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January 10th, 2012:

Ruling means tobacco lawsuit can go ahead


Written by Jennifer Brown Posted Date: January 10, 2012

The Ontario Superior Court has rejected an application by a group of foreign tobacco companies seeking to have Ontario’s $50-billion lawsuit against them dismissed on the basis the court does not have jurisdiction over them.

Photo: Shutterstock

The group of companies, referred to in Justice Barbara A. Conway’s Jan. 4 decision as the “Jurisdiction Challenging Defendants” are seven of the foreign defendants.

In a statement released Jan. 6, Ontario Attorney General John Gerretsen said, “We are pleased with the court’s decision which paves the way for Ontario’s lawsuit to continue.”

The Ontario v. Rothmans Inc. decision is considered to be a significant one in Ontario’s efforts to recover past and ongoing health-care costs borne by taxpayers in the province due to tobacco-related illness.

The judge also ruled that the lawsuit can proceed against 14 tobacco companies. On Sept. 29, 2009, Ontario launched its $50-billion lawsuit against tobacco companies both domestic and foreign including  Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd., Rothmans, RJ Reynolds Tobacco International Inc., and others for health-care costs.

Ontario’s statement of claim alleges that the defendant tobacco companies knew about the addictiveness of cigarettes and the health damages they caused and deceived the public by misrepresenting the risks. It also claims they failed to warn the public about the dangers of smoking, promoted cigarettes to children and teens and did not take all available steps to reduce the risks caused by their products.

The tobacco companies have denied the claims and warned the money isn’t there to pay the claim should it be awarded. They say the lawsuit is also hypocritical because the government has collected the taxes on tobacco products for years.

In her decision, Conway wrote: “. . . the Crown has established a good arguable case that the JCDs conspired and acted in concert in committing tobacco related wrongs. The damage is alleged to have occurred in Ontario. This is sufficient to establish a connection between the JCDs and the province. Moreover, this conspiracy, if proven, relates to matters of significance in Ontario — allegedly misleading the public and the government about the harmful effects of cigarettes and exposure to second hand smoke.”

Conway went on to say: “The Supreme Court of Canada has already decided the cost recovery legislation in British Columbia is constitutionally valid. In doing so the court recognized that the legislation could apply to defendants located outside the jurisdiction. . . .”

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Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown is the editor of Canadian Lawyer InHouse. She has been a business magazine writer and editor for 10 years covering the IT, occupational health and safety, and security sectors for the business-to-business press prior to arriving at InHouse. She was also a newspaper reporter for five years in the Greater Toronto Area covering health care and education before going to work at a daily news online portal reporting on the technology sector

WHO statement in response to the Business Standard news article “WHO imposes Rs 250-cr tobacco tax on India”

10 January 2012

In reference to recent articles published on WHO’s supposed imposition of a
tobacco tax on WHO Member States/countries (e.g., “WHO imposes Rs 250-cr
tobacco tax on India”), a number of inaccurate statements are made about the
World Health Organization (WHO), the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco
Control (WHO FCTC) and WHO’s collective work to control tobacco use around
the world.

WHO does not have any mandate to impose taxes on its Member States, nor does
the WHO FCTC, an international treaty to which India is a Party, envisages
any such tax (solidarity tobacco tax) referred to in the article. Any
statements to the contrary are false. WHO has no power of taxation, and no
control over Member States.

Quite distinct from the WHO FCTC, there has been another, separate global
discussion about financing health care in which the concept of a tax levied
voluntarily by national governments in the support of health care has been
raised. Specifically, in October 2011, WHO released a discussion paper
titled “The Solidarity Tobacco Contribution (STC)”. The concept was
initially proposed by a working group set up by World Bank to explore
innovative sources of financing health care and envisions a voluntary action
by interested governments to adopt an additional tax levy as part of their
regular tobacco excise on each pack of cigarettes consumed. This would
increase the effective excise tax rate on cigarettes towards the WHO
recommended level of 70% of the retail price and, by generating substantial
revenues, could ensure a sustainable revenue stream for financing
international health. WHO has estimated that, by introducing USD
0.05/0.03/0.01 per pack of cigarette sold in 43 selected
high-/middle-/low-income countries, respectively, a solidarity tobacco
contribution (STC) would generate an additional USD 5.46 billion. A number
of countries in the G-20 group of most developed countries have expressed
interest in pursing the STC as a way to improve resource allocation for
global health. For example, in addition to support for tobacco control,
funds could be directed as new and additional contributions to make
significant progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goal 4,
reducing child mortality.

Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death. The global
tobacco epidemic kills nearly 6 million people each year; 600,000 of these
are people exposed to second-hand smoke. Unless we act, by 2030 tobacco use
will kill up to 8 million people annually, and more than 80% of those deaths
will occur in low- and middle-income countries. WHO and other relevant UN
agencies are therefore working with Member States to increase the
prioritization of NCD control and prevention and to address the risk factors
underling NCDs.

One of the critical challenges in ensuring effective tobacco control is the
need to tackle the influence the tobacco industry has on politics and media.
In this vein, the 2012 World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) theme is focused on the
need to expose and counter the tobacco industry’s brazen and increasingly
aggressive attempts to distort and undermine the WHO FCTC.

WHO notes that the author of the above-cited article has not provided any
citations or referenced any sources. WHO welcomes open dialogue on all its
work, insofar as that is how public health is accomplished – transparently,
in the public sphere. Such dialogue is impossible, though, when predicated
on poorly researched articles without foundation in fact.

Singapore keeping tabs on Aussie tobacco regulation

Singaploh laah takes note – How about HKG ?

The Straits Times

Published on Jan 10, 2012
Lim Hng Kiang, Health
Singapore keeping tabs on Aussie tobacco regulation

Singapore is keeping a close eye on a development in Australia in which tobacco companies are banned from displaying their distinctive colours, brand designs and corporate logos on cigarette packs.

Australia is the first country in the world to introduce such plain packaging requirements, which tobacco companies have challenged on grounds of trademark rights infringement, said Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang in Parliament on Monday.

He was replying to Dr Janil Puthucheary (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) who was concerned that Singapore’s strict tobacco control measures could be at risk as a result of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations, given the challenge the Australian government is facing on its tobacco regulation.

The TPP is being negotiated among the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Copyright © 2011 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

HK$29m of illicit tobacco seized in Christmas post

South China Morning Post – 10 Jan 2012

Customs officials will work with mainland and British authorities to stub out lucrative trade

More than 10 tonnes of illicit tobacco destined for Britain has been confiscated in Hong Kong in the past five weeks, prompting customs officials to step up co-operation with British and mainland authorities to stop the illegal trade.

The seizure of the tobacco – meant to be used in hand-rolled cigarettes – was about 10 times more than all the rolling tobacco seized in the first 11 months of last year, according to Hong Kong customs.

A senior customs officer said the tobacco was made on the mainland and could be sold for up to 22 times more than its original price, a high profit margin that was driving the illegal trade.

It would be worth an estimated HK$29 million on the Hong Kong market, according to Mark Lee Yuen-man, head of customs’ cigarette investigation division.

“The seized tobacco is worth from HK$50 to HK$100 per kg, but can be sold for HK$1,100 per kg in Britain,” he said. “The selling price is 50 per cent less than the genuine product costs in Britain.”

Investigators have learned that the illicit tobacco, packaged in bags bearing the Golden Virginia brand name, was smuggled into Hong Kong from the mainland then mailed to Britain by speed post, Lee said.

Over the past five weeks, customs officers at the airport’s airmail centre have intercepted more than 600 Britain-bound parcels containing 6.7 tonnes of the tobacco.

Kong Shui-wing, deputy head of customs’ revenue and general investigation bureau, said nearly 170 tobacco parcels, each weighing about 10kg, were intercepted at the airport on a single day last month.

Comparing the crackdown at the airport’s airmail centre to a soccer game, Kong said: “Our officers were just like goalkeepers trying to stop each goal as they kept shooting.”

The parcels were apparently mailed from different post offices, he said. “We believe that a vehicle was used to go to different post offices and they [the counterfeiters] mailed several parcels at each post office,” Kong said.

To avoid detection, the parcels were declared as gifts for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday. They were addressed to people in various parts of Britain, he said. “We believe the illicit tobacco was mailed during the busy festive period in an attempt to avoid being picked up by our officers for examination.”

Kong compared the battle to stop tobacco smuggling to a “game” of capability and intelligence between smugglers and officers

Inside each bag of tobacco was a price tag in euros. “We believe this is a tactic counterfeiters use to make consumers think the tobacco is a parallel product from other European countries,” Kong said.

According to Hong Kong customs, another 3.5 tonnes of the tobacco was seized in two warehouses, in Kwai Chung and Tai Kok Tsui, in two raids mounted yesterday and on December 14.

Four men, including one from the mainland, were arrested during the two raids.