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April 30th, 2010:

Tobacco Free Initiative (TFI) World No Tobacco Day 2010:

who-mag-coverLast updated: April 30, 2010

Source: World Health Organization

Theme: Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women

The World Health Organization (WHO) selects “Gender and tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women” as the theme for the next World No Tobacco Day, which will take place on 31 May 2010.

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A Letter to the HK Customs and Excise Department – Anti Tobacco Smuggling Division

writing1Last updated: April 30, 2010

Dear Mr Hui,

Since 70% of Hong Kong seizures last year were genuine cigarette products (40% above the world norm)  it is high time Hong Kong like the EU has punitive fines placed on the manufacturers whose products are seized in Hong Kong – this will immediately deter smuggling by the tobacco companies. Alongside this move tobacco company directors should be charged with conspiracy to commit this smuggling crime, conspiracy to defraud, and for local excise tax evasion.

It is ridiculous for Customs Department to continue to allocate more manpower chasing the smugglers when the fear of going to jail will immediately stop these top end tobacco people from propagating the smuggling.

Kind regards.

James Middleton

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd lost face with core supporters by giving in to opponents of climate-change legislation. He has won some of it back by taking on Big Tobacco in an unprecedented anti-smoking initiative that will end up in the courts. Australia is to become the first country to ban logos and branding on cigarettes, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines. From 2012 they will have to be sold in plain, standardised packets carrying large, graphic warnings against smoking, with the brand name in small print.

An emissions trading scheme is now off the agenda until 2012 at least. Instead Rudd will campaign for re-election this year on badly needed health reforms. A fight with Big Tobacco fits that strategy. After all, smoking-related diseases kill 15,000 Australians each year and cost more than A$30 billion (HK$215 billion) in health care and lost productivity. To underline that point, the government also raised cigarette taxes from today by 25 per cent, or about A$2 a packet, to directly fund health care.

The tobacco industry vowed a legal challenge to the proposed legislation to defend intellectual property rights. Retailers said the tax rise would hit profits, penalise people who had made legitimate lifestyle choices and encourage a black market in cigarettes.

The latter argument has a familiar ring about it. It prevailed when our government decided not to raise the tobacco tax in the last budget – admittedly after having raised it by a punitive 50 per cent the year before. But health experts and anti-smoking activists still say that, short of banning smoking as a hazardous addictive habit, progressively raising taxes is the most effective deterrent. That is just common sense, whatever the findings of a survey by the Food and Health Bureau on the effect on smoking rates of last year’s tax rise.

Cigarettes remain relatively cheap in Hong Kong. The government is bound to continue raising the tax in the long run as a responsible public health measure. But concerns about smuggling and its effects on retailers’ profits are no excuse for dragging its feet. They are a reason for effective measures against smuggling.

Australia seeks to remove logos from cigarette packs

backyLast updated: April 30, 2010

Source: Associated Press in Sydney via South China Morning Post

Canberra has announced a pioneering plan to force tobacco firms to sell cigarettes in generic packaging devoid of company logos.

The legislation, introduced yesterday, would take effect on July 1, 2012. It must be approved by both houses of Parliament.

Instead of logos, promotional text or colourful images on cigarette packets, graphic government health warnings would be prominently displayed instead. The brand name would be relegated to tiny, uniform type at the bottom.

“The new branding for cigarettes will be the most hardline regime in the world, and cigarette companies will hate it,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said.

The government also announced an increase in cigarette tax of 25 per cent, driving up the price of a pack of 30 cigarettes by about A$2.16 (HK$15.46) to around A$16.70. The tax comes into effect today.

“The big tobacco companies are going to go out there and whinge, whine, complain, consider every kind of legal action known to man – that’s par for the course,” Rudd said. “We, the government, will not be intimidated by any big tobacco company.”

As predicted, tobacco companies immediately blasted the packaging crackdown and vowed to fight it in court.

“Introducing plain packaging just takes away the ability of a consumer to identify our brand from another brand, and that’s of value to us,” Imperial Tobacco Australia spokeswoman Cathie Keogh told ABC radio.

The company planned to take legal action, she said.

Retailers said the tax increase would hurt their businesses and bolster the black market for cigarettes.

“It’s a lazy policy response being pushed by some health advocates,” Mick Daly, national chairman of Australian supermarket chain IGA, said. “That amounts to a direct attack on approximately 16 per cent of Australians who have made legal and legitimate lifestyle choices.”

Tim Wilson, director of intellectual property and free trade at Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs, said taxpayers could end up paying around A$3 billion a year in compensation to tobacco companies.

“Under Australia’s constitution, if the government basically takes someone’s property rights – including intellectual property such as trademarks – or devalues them to a significant extent, they have to provide compensation,” Wilson said.

“I’d be shocked if [tobacco companies] didn’t [pursue compensation], because if it happens here, it’ll happen all over the world,” he said.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott dismissed the tax increase as a cash grab, and said he wanted evidence that changing the packaging would reduce smoking. “I’m not in the business of defending smoking, I want to make that absolutely clear. But I also want to make absolutely clear that this is not a health policy – this is a tax grab,” Abbott said.

Australia has banned tobacco ads from print, television and radio for years. The new proposal would also restrict internet advertising.

Stripping packets of their logos would effectively stamp out tobacco companies’ marketing campaigns, said Professor Rob Moodie, chairman of the government’s National Preventative Health Task Force, which recommended the legislation.

“The thing that tobacco companies fear second after price increases is plain packaging because it takes away their last real avenue for branding their cigarettes,” Moodie said. “It also takes away their in-store presence.”

The number of Australians who smoke has more than halved in the past 20 years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said in a report in December. About 16.6 per cent of Australians smoke daily, the third-lowest rate in the developed world behind Sweden and the US, according to the report.

New cases of lung cancer fell to 60.6 per 100,000 men in 2006 from 80.6 per 100,000 two decades earlier, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in Canberra. But the incidence in women jumped 46 per cent to 30.3 per 100,000.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg