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May, 2010:

Professor John Britton seeks inquiry into Ferrari tobacco sponsorship

djm0712jy33Last updated: April 30, 2010

Source: Times Online

One of Britain’s most eminent physicians has written to the Department of Health urging the Government to open an inquiry into whether Ferrari is in breach of the EU-wide tobacco sponsorship ban, The Times has learnt.

Professor John Britton, a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and director of its Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, has also written to the BBC asking it to consider whether it is appropriate to screen Formula One racing while the team stands accused of potential subliminal advertising by the European Commission.

The row centres on Ferrari’s use of a red, white and black barcode which is emblazoned on the racing team’s cars and its drivers’ overalls. Both the European Commission and advertising experts argue that the barcode is designed to remind viewers of a packet of Marlboro cigarettes.

Under 2002 law passed in both Britain and in Brussels, it is an offence for a tobacco company to sponsor a sporting event.

In a letter to Mark Thomspon, the Director General of the BBC, Professor Britton, an epidemiogist at the University of Nottingham, said: “I write to ask you whether in your view, broadcasting coverage of the Ferrari car and related branding in the forthcoming Spanish Grand Prix is in full compliance with both UK law, and the BBC charter?”

Formula One teams are preparing to fly to Spain for the start of the European leg of the Grand Prix season next weekend.

Earlier this week, a spokesman for the European Public Health Commissioner said he thought that the barcode constituted potential subliminal marketing. He said that while he did not think it constituted a breach of EU law, he urged the British and Spanish governments to see if it contravened their own domestic legislation.

The spokesman said: “It needs to be checked against the law of the Member State in question (here Spain & UK), which could have more stringent rules than the EU legislation requires.”

To date, the Department of Health and Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, have declined to comment.

Philip Morris, the world’s second biggest tobacco firm and the owner of Marlboro cigarettes, extended its financial backing of Ferrari until 2011. It is understood that the ten year deal is worth around $1 billion.

Ferrari has consistently denied that the barcode on the car represents subliminal advertising and insists that it is a design feature on the car which forms part of the vehicle’s “livery”.

Philip Morris also argues that it is “confident” that their relationship with Ferrari is well within the law and that: “The Formula One Grand Prix in the UK does not involve any race cars, team apparel, equipment or track signage carrying tobacco product branding. The same is true for all other Formula One races across the world.”

However, Don Elgie, chief executive of Creston – the media group which owns the advertising agency DLKW -told The Times that he thought the barcode constituted subliminal advertising.

Mr Elgie added: “I think it’s a no brainer. Marlboro may be working within the letter of the law, but not the spirit. Why else would you put a barcode there? It is there to make you think of Marlboro cigarettes. If I was the account director for Marlboro, I would try and do that.”

The British Formula One race at Silverstone is scheduled for July 11.

Subliminal advertising is where a brand is so well-known and powerful that a consumer can be reminded of it by subtle prompts, but without actually seeing the product itself.

A spokesman for the FIA, the governing body for Formula I, said: “Formula 1 advertising and sponsorship must comply within the law of the land.”

However, it is understood that should further questions be raised about the legality of livery, the F1 governing body would have an obligation to look into it further.

A spokesman for the FIA, the governing body for Formula I, said: “Formula 1 advertising and sponsorship must comply within the law of the land.”

However, it is understood that should further questions be raised about the legality of livery, the F1 governing body would have an obligation to look into it further.

The right to health more important than right to smoke

mental-health-disorder-and-tobacco-use-1Last updated: May 9, 2010

Source: The Age

WHEN the federal government announced plain packaging for cigarettes by January 2012, tobacco companies cried foul. They warned a legal battle could ensue, and that plain packaging would breach trademark law, international trade agreements and intellectual property rights. The world will be watching Australia to see how the pioneering legislation progresses. Anti-smoking campaigners claim plain packs and more prominent health warnings will particularly discourage teenage smokers, who are more likely to view a cigarette brand as a status symbol. Since 1980, smoking rates in Australia have dropped from 34 per cent to 19 per cent in 2007. But the war is not yet won: 4000 Victorians die of smoking-related conditions each year, and 750,000 Victorians still smoke.

Since anti-smoking campaigns began, smokers and tobacco companies have argued that restrictions have infringed civil liberties. They have attempted to persuade citizens they have a “right to smoke”, and that the nanny state is taking away that right. But bans on smoking in bars, restaurants and the workplace have eventually been accepted – even by smokers – despite an initial flurry of protest. This suggests many smokers are ambivalent about their habit, and do not wish to inflict harmful cigarette smoke on others.

Vic Zurek, the head of the newly formed group, Australian Smokers Rights, expressed this ambivalence when he said: “I agree with helping people quit if they want to and to try to stop kids taking up the habit, but I don’t agree in a free country in forcing people.” Measures introduced so far have made it more difficult and expensive to smoke, and have made smoking less socially acceptable, but cigarettes have not been outlawed for those over 18.

It can certainly be argued, however, that cigarette companies are behaving immorally by distributing such a harmful product. ”Working people don’t have much in life; a beer and a cigarette are just a couple of small pleasures and we can’t even do that any more,” says Mr Zurek. Measures making it more difficult to smoke seek to protect the community’s wellbeing, but for an addict this self-evident truth can be difficult to see.

Meanwhile, tobacco companies continue to make big returns. The profits of Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco grew by 20 per cent in Australia in 2009. Big tobacco values money, not morality, with little respect for the truth and even less consideration for the genuine rights of their customers. Surely the right to life, to health, is more significant than a ”right to smoke”.

Anti-tobacco crusaders are fighting a powerful enemy, and their campaigns still have some way to run in Australia and overseas. The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to allow the government to seek almost $US300 billion from the tobacco industry for damaging the health of Americans. (In 2006, the US District Court found tobacco companies falsely denied the adverse effects of smoking, concealed evidence that nicotine was addictive and lied about their manipulation of nicotine in cigarettes to create addiction.) In the US, too, smoking has been banned by 36 councils in public-housing blocks, a move being monitored in Australia. In Australia, lobbyists are asking for a ban on cigarette vending machines, and for smoking to be barred on university campuses.

Some may say such measures go too far, but the chief executive of VicHealth, Todd Harper, points out tobacco companies are playing with a stacked deck: after 100 cigarettes, a smoker is hooked. Consumers need to be protected from an enemy in the marketplace.

Duty-free plan is not the full packet

duty_free_cigarettesLast updated: April 28, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Legislators discussing an amendment to reduce the number of duty-free cigarettes from three packets to one opened packet of no more than 19 cigarettes yesterday urged the government to consider making the allowance a full packet for easier enforcement of the law.

At a meeting of the sub-committee on dutiable commodities, they argued that 19 cigarettes, one short of a full packet, could become a loophole in the law.

Under the proposed amendment, travellers can bring in no more than 19 cigarettes, a cigar or cigars weighing less than 25 grams or 25 grams of other manufactured tobacco.

At present, 60 cigarettes are exempted from duty.

Travellers bringing in more than 19 cigarettes will need to declare them and pay the appropriate tax or face a fine of HK$2,000 and a penalty of five times the value of the tax they originally had to pay.

For more serious cases, offenders could face court and a HK$1 million fine and two years’ jail.

Wholesale and retail legislator Vincent Fang Kang, supporting the call of a one-packet cigarettes allowance, said: “What if someone takes a cigarette from the packet and puts it in a pocket? Will Customs search people frequently to make sure they would not carry out this trick?”

“What is the difference between 19 sticks and a packet? It is ridiculous to see people throwing away a cigarette at the control points. What do you think foreigners will think about us when they see it? It is bad for Hong Kong’s image,” Fang said.

Undersecretary for Food and Health Professor Gabriel Leung said allowing 19 duty-free cigarettes was to give convenience to those carrying an unfinished packet. The initial intention was that no cigarettes brought into the city should be free from tax, he said.

Clear the Air says: Tommy Cheung

So what does Legco member Tommy Cheung have to say ? after all he predicted doom and gloom for the catering industry after the smoking ban in workplaces came into being.

Has he printed a retraction to say he was wrong – by about HK$ 18 billion only whilst meanwhile demanding an hourly minimum wage of HK$ 20 ?

Can we trust what the Liberal Party or its non elected Functional Constituency members say or vested interests tell them what to say ?

You decide.

Total Restaurant Receipts






Index (Average of quarterly indices from Oct 2004 to Sep 2005 = 100)

Year-on-year % change

Index (Average of quarterly indices from Oct 2004 to Sep 2005 = 100)

Year-on-year % change













2006 no smoking ban






2007 Jan -partial smoking ban commences












2009 – July full smoking ban in place






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The restaurants sector’s total receipts was $20.8 billion in value in the first quarter, up 4.8% on the same period last year, the Census & Statistics Department says. Restaurants’ total purchases increased 4.2% in value, to $7.2 billion.

After discounting the effect of price changes, total restaurant receipts rose 3.9% in volume.

Analysed by type of restaurant, Chinese restaurants’ total receipts rose 6.3% in value, or 5.3% in volume. Fast food shops‘ total receipts grew 5.3% in value or 4.6% in volume, while bars’ total receipts of bars rose 5% in value or 4.9% in volume.

Non-Chinese restaurants’ total receipts rose 2.4% in value or 1.9% in volume, while the figure for miscellaneous eating and drinking places grew 2% in value or 1.1% in volume.

On a seasonally adjusted quarter-to-quarter comparison, the volume of total restaurant receipts increased 1.2%.

Florida emerges as center of tobacco litigation universe

lawsuit-cash-advance-fundingLast updated: May 7, 2010

Source: St Petersburg Times

With 9,000 cases awaiting trial in Florida -including many appeals – the state has emerged as the prime battleground in the legal war against Big Tobacco.

On April 26, a Fort Lauderdale jury found Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Liggett Group responsible for the cancer death of Margot Putney, a Florida woman who began smoking in about 1953 at the age of 15 and died in 1995. The verdict: $15 million.

On April 21, a Gainesville jury said R.J. Reynolds Tobacco was partially responsible in the death of Frank Townsend, who smoked cigarettes and later developed lung cancer. R.J. Reynolds’ portion of the verdict: $46.3 million.

And on April 14, a Pensacola jury found R.J. Reynolds and Liggett responsible for the wrongful death of longtime smoker Janie Mae Clay. The verdict: $21 million.

I could go on. And on.

The pace of tobacco litigation in Florida is fast and furious these days. And ever since tobacco industry defense attorneys scored two wins in this state in 2009, the verdicts – 13 in a row and counting – have turned against Big Tobacco.

This is no fluke. The recent string of favorable verdicts may spell big trouble for a cigarette industry that not so long ago used to brag that it never, ever lost a legal case brought by a dying smoker (or his or her family).

“This ever-growing list of plaintiff victories in Florida constitutes a trend with a capital T,” says Edward L. Sweda Jr., senior attorney for the Tobacco Products Liability Project of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Boston’s Northeastern University School of Law.

Sweda’s tracked tobacco litigation since his days in law school in 1979. He argues the sheer momentum and volume of these Florida cases with unfavorable verdicts for tobacco will force the industry to settle. If they lose at the appeals level, he says, tobacco companies must actually start paying off the verdicts against them.

And that, argues Sweda, is when it becomes very possible the tobacco industry will start talking settlement.

Why? The drumbeat of rulings against Big Tobacco is remarkable enough. But what boggles the mind and checkbook is that those verdicts are only the first of an estimated 9,000-plus claims that state and federal courts in Florida are due to hear – in theory, at least – for decades to come.

So many lawsuits means the tobacco industry will be forced to put in its second- and third-string legal teams, Sweda suggests, which may result in more losses for Big Tobacco.

No other state boasts anything close to such a volume of upcoming tobacco litigation. For good reason.

A class-action suit was certified in Miami in 1994 claiming 700,000 smokers had been injured by cigarettes and a tobacco industry that did not warn people of smoking risks. An appeals court decided in 1996 that the class action could go forward, though only Florida smokers could be included. This memorable case became known as the “Engle” case for lead plaintiff and Miami pediatrician Howard Engle.

In 2000, the plaintiffs won $145 billion – that’s a b for billion – in what was the largest punitive damage award by a jury in U.S. history. An appeals court later overturned the verdict, and the Florida Supreme Court refused to reinstate it. But the Supreme Court left in place some critical legal changes in the tobacco wars.

First, the court permitted each of the Engle class’ members, known as the “Engle progeny,” to file lawsuits individually. Hence the 9,000-plus lawsuits awaiting their chance in Florida courts.

Second, the court said the Engle jury’s findings on cigarettes, their health effects and the companies’ conduct over the years had to be accepted in future tobacco cases.

That means smokers do not have to prove that cigarettes are harmful every single time they bring suit. It is already a given, the court stated, much to the tobacco industry’s dismay.

In federal cases, tobacco lawyers have appealed arguing these court instructions are unfair. They await a ruling on 4,400 federal cases, part of those 9,000-plus to be tried in Florida alone. But in Florida state courts, the state Supreme Court’s instructions are helping to generate verdicts at a breakneck pace.

What plaintiff lawyers have to prove in such cases is that the smoker (who may or may not be alive) was addicted and smoked a particular brand of cigarette.

In many cases, the verdicts are coming in with the juries assigning a percentage of responsibility to the smoker and the tobacco companies. Cigarette lawyers point to these split verdicts as evidence that these Florida cases are not clear-cut signs that the tobacco industry is losing.

Even so, that’s still left plenty for tobacco companies to pay.

First, of course, every plaintiff victory will be appealed by the tobacco lawyers.

Murray Garnick, a senior vice president at Altria, the parent of Philip Morris USA (which makes Marlboros), has been the de facto spokesman for the tobacco companies in much of this litigation. “Our fundamental case,” Garnick told Virginia’s Richmond Times Dispatch last month, “is that we’re selling a legal product that has risks that are well understood by the consuming public and that people should have the right to decide for themselves.”

And Garnick repeatedly has indicated the tobacco industry has no intention of settling these tobacco lawsuits – even if appeals courts uphold the growing volume of verdicts against it.

Does tobacco have pockets deep enough to handle 9,000 more cases in Florida alone? Can the price of cigarettes simply increase over and over enough to cover such industry costs?

Let’s see what happens when those big bills start to come due.

Written by Robert Trigaux

Ferrari bar code axed in puff of smoke

Ferrari?s Fernando Alonso during Qualifying at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, BahrainLast updated: May 7, 2010

Source: Times Online

Ferrari erased the bar code from their racing cars last night under pressure from British medical experts who accused the team of using the symbol as a “smokescreen for cigarette advertising”.

The most successful team in Formula One acted quickly and dramatically to revelations in The Times a week ago that pressure was growing for a government inquiry into whether Ferrari’s famous livery broke laws on tobacco advertising, while their relationship, said to be worth $1 billion (about £670 million), with Philip Morris, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, was held up to intense scrutiny.

Ferrari reacted angrily to the report with Luca di Montezemolo, the team’s president, describing the accusations as ridiculous. But the twin Ferrari cars that will be wheeled out today for practice for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona will not be adorned with the usual black-and-white bar code symbol. Instead, there will be an empty red space with a white border.

The team motorhome, their trucks and uniforms are still emblazoned with the bar code, but it seems to be only a matter of time before they go, too, as Ferrari buckles under criticism from leading figures in the British medical profession who are concerned that the team were engaged in subliminal advertising.

A Ferrari statement said last night: “Together with Philip Morris International we have decided to modify the livery of the cars, starting with the Spanish Grand Prix. The decision was taken in order to remove all speculation concerning the so-called bar code, which was never intended to be a reference to a tobacco brand.”

The rapid decision to ditch the bar code caught the paddock by surprise. Philip Morris has been one of the biggest-spending sponsors in the sport for decades and the multinational company’s deal with Ferrari has been one of the most high-profile and successful. But questions have been asked constantly about how Ferrari could continue to work with Philip Morris more than four years after the rest of the Formula One teams had voluntarily ended tobacco sponsorships. Ferrari have always maintained that their deal with Philip Morris allows for private sponsorship functions and dismissed suggestions that the vivid red colour of the cars — similar to a pack of Marlboro cigarettes — and the black-and-white bar code were a form of discreet advertising.

But Di Montezemolo and his senior managers at the team’s Maranello headquarters in Italy have clearly been rattled by the disclosures in The Times and must be wondering whether they should plough on with their long-time relationship with one of the world’s biggest tobacco manufacturers. It is thought there are still two years remaining on the decade-long deal and the pressure will be on the glamorous Scuderia to fall into line with the rest of Formula One and end its dependence on tobacco money.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton has decisions of his own to make as he contemplates who will replace Anthony, his father, as his manager. The McLaren driver said that he had been inundated with “a million calls” as soon as he announced that he had split with his father. But the 25-year-old has ambitions beyond the narrow confines of the sport and it seems increasingly likely that he will sign with one of the leading agencies, such as IMG, which turned Tiger Woods from golfer to global superstar.

Like Woods — and Ferrari — Hamilton wants to be a worldwide brand. The beauty parade to find the management that can help to turn Hamilton from driver to global household name could be a long one, though. “I am not in any rush,” he said. “I am thinking of getting someone while I am in Formula One but who can progress what I am.”

Written by Kevin Eason

Former minister’s ties to tobacco industry hurting Ottawa’s anti-smoking work

42-17177519Last updated: May 6, 2010

Source: The Globe and Mail Canada

Led by Barbara McDougall, until recently a director of Imperial Tobacco, federal agency is increasingly being ostracized by health groups worldwide
A Canadian government development agency is increasingly being ostracized by health and tobacco-control organizations around the world who feel it has been tainted by the tobacco-industry links of its chair, former Conservative cabinet minister Barbara McDougall.

The International Development Research Centre manages international projects to discourage smoking in the developing world, but many of the groups it deals with on those initiatives are cutting ties and refusing IDRC money because Ms. McDougall was until recently a member of Imperial Tobacco’s board of directors.

Ms. McDougall’s term on Imperial Tobacco’s board ended on March 31 – but the movement to cut ties with the IDRC’s tobacco programs goes on.

It started a month ago, when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pulled a $5.2-million grant for the IDRC’s tobacco-control programs in Africa.

Now, an Australian tobacco-control conference to be held in Sydney this fall has turned down the IDRC’s money, announcing it has refused a sponsor with a “tobacco link.” The Lancet, one of the world’s most respected medical journals, has revoked a request for the agency to help fund a special issue on chronic diseases. And the World Health Organization asked two IDRC representatives to withdraw from a tobacco-control conference in Ghana two weeks ago.

The movement threatens the Canadian agency’s ability to continue tobacco-control work in the developing world, not because the agency will pull out but because groups around the world increasingly won’t touch it, or its money.

On Thursday, Open Medicine, a Canadian medical journal, published an editorial calling on Ms. McDougall to resign from the agency’s board.

It’s an unusual position for the IDRC, long a respected arms-length government agency. Tobacco control is a small part, less than 1 per cent, of its research work.

“IDRC fervently hopes that anti-tobacco groups will be able to work together with IDRC on the vital issue of tobacco control in the future, as we have done in the past,” Angela Prokopiak, the agency’s communications director, said in an e-mail.

Ms. McDougall, who served in several cabinet posts under prime minister Brian Mulroney, including foreign affairs minister, was appointed by Stephen Harper’s cabinet to the agency’s board in 2007, and became chair later that year. She left Imperial’s board a month ago, and her colleagues on the IDRC board have rallied around her performance as chair.

Health and anti-tobacco organizations are extremely sensitive to ties with the tobacco industry, fearing efforts to influence research and policy. The World Health Organization has stated “the industry has and will continue to interfere in implementation of effective tobacco control.”

In 2004, Canada ratified the international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires governments to protect tobacco-control policy from the industry, and in 2008 – after Ms. McDougall’s appointment – Canada agreed to guidelines that state that people with tobacco industry ties won’t be appointed to boards of agencies that deal with tobacco-control policy.

A big part of the problem, according to Cynthia Callard, executive director of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, is that neither the IDRC nor the Canadian  government responded to letters in March by acknowledging there was a conflict. “They didn’t say, ‘Oops. It won’t happen again,'” she said.

In statements over the past two weeks, however, the agency has promised to ask board members about tobacco-related activities and ensure compliance with the international convention.

Ms. Callard said she never saw any sign the IDRC’s tobacco-control work was tainted but in the eyes of organizations abroad, it’s now an agency headed by a tobacco-company insider. She insisted the agency’s tobacco programs are important ones, but argued that to save them, they might have to be transferred to some other agency, at least for a few years.

Journal demands McDougall leave agency over tobacco ties

barbara_mcdougal_585461artwLast updated: May 6, 2010

Source: The Star

Editors of the journal Open Medicine want a former federal cabinet minister removed as chair at the International Development Research Centre.

Open Medicine says Barbara McDougall is the wrong person to chair the board of a federal agency that funds tobacco control programs, given that until recently she was also on the board of Imperial Tobacco Canada.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seems to agree.

Earlier this year the foundation cancelled a $5.2 million grant to the agency when it learned of McDougall’s ties to the tobacco industry.

The editors of Open Medicine say McDougall’s involvement with the tobacco industry has damaged the reputation of the agency and she should step down.

They say in an editorial that the concurrent appointments were a serious conflict of interest.

Parliament of Australia: Inquiry into Plain Tobacco Packaging (Removing Branding from Cigarette Packs) Bill 2009

smoking-kangarooView all submissions received by the Committee as at 5 May 2010 here.

Cigarette pack plain packing materials

Last updated: May 6, 2010

Source: Cancer Council Australia

High resolution images of cigarette pack plain packaging as advocated by non-government tobacco control organisations are available for download here.