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January 13th, 2017:

Legality of tobacco product in question

Two of the world’s largest tobacco companies are at odds over whether a new tobacco product being launched in New Zealand is illegal.

This comes after the identity of a mysterious tobacco product, which prompted concern on the part of a University of Otago academic, was revealed as a product called Iqos.

The Philip Morris product heats tobacco, rather than burning it. The Ministry of Health says it has contacted Philip Morris “in relation to activities relating to the Iqos product”.

A member of the public, who declined to be named, said they were at a launch party for the product in Auckland last month. There was free alcohol at the event, which he said was run by marketing agency Brand Spanking and another company. People were educated about how to use the product and given free samples.

After a story on the then-mystery product was published in the Otago Daily Times yesterday, British American Tobacco (BAT) head of legal and external affairs Saul Derber made contact to say it was not behind the product.

Derber confirmed the product was Iqos and said it was BAT’s belief it was illegal in New Zealand.

He pointed to the Ministry of Health website, which stated “heat not burn” products were considered tobacco products for oral use, and their sale was prohibited under the
Smoke-free Environments Act 1990.

BAT had a similar product on sale in Japan but did not have plans to launch it in New Zealand because it was not legal under New Zealand law, Derber said.

He questioned the way the product was launched and a job advertisement that stated it would be marketed throughout New Zealand. He would not be drawn over whether such activity breached rules banning tobacco advertising.

“All I can tell you is that we wouldn’t do that.”

He said the mystery product was not the “Voke Inhaler” mentioned as a possibility in yesterday’s ODT. It was not yet approved for sale in New Zealand and had recently been sold to a company not connected to BAT.

Philip Morris responded late yesterday, saying the section of the law referenced on the ministry’s website was put in place in the 1990s, to address American-style chewing tobacco.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with heated tobacco or e-cigarettes,” a spokesman said.

“Our product fully complies with all relevant legislation in New Zealand.”

The company was launching the product in New Zealand because of widespread interest in alternatives to conventional combustible tobacco products, the spokesman said.

Iqos could help the Government’s push to a smokefree 2025 goal, he said.

It was available in more than a dozen markets and in Japan alone, more than one million smokers had quit cigarettes and used Iqos. The man who was at the Auckland launch of Iqos, at The Wharf, said people were given the opportunity to try the product, which involved putting half-sized tobacco cigarettes in a device that heated but did not burn tobacco.

The man at the launch party likened the product to a cross between ecigarettes, which involve heating liquid often containing nicotine, and normal cigarettes and said there were mixed responses from those who tried it.

Ministry of Health tobacco control programme manager Jane Chambers said in an emailed statement the ministry was aware of the product launch.

“The ministry is concerned with any activity that actively promotes the sale or notifies the availability of any tobacco product.

“The ministry has contacted Philip Morris in relation to activities relating to the Iqos product.”

She said if the product contained tobacco, it was potentially illegal to market it at events and “educate” people about it.

The revelations come after a job advertisement sought 20 people to work for “experiential marketing” agency Brand Spanking and be trained regarding a new tobacco industry product.

Brand Spanking did not reply to follow-up questions yesterday. Director and creative strategist Mark Pickering said in an email on Wednesday night the agency “does not discuss client work with the media”.

– Otago Daily Times

Cigarette ad ban aims to protect children, lawmaker says

The House of Representatives’ plan to ban tobacco companies from advertising their products on television and radio aims to protect young audiences, says a lawmaker.

Lawmaker Elnino M. Husein Mohi argued that cigarette advertisements could be easily viewed by children.

“Broadcasting companies run the industry using state-owned frequency, which is supposedly used to help build good character,” Elnino told The Jakarta Post on Friday, adding that smoking did not help build positive character. “The plan to ban cigarette advertisements is basically meant to protect youngsters from the campaign”.

The politician from the Gerindra Party explained the House had included stipulations to ban such advertisements in a draft bill on broadcasting to amend a prevailing law passed in 2002. The current draft was initiated by the House.

Elnino, a member of House Commission I overseeing defense, foreign affairs and information, however, ensured that Commission I would open the deliberation process to the public to include relevant stakeholders in the discussion.

“We are aware of the complexity of the issue. Therefore, deliberations will later invite insights from various stakeholders, including the broadcasting industry, so that we can obtain a comprehensive understanding before passing the bill into law,” he emphasized. (dmr)

Clear The Air Request to Members to Show Support for 85% Graphic Health Warnings

Dear Clear the Air members and interested readers/researchers


This is an urgent request for support for the Hong Kong Government policy on upgrading the 2007 graphic warnings from 50% to 85% coverage of the area, doubling the number, and adding a quitline number – not that far off plain packaging.

Opposition from the vile and heinous child addicting tobacco industry has been intense, particularly as HK is seen as an exemplar for the Asia-Pacific region, with an effect more far-reaching than just the 7 million who live here.

The industry and their paid front groups are bombarding Government and Legislative Council with letters, and it would be very helpful and save lives if you could sign the (sample) letter below and send to Legco before 17th January 20917 when the important meeting will take place to discuss this important health prevention measure.

Send the email, you do not have to be a permanent resident of Hong Kong.

Date: 13th January 20917

Panel on Health Services
Legislative Council
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China

Re: 85% Graphic Tobacco Pack Warnings in Hong Kong
I/we support the Hong Kong government proposal to upgrade the current graphic pack warnings, to 85% coverage as outlined below.

I AGREE that my submission be made available to the media as per Legco requirements and the public and be uploaded onto the Legislative Council website.

Yours sincerely,





Contact email/verifiable details/:

Briefing paper from the government to Legco:
LC Paper No. CB(2)386/16-17(05)
The Proposal

3. At present, the Smoking (Public Health) (Notices) Order (Cap. 371B) stipulates that the health warning should cover at least 50% of the two largest surfaces of the packet or retail container of cigarette, cigar, pipe tobacco and cigarette tobacco in accordance with the prescribed forms and pictures. The existing batch of health warning pictures has been in use since 2007. The Government now proposes to change the prescribed forms of health warnings and the indication of tar and nicotine yields on the packet and retail container of cigarette and relevant tobacco products.

4. We propose to amend the prescribed forms (including specifications) of the health warnings, the size and number of the health warnings and messages for the packet or retail container of cigarettes and tobacco products under the Smoking (Public Health) (Notices) Order as follows –
(a) the area of the graphic health warning shall be of a size that covers at least 85% of two largest surfaces of the packet or the retail container;
(b) the number of forms of health warning will increase from six to
(c) the following health warning message is to be included in the
existing statement “HKSAR GOVERNMENT WARNING” / “香
港特區政府忠告市民” –
“請為你的下一代戒煙”; and
“QUITLINE: 1833 183” / “戒煙熱線:1833 183”;

(d) the indication of tar and nicotine yields should be printed on a side adjacent to a typical flip-top lid of a cigarette packet, excluding the portion which forms part of the lid and the two largest surfaces, presented in a conspicuous place of such side of
the packet.

Born in Russia after 2014? You might never be able to buy cigarettes.

If Russia’s Ministry of Health gets its way, the country’s youngest citizens will never be able to buy cigarettes. On Monday, Russian media reported that the agency’s 2017-2022 antitobacco plan includes a ban on cigarette sales to any Russian born in 2015 or later, according to Radio Free Europe, a US government-funded publication.

Currently, Russians may legally purchase cigarettes at the age of 18. The Ministry of Health’s proposal – which still requires government approval – would take away this option beginning in 2033, when those Russians born in 2015 will turn 18.

This proposal comes on the heels of a report from the National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization, which found that 33.8 percent of adult Russians smoke daily. Smokingrelated mortality cost the country’s economy $24.7 billion in 2006.

Recommended: Sochi, Soviets, and czars: How much do you know about Russia?

Russia’s Ministry of Health clearly views this situation as a problem. But its proposal to ban future generations from buying cigarettes breaks with conventional wisdom on how to reduce smoking.

“Government efforts to reduce cigarette consumption by restricting supplies have been largely unsuccessful,” researchers wrote in a 2001 report published on behalf of the World Bank, World Health Organization, and the Human Development Network. “Banning tobacco is unrealistic and unlikely to work.”

Sixteen years later, most policymakers still aren’t talking about bans. Instead, US experts credit a “winning combination” of policies, including cigarette taxes and graphic warning labels, with bringing the number of smokers to a record low. Similar techniques have also been used in Russia. A 2009 anti-smoking campaign plastered graphic anti-smoking ads around Moscow, and the country declared the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics “smoke free.” The Ministry of Health’s most recent proposal would also increase restrictions on where Russian smokers may light up, banning smoking in cars with children. Public health measures like these may already be showing results:

According to the World Bank, the percentage of Russian men who smoke dropped from 67 percent in 2000 to 60 percent in 2012.

But some want those numbers to drop faster, and see a birth-year ban like Russia’s as the best path forward. Barring those born after a certain date from buying cigarettes was first proposed by Jon Berrick, an Australian-born mathematician who teaches at the National University of Singapore.

In a 2013 article published in the journal Tobacco Control, Berrick noted that “More than 80% of smokers start by age 18, and virtually all by 26. Therefore, preventing youth initiation may be the key to ending the tobacco epidemic.” He argued that simply restricting cigarettes to 18 – and-up consumers undermined this goal. Instead, this practice created a “rite-of-passage effect” that linked smoking with adulthood in the eyes of teenagers, and encouraged those near the age of 18 to light up.

Citing evidence that “smoking initiation predominantly occurs in the company of same-age peers,” Professor Berrick proposed that governments take cigarettes off the table for all those born after a certain date, a plan he calls “Tobacco-Free Generation.” Activists have pressed for this policy in Singapore, Britain, and the Australian state of Tasmania – all cited by the a Russian Ministry of Health representative in explaining their proposal. In January 2016, Balanga City in the Philippines became the first – and, so far, the only – jurisdiction to implement the policy.

Could a tobacco-free generation emerge in Russia? Matthew Meyers, the president of the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Kids, thinks so.

“Russia faces one of the most serious tobacco problems in the world and is to be commended for the strong steps it has taken in recent years,” he writes in an emailed statement to The Christian Science Monitor. “We believe it is appropriate for countries like Russia, which are facing a crushing burden from tobacco use, to explore innovative and multifaceted approaches to rapidly reduce tobacco use like the current set of proposals now being considered in Russia.”

But others see challenges ahead. Smokers’-rights activist Olga Beklemishcheva told Russian media that “there will be a black market” for cigarettes if the ban goes through, pointing to the trade in currently banned drugs.

Berrick, the first proponent of such a ban, has previously downplayed the possibility that a ban would fuel illegal trade.

“By avoiding forced cessation among existing users,” he wrote in 2013, “the measure creates no new denied addicts needed to fuel a black market.” Officials in Russia’s Ministry of Health seem to agree.

Ex-Indiana health commissioner: Raise smoking age to 21

Raising the minimum legal age to 21 is not so farfetched and is rapidly gaining momentum. This has already occurred in New York City, Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City and more than 170 other localities. A number of states, including Alaska, New Jersey, Utah and Alabama have already increased the legal age to 19, and two states, Hawaii and California, have passed legislation to raise the legal age of tobacco sales to 21. Any chance in Indiana? Many would think Indiana would probably be one of the last states to enact such a law, but I anticipate such a measure will actually be considered this legislative session.

The prestigious Institute of Medicine issued a report that concluded that raising the minimum legal age for tobacco sales to 21 would have substantial positive effects on our nation’s health. This would delay or reduce the number of adolescents and young adults who initiate tobacco use and ultimately reduce the prevalence of adult smoking.

Increasing the legal age of purchasing tobacco makes a lot of public health sense:

Eighty percent of smokers begin daily smoking before age 19, and 95 percent initiate smoking by age 21. Four out of five smokers become daily smokers before age 21.

•Between the ages of 18 and 21, many young smokers move from experimentation to regular daily use. It is a critical time of solidifying tobacco addiction.
•A major focus of the tobacco industry is promotion to college-age young adults. The highest prevalence of smoking is between the ages of 21 and 25 years of age.
•Ninety percent of individuals who purchase tobacco for minors are between the ages of 18 and 21.
•According to the IOM, children between the ages of 15 and 17, those most vulnerable to nicotine addiction due to differences in brain physiology, would benefit the greatest by enacting a 21 sale age.
•According to an internal tobacco industry document: “If a man has never smoked by age 18, the odds are three-to-one he never will. By age 24, the odds are 20-to-one.”

Raising the minimum age to 21 would reduce smoking by 12 percent (even much higher percentages in youth) and smoking-related deaths by 10 percent. Almost 250,000 fewer premature deaths and 50,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer among people born between 2000 and 2019 would result.

But what of the argument that if one is old enough to vote and serve in the military, one should be old enough to smoke? One solution has been to exempt active-duty military from the law. But consider these facts: The drinking age is 21 in all states, and tobacco is more dangerous than alcohol. And further, tobacco is also the only legally-available product that kills the consumer when used exactly as intended.

Feldman is an Indianapolis family physician and is a former Indiana state health commissioner. Email him at

Opinion: Raise age to legally buy tobacco to 25 years old

National non-smoking week will be observed the week of Jan. 17 with one of the stated goals being a smoke-free Canadian society. The toll of nicotine addiction continues to be significant. The annual death toll is staggering — about 6,000 British Columbians, about 40,000 Canadians and worldwide about six million. The Conference Board of Canada estimates the annual economic costs of smoking in Canada to be $11.4 billion.

Significant progress has been made in reducing the percentage of smokers, however, progress has stalled and has even reversed for 19 to 25 year olds. And yes, this is an addiction that targets our youth with 99 per cent of smokers starting to smoke before age 25, 90 per cent before age 19. Government regulations have assisted but more needs to be done.

Government should cease providing financial support to an industry that markets the glamour of smoking. In B.C. alone, the entertainment industry is provided with about $500 million in tax breaks while it continues to push the coolness of smoking to youth. Only entertainment that is free of smoking images should qualify for tax breaks.

Retailer compliance requires significant improvement. Health Canada reports that 28 per cent of minors buy tobacco directly from retailers. Fraser Health spends about $265,000 annually on compliance audits — clearly this is insufficient funding. However, why are health-care dollars spent on retailer compliance? Shouldn’t retailers, who profit from tobacco sales, pay for compliance audits? An annual retailer licence fee of $1,000 would generate about $6 million annually to fund increased compliance audits. Further, the government should implement a moratorium on new licences until retailers can demonstrate 100-per-cent compliance.

Many health consequences of tobacco aren’t well understood by the public. For example, research has found that nicotine primes the developing brain of youth for addiction to other illicit substances. A 2012 U.S. study found that 87.9 per cent of 18 to 34 year olds who had ever used cocaine had smoked cigarettes before using cocaine.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a Sept. 4, 2014, study, by Dr. Eric Kandel and Dr. Denise Kandel. They found that “nicotine acts as a gateway drug on the brain, and this effect is likely to occur whether the exposure is from smoking tobacco, passive tobacco smoke or e-cigarettes. More effective prevention programs need to be developed for all products that contain nicotine, especially those targeting young people. Our data suggests that effective interventions would not only prevent smoking and its negative health consequences, but also decrease the risk of progressing to illicit drug use and addiction.” Given the recent spike in drug-overdose deaths, protecting our youth from nicotine addiction has increased urgency.

So what is the medically appropriate age to legally buy tobacco if we want to achieve a smoke-free society? Quite simply it’s 25. The empirical evidence is clear, only one per cent of smokers start smoking after age 25. Why the dramatic drop-off at that age? Dr. Frances Jensen answers that question in her book, “The Teenage Brain” — the rational part of young brains isn’t fully developed until age 25 or so — a conclusion supported by other researchers. And for those minors who are unable to purchase directly from retailers, their source of tobacco are friends who are old enough to buy tobacco (and in most cases are under age 25).

The evidence is clear, the war on tobacco isn’t yet won.

Art Van Pelt is a former food-retailing executive and the founder of Susan’s Battle, a family advocacy group seeking government action to better protect youth from nicotine addiction. A teenage smoker, Susan smoked for 20 years. At the time of her lung-cancer diagnosis Susan had been smoke-free for 23 years. Susan passed away seven weeks after her initial diagnosis of Stage 4, non-small-cell lung cancer at age 58. Former smokers never reduce their risk of lung cancer to that of a never smoker.

RCPE Letter on Graphic Tobacco Pack Warnings in Hong Kong

Download (PDF, 162KB)

Tobacco control measures found to be cost-effective, says WHO report

A report (link is external) from the National Cancer Institute in the US and the World Health Organisation has found that tobacco control measures are highly cost-effective, but under-used in some countries.

The report also states that tobacco control doesn’t harm economies, and reduces the impact smoking has on poorer communities.

“Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the world” – George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK

Tobacco control measures include tax increases, bans on advertising, including health warnings on packages, policies to restrict where people can smoke and programmes to help them quit.

“This valuable report highlights the substantial financial cost of tobacco,” said George Butterworth, tobacco policy manager at Cancer Research UK. “It’s good to see that the most cost effective measures – tobacco tax and price increases – are being called for as part of comprehensive tobacco control strategies.”

Smoking accounts for 1 in 4 UK cancer deaths and nearly 1 in 5 of all cancer cases.

“The human cost of the tobacco industry is enormous,” said Butterworth. “Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the world, killing almost 6 million people worldwide and 100,000 people in the UK each year.”

The report states that, while effective measures to reduce smoking rates are available, they don’t yet cover the vast majority of the world’s population. And where taxes are used, the money is rarely invested in health programmes.

The report also finds that people in poorer communities stand to benefit most from tobacco control measures, due to the proportion of income spent on tobacco and negative health effects it causes in these areas.

In the UK, a ban on smoking in public places as well as tobacco advertising restrictions, including picture warnings of health issues and standardised packaging, are all in place.

“Cancer Research UK’s ambition to see a Tobacco-Free country by 2035, where less than 5 per cent of adults smoke, is in line with the UK’s commitment to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” Butterworth added.

But Stop Smoking Services across England are facing ongoing budget cuts after 6 in 10 local authorities were forced to reduce their funding in the last year.

Illegal trade, and the fact that 5 tobacco companies account for 85% of the global cigarette market, were both highlighted by the report as challenges for future control efforts.

The report also warns against relaxing the progress made across the world in controlling tobacco, and calls for continued research and use of evidence-based policies.

Dr Robert Croyle, Director of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, said: “The global scale of suffering, death, and disease from tobacco use is staggering. Millions of early deaths can be prevented if nations adopt evidence-based tobacco control policies.”