Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

February 6th, 2008:

Snack-Sized Mini-Cigarettes Spark Nationwide Reaction

‘Snack-sized’ mini-cigarettes spark nationwide reaction

A new, “snack-sized” mini-cigarette brand, Marlboro Intense, has recently been introduced to the Turkish market and sparked nationwide reaction after it was reported by several Turkish newspapers that the new cigarette is being tested first in Turkey.

Several anti-tobacco organizations and parliamentary deputies have raised concerns over Marlboro Intense following wide coverage in the news media that the new brand was being tested first on Turkish smokers, who are reportedly being used as guinea pigs for the product set to then be released in other countries. Marlboro Intense was introduced to the Turkish market in November 2007 by Philip Morris, a tobacco company partnered with Turkey’s Sabancı Holding.

The Marlboro Intense, half an inch shorter than the 8.4-centimeter regular Marlboros, is designed to appeal to employees who can only take quick, outdoor cigarette breaks while at work, often in cold weather. The mini-cigarette allows smokers to smoke their cigarette much more quickly than regular sized ones, but still delivers the same amount of nicotine as the full-size version.

Philip Morris is testing the cigarette in Turkey but says it believes the product has worldwide potential as more than 50 countries now have bans on smoking in public places.

The Foundation Combating Smoking Vice President Kıyas Güngör said launching new products in underdeveloped countries was a Philip Morris “tactic.”

“Philip Morris introduces new tobacco products in underdeveloped countries and Turkey is one of them. Turkey offers a good and young market for tobacco products. Cigarette-producing companies make their products attractive with alluring packages. As Turkey takes new steps to reduce the number of people addicted to smoking, tobacco companies devise new plans to avoid losing such a lucrative market,” Güngör was quoted as saying by daily Vatan.

Green Crescent Fight against Alcohol and Cigarette Abuse Chairman Mustafa Necati Özfatura said that Turkey trails in the seventh place in smoking among 200 world countries. In a phone interview with Today’s Zaman, Özfatura said: “Over 120,000 people die in Turkey each year due to a wide variety of diseases caused by smoking. Almost 60 percent of adult males and about 30 percent of adult females are currently addicted to smoking and these figures are increasing rapidly.”

Underlining that the number of smokers has increased by 80 percent in the last few years, Özfatura said it was natural that Philip Morris chose Turkey to launch its new product, as Turkey is a haven for smokers.

“We hope that the new anti-tobacco law will influence smokers to stop smoking,” stated Özfatura.

The Turkish Parliament passed a proposal in early January that expands the former Prevention and Control of Harm from Tobacco Products Law to bring strict public bans on smoking inclusive of workplaces, restaurants and bars.

Under the provisions of the new law television stations will broadcast public service announcements about the harmful effects of smoking and broadcasts that encourage smoking will no longer be allowed. The law will go into effect in May.

Philip Morris’ move to introduce Marlboro Intense in Turkey first has sparked reaction among parliamentarians as well.

Sacid Yıldız, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy and member of the Parliament’s Health Commission, said his party is considering making a motion to bring the issue to Parliament’s agenda.

“Turkey is being used as a pilot country in various domains. The Health Ministry has to inform the public about such new tobacco products. We need to investigate whether Philip Morris has obtained authorization to put such a product on the market,” Yıldız said.

An İstanbul deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Mehmet Domaç, also leveled criticism at Philip Morris for testing a new product in Turkey. “It is wrong to test the cigarette in question in our country. We need to probe whether it was introduced to the Turkish market through legal means,” he noted.

Süleyman Latif Yunusoğlu, a Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy from Trabzon, commented that it was strange for an American company to test one of its new products in Turkey. “Philip Morris is an American company, but it is testing Marlboro Intense in Turkey. Health authorities should take the necessary steps to investigate this issue. The US has taken several incentives to reduce the number of its cigarette-smoking citizens but is testing a new product in Turkey. This is wrong,” Yunusoğlu said

Officials from Philip Morris, on the other hand, complain that press organs have moved to quickly criticize their company without conducting necessary research into the issue.

“Marlboro is an international brand sold in more than 150 countries around the world. Market dynamics and adult smoker preferences in different countries are taken into consideration when offering new variants of Marlboro. It is not the first time that Philip Morris has launched a new product in a country. Having said that, there are many Philip Morris International (PMI) brands and Marlboro variants not sold in Turkey but available in other countries,” said Elvan Özkaya, external relations manager at Philip Morris Turkey.

Philip Morris marketed Marlboro Wides for the first time in Portugal in April 2006, Marlboro Filter + in South Korea in November 2006 and Marlboro Mint Series in Hong Kong in May 2007.

Upon a question over whether Philip Morris is testing Marlboro Intense on Turkish smokers, Özkaya said in a written statement that the product in question is part of the company’s innovation in order to best respond to consumer preferences.

“Like any other PMI product, this cigarette has undergone a significant and rigorous development process to ensure that it does not increase the risks inherent in any other cigarette — and the product conforms with the relevant Turkish regulations, including the tar and nicotine ceilings in place in the country,” she said, adding that this cigarette, like any other, is dangerous and addictive.

Marlboro Intense is also being criticized by several circles for not including a Turkish translation of the word “intense” on the pack. Asked about the reason for this, Özkaya recalled that the Marlboro Intense trademark was registered in April 2007 and added: “Regulations in Turkey do not oblige manufacturers to use trademarks in Turkish for their products. Product specifications are communicated to consumer on the side of the pack with T/N/Co numbers in line with the current regulations. All products are required to get approval from the Tobacco Authority in Turkey before they are launched,” she added.

On the legal dimension of Philip Morris’ initiative to test a new product in the Turkish market, legal expert Ali Odabaşı said it would not be easy for Marlboro Intense consumers to file a lawsuit against Philip Morris if they suffer from health problems in the future.

“It is difficult in our country to prove that a cigarette-smoking individual is innocent and has had health problems related to smoking while unaware of the harms of tobacco products on human health,” he said.

Underlining that he has not heard of any Turkish citizen winning a lawsuit filed for damages suffered due to smoking, Odabaşı said the Turkish justice and indemnity system is not advanced enough to protect the rights of smokers.

“Smokers consume tobacco products though they know their effects on human health. Thus, it is not easy to justify a smoker before the court when he sues against a tobacco company,” he added.


$1,500 Fine Proposed For Flouting Smoking Bans

2008-02-06 HKT 16:43 – RTHK

The government has published a bill proposing a fixed penalty fine of $1,500 for lighting-up in non-smoking areas. Apart from the Tobocco Control Office, hundreds of officers from the Leisure and Cultural Services, Food and Environmental Hygiene and Housing Departments would be deployed to carry out enforcement action. They would have the power to demand identity cards from suspected offenders.

Drastic Cut Of Outlets Selling Tobacco Can Help Curb Smoking

Feb 06, 2008 – SCMP

We should not be surprised by the findings of the survey conducted by the Neighbourhood and Workers’ Service Centre that an overwhelming majority of outlets were willing to sell cigarettes indiscriminately to under-18 minors in violation of the law (“Cigarettes easier for teenagers to buy”, January 21).

The relevant legislation has not worked. In pursuit of their economic interests, these outlets, be they supermarkets, convenience stores, news-stands, or small and large restaurants, were willing and able to flout the law with impunity and render it a mockery. Minors unable to buy cigarettes from one retailer, would quite quickly find one nearby who would sell them cigarettes and so they could satisfy their nicotine addiction. That is the crux of the problem – there are just too many outlets selling cigarettes, making effective enforcement impossible. Therefore, the government must quickly reduce the number of outlets and there must be a substantial cutback.

A drastically-reduced number of outlets will make enforcement of the law more cost-effective. At the same time, access to cigarettes will be made more inconvenient, requiring greater efforts from smokers, adults and minors alike, to source their killer substance. Nicotine is a poisonous and cancer-causing substance and its availability should be restricted, not facilitated at every street corner as it is now; otherwise, we should also be permitting the sale of cocaine and ketamine.

The government has the moral responsibility to protect lives, including harm from smoking. We must fight the aggressive importers and manufacturers of cigarettes and tobacco products by restricting their access to the market place.

Only then is there a chance to help prevent new generations of smokers from emerging. At the same time, it may also lead to a reduction in the number of existing smokers and their levels of consumption.

I urge the government to seriously consider a drastic reduction in the number of authorised outlets which sell cigarettes. I believe that this can reverse the continuing rise in cigarette consumption.

Ang Ah-lay, Causeway Bay

Hong Kong’s Smoking Offenses Bill 2008 Gazetted 2008-02-06 19:28:42

HONG KONG, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) — The Fixed Penalty (Smoking Offenses) Bill 2008 was gazetted in Hong Kong on Wednesday, which seeks to deal more effectively with the offense of smoking or carrying a lit cigarette, cigar or pipe in a statutory no smoking area or a transport carrier.

The bill could help better utilize the resources of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government and the courts, a press release from the Information Services Department of HKSAR government said.

Under the bill, the fixed penalty level for smoking offenses is proposed at 1,500 HK dollars (about 193 U.S. dollars). This is on par with the fine level for public cleanliness offenses which also have public health implications. This is also the penalty level that attracted majority support in the HKSAR government’s public consultation, said the press release.

Deputy Secretary for Food and Health Ingrid Yeung said that introducing a sufficiently high standard fixed penalty level, together with the obligation to pay the penalty more promptly, would be a stronger deterrent and would convey a more consistent message on the HKSAR government’s determination to enforce the smoking ban.

Under existing arrangements for prosecution proceedings, it could take up to three months after the day of the offense before a defendant appears in court. Under the proposed fixed penalty system, a person given a fixed penalty notice for smoking offenses has to make payment in 21 days. When the payment is settled, the person is no longer liable to be prosecuted or convicted for that offense.

“With the implementation of the fixed penalty system for smoking offenses, enforcement officers could then take more enforcement action, which would increase the strength and effectiveness of our whole enforcement strategy. There may be a reduction of court’s workload if offenders are ready to pay the fines without fighting the cases,” Yeung said.

At present, tobacco control inspectors of the Tobacco Control Office (TCO) and police officers are empowered to enforce the smoking ban under the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance. Under the bill, the Food and Health Bureau would further empower specified public officers of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Housing Department to issue fixed penalty notices within some of their premises to offenders.

Yeung said the empowerment of officers of these departments to issue fixed penalty notices was meant to complement the work of the TCO to further step up the enforcement strength. It would not overtake their current work priorities.

Yeung urged people to cooperate with the law enforcement officers. She pointed out that if the law enforcement officers intended to issue a fixed penalty ticket or summons to an individual, they were empowered by the bill to request the individual to provide documentary proof of identity. Refusal to doso would constitute a breach of the law under the bill, with the offender liable to a maximum fine of 10,000 HK dollars (about 1, 285 U.S. dollars).

The bill will be introduced into the Legislative Council on Feb. 20, the press release said.