Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

December 5th, 2014:

A front group for Big Tobacco

October 20, 2014

Sir, In James C Miller III’s letter (October 16), the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) attempts to cast itself as a key stakeholder in setting tobacco taxation policy at last week’s meetings for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. But the Russian government and Secretariat for the treaty were right to renounce ITIC as an arm of the tobacco industry. For all ITIC’s bluster about offering “fact-based taxation advice” and “transparency” in its dealings with governments, the reality is the organisation acts as a front group for big tobacco. Its main financial sponsors includes four of the largest tobacco corporations, including Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco.

Margaret Chan, the World Health Organisation director-general, has many times noted that allowing these bad actors to participate in their own regulation is akin to foxes guarding the hen house. And to this end the treaty has prohibited as much. The strong guidelines on tobacco taxation adopted last week by the 178 countries party to the treaty is tribute to this prohibition.

John Stewart

Corporate Accountability International

Director, Challenge Big Tobacco Campaign



Ireland to vote on introducing plain cigarette packets to cut smoking rates

02 December, 2014

Agence France-Presse in Dublin

Ten years since setting a trend with its workplace smoking ban, Ireland is pushing ahead to be the first EU state with plain packaging for cigarettes despite fierce opposition from tobacco companies.

As part of Dublin’s plan to make Ireland a smoke-free society by 2025 – meaning a prevalence rate of under 5 per cent – lawmakers will vote to introduce plain packaging in the new year.

Under the draft legislation before parliament, all forms of branding, including logos and colours, would be banned and all products would have a uniform packaging with graphic health warnings.

“The cigarette box is the last form of advertising that the industry has,” said James Reilly, Ireland’s minister for children who is spearheading the drive.

“Children are influenced by advertising. I believe this will prevent many children from taking up cigarette smoking.” In March 2004, Ireland became the first country in the world to adopt a total workplace smoking ban. A decade on, Ireland is at the forefront for Europe, following Australia’s introduction of similar plain packaging legislation in 2012.

Canberra’s move was met with fierce opposition by tobacco companies and other nations, particularly tobacco-producing economies.

Five World Trade Organisation members have initiated dispute proceedings against Australia’s measures at the WTO, arguing the laws are an illegal restriction on trade.

As was the case in Australia, the tobacco companies are fighting Dublin’s plans. They say plain packaging infringes their intellectual property rights. Philip Morris International said imposing an “arbitrary ban on trademarks ignores the hard data showing that ‘plain packaging’ is misguided and unjustifiable”.

Japan Tobacco International’s general manager in Ireland, Igor Dzaja, said: “No evidence has emerged from Australia, where plain packaging has been in place for almost two years, showing that plain packaging has changed the rate of decline in smoking or has had any actual positive behavioural impact.”

Canberra says daily smoking rates are down from 15.1 per cent to 12.8 per cent in three years.

Pat Doorley, head of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Policy Group on Tobacco, said 50 studies show the measure will work. “The thrust of all these studies is that people prefer packages with the logos and the embossing and the colours to the plain packs,” he said.

“The kids think they’re cooler. The other thing is people are less likely to take notice of health warnings on coloured packets.”

Dublin is also looking to ban smoking in cars with children and to continue increasing the price of tobacco. In last month’s budget, the price of 20 cigarettes was increased to €10 (HK$96).

Male smokers at risk of losing their Y chromosome

Steve Connor

04 December 2014

Men who smoke are more likely than non-smokers to lose the male sex chromosome – which could explain why male smokers are more prone to certain cancers than women who smoke, scientists have said.

Researchers found that male smokers had significantly fewer blood cells with a Y chromosome compared to non-smokers, and that the trend increased with heavy smoking – and disappeared when a man gave up cigarettes.

“We have previously demonstrated an association between loss of the Y chromosome in blood and greater risk for cancer. We now tested if there were any lifestyle or clinical factors that could be linked to loss of the Y chromosome,” said Lars Forsberg of Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the study published in the journal Science.

“Out of a large number of factors that were studied, such as age, blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol intake and smoking, we found that loss of the Y chromosome in a fraction of the blood cells was more common in smokers than in non-smokers,” Dr Forsberg said.

The risk was dose dependent, indicating that the more cigarettes a man smoked, the greater the proportion of blood cells with missing Y chromosomes. Giving up cigarettes led to a reversal of the mutation, Dr Forsberg said.

“These results indicate that smoking can cause loss of the Y chromosome, and that this process might be reversible. We found that the frequency of cells with loss of the Y chromosome was not different among ex-smokers compared to men who had never smoked. This discovery could be very persuasive for motivating smokers to quit,” he said.

The Use of Cigarette Package Inserts to Supplement Pictorial Health Warnings



Canada is the first country in the world to require cigarette manufacturers to enclose package inserts to supplement the exterior pictorial health warning label (HWL). In June 2012, Canada implemented new HWL package inserts that include cessation tips accompanied by a pictorial image. This study aims to assess the extent to which adult smokers report reading the newly mandated HWL inserts and to see whether reading them is associated with making a quit attempt.


Data were analyzed from an online consumer panel of Canadian adult smokers, aged 18-64 years. Five waves of data were collected between September 2012 and January 2014, separated by 4-months intervals (n = 1,000 at each wave). Logistic generalized estimating equation (GEE) models were estimated to assess correlates of reading inserts and whether doing so is associated with making a quit attempt by the subsequent wave.


At each wave, between 26% and 31% of the sample reported having read HWL package inserts at least once in the prior month. Smokers who read them were more likely to be younger, female, have higher income, intend to quit, have recently tried to quit, and thought more frequently about health risks because of warning labels. In models that adjusted for these and other potential confounders, smokers who read the inserts a few times or more in the past month were more likely to make a quit attempt at the subsequent wave compared to smokers who did not read the inserts.


HWL package inserts with cessation-related tips and messages appear to increase quit attempts made by smokers.

Responses of Australian cigar and cigarillo smokers to plain packaging

Download (PDF, 368KB)