tax burdens.

But the excise duty calculation based on state-recommended retail prices will make it harder for importers to evade making tax payments, said Mr Somchai.

Even though state-recommended retail prices are normally higher than ex-factory prices and CIF value, he said the change will not further burden importers, as the Excise Department will mitigate the effects by lowering the current rates.

Apart from the Tobacco Act, six other laws will be integrated into a single act to standardise and simplify the tax collection process to facilitate the new tax calculation structure.

They are the Liquor Act of 1950, the Playing Card Act of 1943, the Excise Tariff Act of 1984, the Excise Tax Act of 1984, the Allocation of Excise Tax Act of 1984 and the Allocation of Liquor Tax Act of 1984.

E-cig studies provide more conflicting outcomes on potential harm

http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/e-cig-studies-provide-more-conflicting-outcomes-on-potential-harm/article_f1bf6e4b-90e8-5c52-86c5-f845e4808150.html

Another week, another release of studies that have conflicting outcomes on the attractiveness and potential risk of electronic cigarettes, particularly to young adults.

One report, from researchers at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health, determined that government agencies and public-health advocates may be providing an incomplete assessment of smoking e-cigs and vaporizers.

“The proportion of American adults who perceive e-cigarettes to be equally or more harmful than traditional cigarettes has tripled over the last few years (from 12 percent to 35 percent), highlighting the need for more accurate public-health messaging,” according to the researchers. Their study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The other report, from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 40 percent of current e-cigs smokers ages 18 to 24 had never tried traditional cigarettes before consuming e-cigs and vaporizers, while 43 percent were current traditional cigarette smokers.

By comparison, nearly all adults at least 45 years old were listed as a current or former traditional cigarette consumer.

The CDC report determined that 3.5 percent of adult Americans, or about 8.7 million, were current e-cig users in 2015. The report did not provide how many young adults were current e-cig users.

E-cigs, such as the top-selling Vuse brand by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., typically are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge and create a vapor that is inhaled. Vaporizers can be supplied and reused through the insertion of a liquid capsule.

Neither report broke new ground per se.

But until a universally accepted definitive study is released, the two reports add more evidence to support either anti-tobacco advocates, who promote a “quit or die” approach to tobacco products, or anti-smoking advocates, who believe reduced-risk tobacco and nicotine products can play a pivotal role in decreasing the number of traditional cigarette consumers.

For example, anti-smoking advocates have explained the increase in young adults consuming e-cigs as experimentation typical of individuals their age, and a better alternative than traditional cigarettes.

The Georgia State researchers based their report on data from the Tobacco Products and Risk Perception surveys from 2012 through 2015. Nearly 16,000 adults completed the surveys.

Researchers said the proportion of adult smokers who thought e-cigs were addictive more than doubled from 25 percent in 2012 to nearly 57 percent in 2015. Similar trends were seen in non-smoking adults.

“Although the impact of long-term use of e-cigarettes on health is still unknown, the available scientific evidence indicates that e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible cigarettes,” the researchers said.

Some studies, including from the Royal College of Physicians, have claimed that e-cigs and vaporizers are up to 95 percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

However, a pivotal component of the Food and Drug Administration’s tighter e-cig and vaporizer regulations was that they were necessary to limit or thwart the use of nicotine and tobacco products by youth. The regulations, which went into effect Aug. 8, ban the sale nationwide of those products to anyone under age 18.

Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said May 5 that “there are still many open questions about are e-cigarettes a gateway to smoking more harmful products.”

However, most recent federal reports have shown a significant decline in youth smoking of traditional cigarettes in the past 10 years.

Interestingly, among the sponsors of the Georgia State study is the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

“Our public health messages should accurately convey to cigarette smokers that switching completely to e-cigarettes would reduce their risks even if e-cigarettes are addictive and not risk-free,” said Dr. Michael Eriksen, dean of Georgia State’s School of Public Health.

Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, responded to the CDC data by saying it “raises fresh concerns that a large majority of adult e-cigarette users are using e-cigarettes in addition to regular cigarettes rather than in place of them.”

“If there is a public health benefit to the emergence of e-cigarettes, it will come only if they are effective at helping smokers stop using cigarettes completely, responsibly marketed to adult smokers and properly regulated to achieve these goals.”

In August, a national study on youth vaporizer use determined that up to 65 percent of students consume the products for flavor, compared with 20 percent for nicotine.

University of Michigan researchers said the results “challenge the common assumption that all vaporizer users inhale nicotine.” The results were published in the publication Tobacco Control.

Patrick Miech, the lead Michigan researcher, said in an email to the Journal that “vaping is a case where the science has yet to catch up with policy, which seems to be guided more by emotion and anecdote than hard facts.”

Scott Ballin, past chairman of the Coalition on Smoking or Health, has called for “all stakeholders to curtail their public relations efforts and call for scientific cooperation, monitoring and surveillance.”

Missing link between smoking and inflammation identified

It’s no secret that using tobacco is bad for you, but what has been a mystery until now is how tobacco causes increased inflammation throughout the body. Now, a team of researchers from the United States and Sweden have learned why. In a new report appearing in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, scientists show that nicotine activates certain white blood cells, called neutrophils, which in turn release molecules that lead to increased inflammation.

“Our study reveals an explanation how nicotine contributes to induction of inflammation and in doing so shows new possibilities for future therapies to treat tobacco-related diseases which each year lead to premature deaths of several million people worldwide,” said Constantin Urban, a researcher involved in the work from the Umeå Centre for Microbial Research in Sweden.

To make this discovery, the researchers stimulated isolated neutrophils from humans and mice with nicotine and could measure a dose-dependent release of inflammatory molecules. By using pharmacological small molecule inhibitors as well as neutrophils from genetically modified mouse strains the team could identify essential receptor and signaling pathways involved in the nicotine-mediated activation of neutrophils.

“The cancer-causing effects of smoking have been known for decades, but how smoking is related to immune changes has been less clear,” said E. John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “Because of the direct link between nicotine itself and inflammation, this study has important implications including that alternative forms of nicotine inhalation, such as vaping that lacks other chemicals from cigarette smoke, may nonetheless still have detrimental immunological effects.”

Scientists stunned by new report about smoking

http://www.morningticker.com/2016/10/scientists-stunned-by-new-report-about-smoking/

A new report about smoking suggests that the effects of vaping on the habit may be completely misunderstood.

An alarming new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that vaping might not be the easy cure to smoking that we thought it was, because many adults who use e-cigarettes also smoke tobacco cigarettes.

A total of 59 percent of all adult e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes, and just 30 percent of e-cigarette users were former smokers, with the remaining 11 percent made up of people who had never smoked before.

A total of 40 percent of e-cig users between the ages of 18-24 were never-smokers, indicating this actually may be a new way to get people hooked on smoking or vaping, especially for young people. About 43 percent were current smokers and 17 percent were former smokers in that age group.

The new report follows a September statement from the CDC showing a rise in vaping in teens.

“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in the statement. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”

“About 90 percent of all smokers begin smoking as teenagers,” said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health. “We must keep our youth from experimenting or using any tobacco product. These dramatic increases suggest that developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales, and use of e-cigarettes among youth is critical.”

Big Tobacco hooking kids in Ukraine

A Ukraine tobacco control group is exposing Big Tobacco’s tactics for getting kids hooked.

http://www.fctc.org/fca-news/opinion-pieces/1455-big-tobacco-hooking-kids-in-ukraine

Ukraine recently joined the global campaign Big Tobacco Tiny Targets through research led by the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the NGO, Advocacy Center LIFE.

During the research 102 schools were monitored within a 250-metre radius.

The research found:

  • 81 percent (376 out of 460 points of sale) of supermarkets, convenience stores and kiosks sold tobacco products;
  • 96 percent of these used aggressive marketing displays, putting tobacco products in or near the cashier zone and next to sweets and snacks where children could easily see them;
  • 55 percent were advertising tobacco to kids with oversized packs, illuminated advertisements and flavoured cigarette promotions.

Advocacy Center LIFE Chairman Andriy Skipalskyi said Ukraine had made tremendous progress implementing different tobacco control measures, but more needs to be done concerning children and tobacco.

“Our next step is to limit the tobacco accessibility particularly for children. Hence, the adoption of the display ban and implementation of Articles 9, 10, 11, and Guidelines, of the WHO FCTC into Ukrainian legislation are crucial for countering the tobacco industry marketing of deadly products to children.”

– See more at: http://www.fctc.org/fca-news/opinion-pieces/1455-big-tobacco-hooking-kids-in-ukraine#sthash.Pgm28YBi.dpuf

Vaping: It’s not a safe way to quit smoking

http://www.dl-online.com/opinion/4147107-vaping-its-not-safe-way-quit-smoking

I am a respiratory therapist and tobacco specialist at Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital, and I work nearly every day with people struggling to breathe due to smoking cigarettes. It can be very difficult to quit smoking, and I want to offer smokers all the support they can get when quitting.

Unfortunately, I see a growing number of patients who turn to e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking. That is why I felt I had to write the Detroit Lakes Tribune in response to an article “The End of Vaping?” that may have led some readers to believe that e-cigarettes have been conclusively proven safe and effective as a tool for people to quit smoking. I’d like to offer the following perspective as a local health care professional.

Research shows that the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes contains heavy metals, formaldehyde and other cancer-causing chemicals. E-cigarette aerosol also contains nicotine, the substance in tobacco that addicts smokers.

There is also no conclusive scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are effective for smoking cessation; in fact, quite often, users become addicted to both. If people wish to quit smoking, I encourage them to use evidence based support services and approved cessation aids.

At Essentia Health, we have specialists trained to provide these support services in person and for as long as you would like. Additionally, anyone in Minnesota can call QUITPLAN (1-888-354-7526) to find out about other free and low-cost services available to all Minnesota. Why would anyone want to take a chance on e-cigarettes when we already have tools that are safe and scientifically proven to work?

Also, despite the implication from the retailer in the article, there is no conclusive clinical research, or research of any kind, for that matter, that shows e-cigarettes reverse the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a debilitating disease that causes permanent damage to lung tissue.

This past summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deemed e-cigarettes a tobacco product, just like cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. When the deeming regulations are fully implemented in 2019, manufacturers will have to disclose the ingredients in e-cigarette liquid and include the Surgeon General’s warning on all packaging, among many other important consumer protections. This will provide more transparency to consumers and will aid in research about the health effects of e-cigarette use. In the meantime, I urge our community not to be unduly swayed by the self-interested statements of the e-cigarette industry.

(Vickie Lee is a registered respiratory therapist and certified tobacco treatment specialist at Essentia Health in Detroit Lakes)

E-cigarettes as a source of toxic and potentially carcinogenic metals

Download (PDF, 238KB)

Blu unveils new vaping range to comply with EU tobacco product legislation

E-smoking brand Blu has unveiled its next-generation range ahead of the deadline for retailers to sell off stocks that don’t comply with strict EU legislation.

From 27 May 2017, it will be unlawful to sell vaping products that contravene EU Tobacco Products Directive II (EUTPD II), which focus on quality and safety, and include the requirement for a product warning stating, “This product contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance.”

The new EUTPD II-compliant line-up from Blu will roll out on 1 November with improved technology ‘to provide a better experience for consumers’. It includes a PRO e-cig kit, with a Clearomiser mouthpiece, and a selection of e-liquids.

The brand has also launched a guide to EUTPD II to help retailers understand the changes being put in place.

The vaping market was booming, with a retail sales value of £168m and showing an 18% increase on sales last year, according to Jennifer Roberts, vice-president of customer marketing at Blu (UK). “But it’s going to see a lot of change over the next six to nine months as the next stage of legislation comes into effect,” she added.

Retailers should begin to promote non-compliant stock to sell through, said Roberts. “By beginning the changeover to compliant stock as soon as possible, retailers will give a positive message to shoppers and show they understand the category and are a credible vaping stockist.”

QuickStats: Cigarette Smoking Status Among Current Adult E-cigarette Users, by Age Group

Download (PDF, 177KB)

India’s tobacco industry, government face off ahead of WHO conference

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-3877576/Indias-tobacco-industry-government-face-ahead-WHO-conference.html

By Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI, Oct 27 (Reuters) – India’s $11 billion tobacco industry has urged the government to take a softer line on tobacco control efforts when it hosts a World Health Organization conference in New Delhi next month, but officials say the government will not bow to “pressure tactics”.

Delegates from about 180 countries will attend the Nov. 7-12 WHO conference on the sole global anti-tobacco treaty: the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). In force since 2005, the treaty aims to deter tobacco use that kills around 6 million people a year.

The industry in India, the world’s third-biggest tobacco producer, wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to soften its stance on what it says are tough FCTC measures that threaten livelihoods among the estimated 46 million people linked to the sector.

In documents obtained by a Reuters reporter under India’s Right to Information law, industry and farmer groups wrote to officials across government asking to attend the conference and be part of India’s delegation, in an effort to protect their interests.

Global tobacco firms have criticised the biennial event for not being transparent, in part because proceedings have in the past not been open to the public, including industry representatives.

The tussle comes at a time when the Indian industry is smarting from measures imposed this year forcing companies to print bigger health warnings on tobacco products.

A tobacco farmers’ group this month questioned the legality of India implementing the FCTC treaty, and asked the Delhi High Court to compel the government to allow farmers to attend the WHO conference. A judge last week asked the government to “consider” the plea, but did not rule on the other requests.

“If we take them in the delegation, the government of India may feel embarrassed,” said one health ministry official, who didn’t want to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. “We will not act on these (lobbying documents)”.

The FCTC secretariat in Geneva told Reuters it welcomes India’s decision, saying its guidelines state that no country should have delegation members linked to the tobacco industry.

Conference decisions on treaty provisions – designed for eventual implementation at national level by signatories – have a direct bearing on the global tobacco industry that Euromonitor International estimates is worth $784 billion this year.

Topics for debate at the conference include alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers, e-cigarettes and trade and investment issues.

LETTERS, SIGNATURE CAMPAIGNS

The nation’s main cigarette industry body, the Tobacco Institute of India (TII), and farmer groups wrote to the agriculture ministry demanding to have their views represented and to be allowed into the WHO conference.

In a Sept. 28 letter, the TII said “there is no obligation on any signatory to the FCTC to comply with or implement any provision of the FCTC”. The WHO, however, says the treaty is legally binding on its member countries.

The ministry also received a near-6,000-page petition signed by more than 100,000 farmers seeking protection from FCTC rules.

The TII – which represents cigarette makers including ITC , which is part-owned by British American Tobacco ; and Godfrey Phillips, the local partner of Philip Morris International – also sent the health ministry a ‘handbook’ detailing how FCTC proposals are a threat to farmers’ livelihoods.

It asked the government to ensure that “unreasonable and impractical” proposals are not adopted at the FCTC conference.

The TII did not respond to Reuters queries on the make-up of the Indian delegation or the legality of the FCTC.

In another letter, a group representing traditional Indian cigarette makers urged Modi to ensure the health ministry does not make any anti-tobacco commitments before or after the conference, fearing the potential impact on those tied to the industry.

The health ministry official said the government would consider farmers’ views, but there was “no soft corner for the industry”.

Smoking kills more than 1 million people a year in India, BMJ Global Health estimates. The WHO says tobacco-related diseases cost the country $16 billion annually.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra, Editing by Tom Lasseter and Ian Geoghegan)