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June 25th, 2015:

MOH, HPB, HSA consider ban of point-of-sale displays of tobacco products

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH), Health Promotion Board (HPB) and Health Sciences Authority (HSA) will be holding a public consultation to seek views from the public from Jun 25 to Jul 24, 2015 on proposed amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act (TCASA), MOH announced in a media release on Thursday (Jun 25).

The Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act prohibits advertisements, promotions and sponsorships relating to tobacco products and their use, controls the use of tobacco products by young persons, as well as regulates the sale, packaging and trade description of tobacco products, according to MOH.

MOH, HPB and HSA are proposing the following amendments to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act:

To prohibit point-of-sale displays (POSD) of tobacco products

Under the proposed ban, tobacco retailers will be required to keep tobacco products out of patrons’ direct line of sight, in permanent, self-closing and opaque storage units within their stores. Penalties such as fines, will be imposed if retailers do not comply with the requirements in the regulations.

The POSD ban aims to reduce exposure of non-smokers to tobacco products. It also aims to reduce impulse purchases of tobacco products, which may help smokers who are trying to stub out their smoking habits.

Make further amendments relating to the POSD ban

The Act will be amended to allow tobacco retailers to show text-only price lists of tobacco products to customers upon request. This is so customers will not need to request to view the tobacco products within the storage units for an extended period of time, reducing the period which other customers are exposed to tobacco.

Additionally, Section 13 of the Act will be amended to allow the Government to standardize and prescribe specifications for the visual characteristics of “No Sale to Minors” signage used by retailers.

Make other technical and administrative amendments

A number of administrative and technical amendments are proposed to streamline operational and enforcements aspects of the Act, to update the Act for better control of imitation tobacco products and tobacco promotions, advertisements and sponsorship, and to fine-tune the existing law.

MOH previously sought feedback on the above measures through a public consultation in Jun 2013, it said. Trade engagement sessions with tobacco retailers were also conducted in November 2014, to address their potential concerns with the introduction of the POSD ban.

The Tobacco (Control of Advertisement and Sale) Act will be amended after the public consultation and engagement sessions, according to the release.

The public can submit feedback on the proposed amendments to the Act using this form online. All feedback should reach MOH by 5pm on Jul 24.

– CNA/dl

WCO Knowledge Academy 2015 – Excisable Products and Illicit Trade Module–excisable-products-and-illicit-trade-module

WCO Knowledge Academy 2015 – Excisable Products and Illicit Trade Module

By Elizabeth Allen, Program Advisor, ITIC

For the fourth consecutive year, ITIC developed an excise-related module for the World Customs Organization as part of its’ annual two week Knowledge Academy. The Knowledge Academy provides customs officials from around the world with an opportunity to learn about the latest trends and good practice in a range of different customs related issues as part of their continuous professional development.

ITIC Program Advisor, Liz Allen, put together a two-day module on excisable products and illicit trade with the assistance of the WCO, who provided some of the speakers. Other speakers were drawn from ITIC industry sponsors in excisable products, Spirits Europe, Euromonitor International and Interpol.

Knowledge Academy delegates are able to attend a number of different modules according to subjects that are of interest to them. Consequently, the numbers present for the different sessions varied over the two days. The class list included delegates from Ireland, Australia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Cuba, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, and Angola. Participants included Directors and Deputy Directors-General of Customs and Revenue Authorities, two private sector delegates and a representative from the World Health Organization.

All presentations commissioned by ITIC will be available on the ITIC website and the full range of presentations will be available to WCO members on their members only website.

Mr. Andy Logan (Oxford Economics) and Ms. Liz Allen (ITIC)

Mr. Andy Logan (Oxford Economics) and Ms. Liz Allen (ITIC)

Ms. Liz Allen (ITIC), Ms. Helen Smith (Euromonitor Int.), and Ms. Nehna Rauf (Euromonitor Int.)

Ms. Liz Allen (ITIC), Ms. Helen Smith (Euromonitor Int.), and Ms. Nehna Rauf (Euromonitor Int.)

Customs detects suspected case of illicit cigarettes concealed in fake dip soldering devices

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – Hong Kong Customs detected a suspected case of using fake dip soldering devices to conceal illicit cigarettes today (June 25) at Lok Ma Chau Control Point. About 800 000 sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes were seized on an incoming lorry. The total market value of the cigarettes was about $2.2 million with a duty potential of about $1.5 million.

In the operation, a 45-year-old male driver was arrested and the lorry used in the suspected smuggling of illicit cigarettes was seized.

Customs officers at Lok Ma Chau Control Point this morning intercepted an incoming lorry declared to be carrying a batch of express cargo. After thorough inspection, Customs officers found about 800 000 sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes inside 58 fake dip soldering devices. It was believed that speedy distribution of the illicit cigarettes to various buyers in the territory would be arranged.

A Customs spokesman said today, “Hong Kong Customs will continue to carry out stringent enforcement action against the smuggling of illicit cigarettes at boundary control points.”

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, smuggling is a serious offence.

The maximum penalty is a fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.

Members of the public are urged to report suspected illicit cigarette activities by calling the Customs 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

Arlington raises age for tobacco purchases to 21

By Jennifer Fenn Lefferts Globe Correspondent June 25, 2015

Arlington will raise the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco and nicotine delivery products to 21 on Wednesday, July 1, the final phase in a three-year step-up plan. In May 2013, the town’s Board of Health adopted a regulation restricting the sale of tobacco and nicotine delivery products that initially raised the legal age to 19, and then to 20 on July 1, 2014. The regulation also banned the sale of tobacco products at health care institutions and pharmacies; there are now 19 businesses in town holding tobacco sales permits. “We know that the earlier people start smoking, the more likely it is to become a habit,’’ the Health & Human Services Department’s acting director, James Feeney, said in a statement. “We want to stop this trend.”

Hungary Considering Introduction Of Australian-Style Uniform Packaging For Tobacco Products

Hungary is considering the introduction of uniform packaging for tobacco products, which would mean that all such goods would have identical packaging and advertising tobacco products would be prohibited. This system is already in place in Australia and authorities in France and Ireland are also planning its introduction. A proposal on the matter is expected to be tabled by Parliament in autumn.

According to plans, the construction of Budapest’s new hospital would be financed by a special tax levied upon tobacco companies.

In Australia, a law has been in place since December 2012 which obliges retailers to sell tobacco products in identical packaging, which is prohibited to carry insignia, colours or design elements which set a given brand apart other products on the tobacco market. The law was set in place with the explanation that some 15 000 people died each year in Australia alone from illnesses connected to smoking, costing the state a total of 31.5 billion dollars.

Public views sought on stricter tobacco control measures

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ASH: President Obama, U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador have opportunity to curb tobacco epidemic forever

President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Froman have the opportunity to curb the tobacco epidemic forever. The Senate voted to pass the Trade Promotion Authority Bill (TPA or Fast-Track) which creates an expedited process to get trade bills through Congress, paving the way for Obama’s signature.

Now that Fast-Track has passed, the President and Ambassador Froman will turn their attention to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), an emerging trade and investment agreement being negotiated by the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The agreement, once completed, will be the largest regional trading block in the world and will serve as the model for 21st century trade agreements. How tobacco is treated now will set the precedent for how tobacco will be treated in TTIP (The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), an even larger agreement, and in future trade agreements worldwide.

As the only consumer good that kills half of its consumers when used exactly as intended, tobacco has become a major issue in the TPP negotiations, with public health and other groups banding together to call for unique treatment of tobacco products. “The purpose of international trade agreements is the free movement of goods, and tobacco is no good,” stated Prakit Vathesatogkit of Thailand during the global tobacco treaty negotiations in Moscow this past October.

The outcomes of the TPP negotiations will have a huge impact on tobacco control and global health. The tobacco industry has long used litigation, and trade agreements in particular, as a tool to block public health and tobacco control laws. For example, Philip Morris International created “legal chill” by threatening to sue Togo, one of the 10 poorest countries on earth, if Togo implemented graphic health warning labels on cigarette packs. Additionally, Australia and Uruguay are currently being sued over their tobacco packaging laws.

In 2011, two U.S. tobacco companies sued the FDA over an advisory report that simply considered a ban of menthol cigarettes. The tobacco industry is very comfortable using litigation as a tool, and if tobacco is included in the TPP, tobacco companies will use the TPP to their full advantage to prevent governments from enacting policies that protect the health of their citizens.

The TPP represents a crucial moment for tobacco control. President Obama and USTR Ambassador Froman should insist that tobacco be granted a full “carve out” from the TPP and from all other trade agreements. A “carve out” means that tobacco products will be excluded from the right and benefits of the trade agreement, providing governments with protection to regulate tobacco inside their borders without fear of being sued by the tobacco industry.

Furthermore, all of the TPP countries (except the U.S.) have ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a legally binding international treaty, and have an obligation to implement its measures. Mary Assunta, Senior Policy Advisor of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) says, “[FCTC] Article 5.3 Guidelines, Recommendation 7.1 says the tobacco industry must not be given any incentives to run its business. Hence the TPPA, a new agreement, should reflect this clause.” The U.S. has not ratified the FCTC, but as a signatory, the U.S. should strive to reach the tobacco control best practices set out in the FCTC.

Unlike other consumer products included in trade agreements that can become harmful when abused or overused, there is no “safe” use or amount of tobacco. Tobacco is the only consumer product that kills when used exactly as intended. The tobacco industry seeks to increase consumption of tobacco, while ASH and its public health allies seek a higher level of global health. There is no “happy medium” to be found between the tobacco industry and the public health community.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1 billion people will die from tobacco this century unless drastic actions are taken. One of those critical actions to take is carving tobacco products out of trade agreements. It is impossible to predict how many lives hang in the balance of the trade debate, but it is certainly millions worldwide. ASH encourages President Obama and Ambassador Froman to utilize TPP has a tool in the global fight against tobacco.

ASH Executive Director Laurent Huber says “The TPP is a moment in history for Obama – he is making a choice about how to treat tobacco that will echo for decades to come.

Hopefully that choice is to protect health over profit and carve tobacco out of the TPP.”

Minister claims duty free tobacco cut ‘results’

The New Zealand Government’s Customs Minister Nicky Wagner claims that the country’s customs service has destroyed more than 2.5 tonnes of ‘abandoned tobacco’ and collected NZ$1.35m ($933,324) in additional duty and taxes since it reduced the duty free tobacco allowance last November.

In a statement, Wagner said: “People seem to be learning about the change. The amount of tobacco abandoned at airports by those not wanting to pay duty is dropping from the 100 kilograms Customs was initially collecting every week.”

“The change was well signalled in advance and advertising to highlight the change continues. Customs’ passenger surveys show most people are aware of and accept the change in regulations.

“Customs recorded over 7,600 individual transactions for people choosing to pay duty, with the total collected in the six months adding to over NZ$1.35m ($933,324).”

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga also welcomed the reduction in the amount of tobacco being brought into New Zealand through its airports.

“The fact that people appear to be aware of the changes to our duty free tobacco limits and accept them is confirmation that our Government’s policies are making a real difference. We are determined to reduce the harm tobacco causes and the cost to our health system.

“The new duty-free tobacco limits, together with tax increases on tobacco sold in New Zealand, are pricing tobacco out of reach of many users. This is reflected in the numbers of smokers giving up tobacco,” he said.

New Zealand changed its regulations on 1 November, 2014 where passengers have had to declare any tobacco over the 50 cigarettes or 50 grams, and either dispose of the excess or pay duty on it. Tobacco sent by mail or cargo also no longer qualifies for a gift allowance.