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June 18th, 2015:

Sri Lanka – 80% picture warnings starting to appear on store shelves

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Shenzhen Smoking Control Regulation: one-year implementation assessment report

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Three tobacco firms threaten legal action over Hungary sales reforms

Three tobacco companies have threatened legal action against Hungary’s government unless it revises what they say is a “discriminatory” decision to award a 20-year retail tobacco supplier contract to two rival companies.

Earlier this month British American Tobacco and Taban Trafik were awarded a concession to supply retail tobacco shops from November for an initial annual fee of 10 million forints ($36,500) this year, rising to 600 million by 2021.

The two companies will act as intermediaries between manufacturers and retailers, supplying all tobacco shops in the central European country of 10 million people in the next years.

Rival firms Imperial Tobacco, JTI Hungary and Philip Morris say the selection process for the winners was “untransparent and discriminatory” and the step amounts to a nationalisation of the tobacco wholesale business.

“We firmly believe that this latest step is also in breach of Hungary’s fundamental obligations stemming from its European Union membership,” the three companies said in a statement.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which has clashed with the European Commission on reforms affecting the media, the judiciary and the central bank over the past years, said the changes would create a neutral and non-discriminatory system.

By lifting applicable margins for smaller tobacco shops, the government says it will boost income for small players at the expense of the profits of multinational companies.

The tobacco firms criticising the reforms say the new system “clearly and openly discriminates against foreign-owned firms and was against Europe-based firms that do not manufacture their products in Hungary.”

They say the Hungarian government was providing unlawful state support to BAT and Taban Trafik and giving them a permanent, unfair competitive advantage.

In particular, Imperial Tobacco, JTI Hungary and Philip Morris have taken issue with their rivals gaining access to sensitive information such as pricing formulas, stock sizes and new market activities.

“This situation is unacceptable for us,” the firms said, calling on the government to launch a new tender involving all local tobacco companies or face a legal challenge. ($1 = 274.12 forints) (Reporting by Gergely Szakacs, editing by David Evans)

China: Beijing residents are outing smokers online

From 1 June, a ban on smoking has been in effect in the Chinese capital’s indoor public spaces.

Beijing city authorities have sought to involve the public in their efforts to enforce the ban – a hotline has been set up to report those flouting the rules and the government has even suggested hand gestures that others should use to signal people to stop smoking. The campaign has also been taken online by the Beijing municipal government with accounts called “Smoke-free Beijing” on the Twitter-like Weibo network and messaging app WeChat.

But hundreds of residents are using its message board – “Exposure Table” – to post pictures of smokers allegedly violating the ban. The photographs posted on the board show people smoking on stairwells and in shopping malls – some even show policemen appearing to break the law.

It is not entirely clear what, if anything, has happened to the individuals visibly seen smoking in prohibited areas in the photos, but a report on Chinese national radio said that action will be taken against establishments which are the subject of multiple complaints on WeChat.

FLAKKA: Easily Concealed in E-Cigarettes

Flakka is a designer synthetic, amphetamine street drug, that has recently been growing in popularity. Use has been surging in Florida, Texas and Ohio. This drug has not yet been banned so it is rapidly spreading across the country. On the street, Flakka, is also known as “gravel”. It is very inexpensive. A vial of the white or pink crystals can be purchased for $5 or less and very small amounts can be ordered through the mail. The main ingredient is a chemical compound, Alpha-PVP. It is similar to other drugs known as cathinones in “bath salts.” The crystals can be swallowed, snorted and injected. It can also be vaporized in an e-cigarette or other vaporizer device, which makes it easy to use in public.

Vaporizing allows the drug to get into the bloodstream very quickly. This puts the user at particularly high risk to overdose. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Alpha-PVP can cause “excited delirium.” “Excited delirium” is caused by concentrated levels of dopamine and serotonin in the body. This condition can cause extreme stimulation, paranoia and hallucinations which can lead to violent and aggressive behavior as well as self-injury and suicide. It has also been linked to cardiac episodes and can raise the body temperature to 106 degrees which can lead to kidney damage and failure.

Flakka makers are continuously changing its’ makeup and often mix it with other drugs such as crack cocaine and heroin. This drug has the ability to re-wire brain chemistry which can cause striking changes in a user’s personality and behavior. Many lose control over their thoughts and actions. Sadly, this common, inexpensive and versatile drug is responsible for a very dangerous and disturbing trend!