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June 29th, 2015:

North Andover raises cigarette age to 21

By Paul Tennant ptennant@eagletribune,com

NORTH ANDOVER — North Andover has joined a growing number of communities that prohibit people under the age of 21 from buying cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The Board of Health voted unanimously Thursday night to increase the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21. Voting in favor of the change were Dr. Thomas Trowbridge, the chairman, Dr. Frank MacMillan, Larry Fixler and Joseph McCarthy.

Edwin Pease was absent.

The new minimum will take effect Sept. 1, Trowbridge said. Other cities and towns that have raised the tobacco purchase age to 21 include Lawrence, Methuen and Andover.

Cambridge, Salem, Mass., Newton and Needham have also raised the minimum to 21.

New York City has raised the tobacco age to 21 and Hawaii became the first state to do so a couple of weeks ago.

Trowbridge said he and other board members did not want North Andover to become an “island” where young people under 21 could still buy cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products.

“We felt this was a way to help to reduce youth smoking,” Trowbridge said. Sixty-five percent of adult smokers began the nicotine habit when they were between the ages of 18 and 21, Trowbridge said.

State and federal laws prohibit tobacco from being sold to minors under 18. Massachusetts boards of health have the authority to increase the minimum age.

The North Andover Board of Health voted last year to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to people under 18. Electronic cigarettes are not made from tobacco – but they contain nicotine.

Cigarette prices in Malaysia go up by 11 cents

PETALING JAYA – After absorbing the cost of Goods and Services Tax (GST) for three months, British American Tobacco (BAT) Malaysia has decided to increase cigarette prices.

The increase, which will take effect today, will see prices of cigarette brands like Dunhill, Benson and Hedges, Pall Mall, Kent, Peter Stuyvesent and Lucky Strike raised by 30 sen (11 cents).

“The price revision is to take into account the GST. The company has been absorbing the GST subsequent to its implementation on April 1,” said BAT Malaysia managing director Stefano Clini in a statement.

After implementation of the GST, BAT announced a price increase of 50 sen for all its cigarette brands but on April 17, it reverted to pre-GST prices.

Save lives and don’t buckle to tobacco industry on plain packaging

Cigarette packaging is a battleground fought over by the anti-smoking lobby and the tobacco industry.

OPINION: In March 2011, the Government committed to becoming the first country in the world to be smokefree by 2025, an innovative goal to reduce the smoking prevalence to lower than 5 per cent.

To help achieve this the Government introduced tobacco plain packaging legislation in April 2012.

Australia became the first country to enact plain packaging in November 2011, taking 19 months to bring the legislation to completion.

It was followed earlier this year by Ireland (22 months) and the United Kingdom (35 months). The legislation in New Zealand is still awaiting its second reading, after more than 38 months, with no clear date from the Government on when it will proceed.

To understand the lack of progress in New Zealand it is imperative to recognise the importance of tobacco industry delay tactics.

These have been exposed through litigation in the United States and made publically available through the Legacy library – an archive that contains more than 80 million pages of previously secret tobacco industry documents.

My own research analysing these documents has revealed that, during the early 1990s, tobacco companies became increasingly worried about an innovative idea like plain packaging (first proposed in Canada and Australia) as it would severely regulate the branding and marketing of their products.

In response, they requested legal opinions on the legality of restricting and prohibiting use of their trademarks and were told privately that international treaties afforded little protection.

However, publically, the companies threatened to sue the Canadian and Australian governments for billions of dollars causing both governments to withdraw their proposals, which successfully delayed tobacco plain packaging for decades. The companies also recognised that they couldn’t let any future plain packaging proposal be treated as a public health issue. Instead the focus must remain on convoluted arguments surrounding the expropriation of trademarks and intellectual property.

Fast-forward to today and the New Zealand Government is facing the same trade threats from tobacco companies. In response it has repeatedly said it would have to “wait and see” what happens with two legal trade challenges by Philip Morris International against the plain packaging policy in Australia before proceeding.

I have spent the last couple of weeks in Auckland and Wellington interviewing health advocates, legal scholars, and Government officials to investigate New Zealand’s pending plain packaging legislation. While some interviewees recognised the lack of political will, an overwhelmingly number of interviewees cited the pending trade lawsuits against Australia as having a direct impact on the lack of progress in New Zealand.

My research suggests tobacco industry trade threats and challenges are having a chilling effect and attempt to pre-empt Government regulatory authority. However, early analysis also suggests the Government, and more importantly the media, continues to frame this issue around international trade instead of highlighting the impact of tobacco, which in New Zealand kills approximately 5000 people a year (about 13 people a day) and severely affects marginalised populations, especially Maori women.

If your Government continues to succumb to tobacco industry pressure and treat plain packaging as an international trade and investment issue they run the risk of breaking their own promise and commitment to become smokefree by 2025.

Eric Crosbie is a PhD student at the University of Arizona. He visited New Zealand in early June as part of his research into the influence of tobacco companies on political process.

KLIA customs foil RM4m cigarette smuggling attempt

SEPANG: Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Customs Department seized 40,000 cartons of cigarettes with unpaid duties amounting of RM4 million on June 24.

KLIA Customs director Datuk Chik Omar Chik Lim said in the 5pm operation, a 40-feet container was impounded at West Port in Port Klang which was carrying goods from China.

“The items were declared as 928 cartons of plastic products comprising chopsticks, containers, bottles and wares worth RM109,431.95.

“But upon closer checks, officials found that there were 8,000,000 sticks of illegal cigarettes in 800 packs worth RM400,000,” he said.

Chik Omar said authorities were in the process of tracking down the culprit behind the smuggling attempt.

“We attempted to contact the company but the name and address provided were false,” he said.

The offence was investigated under Section 133(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967, which carries the maximum punish­ment of a RM500,000 fine, or five years jail, or both.

Meanwhile, Customs also thwarted three attempts to smuggle in drugs worth more than RM1.6mil with the arrests of two foreigners, including a Ukraine woman, between May 11 and June 15.

Chik Omar said in the first case, a 35-year-old Indian man was detained at about 6.45am at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) with 6.3kg of methamphetamine worth over RM1.2mil.

The illicit item was stashed in a secret compartment of the suspect’s luggage who had just arrived from Bangalore, India, on May 11.

“The drugs were concealed in 49 scent sticks,” he said.

In the second case, two parcels containing with a combination weight of 840g methamphetamine were confiscated at a courier service centre at the KLIA on May 18.

The parcels, which arrived from Shenzen, China, arrived on May 13 but were not claimed, despite calls being made to two individuals who allegedly lived in Kuala Lumpur.

“Intelligence led us to the seizure of the parcels. We found each of the parcels contained an alloy roller which had white powder, believed to be methamphetamine, stuffed in it.

“The drugs are worth about RM157,700,” he said.

A 27-year-old Ukraine woman was arrested for attempting to smuggle in about 2kg of syabu worth RM392,920 stuffed in containers disguised as whitening facial cream.

The woman had just arrived from Hong Kong on June 15 but was immediately held at the KLIA for acting suspiciously.

Chik Omar said all suspects had been charged in court.

“Our effort to curb illegal smuggling is ongoing,” he said.

Moffitt Cancer Center Receives US$3.6 Million Grant to Study E-Cigarettes

TAMPA, Fla. – Moffitt Cancer Center received a $3.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, over the next five years.

Rather than burning tobacco like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes “vaporize” a liquid that usually contains nicotine, and the user inhales the vapor like they would inhale normal cigarette smoke. The use of e-cigarettes has risen dramatically since their introduction a decade ago.

Although very little is known about the safety of these new products, they are thought to be much less dangerous than conventional cigarettes. Most e-cigarette users report that they began using the product in an attempt to quit or cut down on smoking. However, there has been little research to date on the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for quitting smoking.

The goal of the new Moffitt grant is to learn how e-cigarettes are used over time, and whether users are eventually successful at quitting smoking. During the first year of the study, Moffitt researchers will be interviewing e-cigarette users to learn about their experiences and their perceptions of the pros and cons of e-cigarettes. The researchers want to interview current and former smokers who are also current or former e-cigarettes users.

According to the lead investigator on the project, Thomas Brandon, Ph.D., director of the Tobacco Research & Intervention Program at Moffitt, “Public health researchers are really playing catch-up with the explosion of e-cigarettes onto the marketplace.”

During the final four years of the study, Moffitt researchers plan to enroll 2,500 e-cigarette users throughout the United States, and follow them for 24 months by sending them surveys every three months. The research is expected to provide valuable data about the long-term use of e-cigarettes and their value for quitting smoking.

“Millions of smokers are using e-cigarettes to try to quit smoking, yet because there is a lack of data, we are not able to advise them whether that is an effective smoking cessation strategy. This study should provide some answers that will be very useful to smokers as they consider ways to quit,” Brandon explained.

For more information, e-cigarette users interested in being interviewed should call Moffitt’s Tobacco Research and Intervention Program toll-free at 1-877-954-2548.
About Moffitt Cancer Center

Located in Tampa, Moffitt is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s excellence in research, its contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt is the top-ranked cancer hospital in the Southeast and has been listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of the “Best Hospitals” for cancer care since 1999. With more than 4,500 employees, Moffitt has an economic impact in Florida of nearly $1.6 billion. For more information, visit, and follow the Moffitt momentum on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Tobacco tax

Tobacco tax has been largely overlooked in tax justice discussions – perhaps because it’s a relatively niche issue compared to income tax, for example. But there are important reasons why we should see tobacco tax as a significant justice issue, and there may be important political lessons to learn about how leading opponents of effective taxation operate.


My erstwhile CGD colleague Bill Savedoff and Albert Alwang have just published a powerful paper whose title says it all: “The Single Best Health Policy in the World: Tobacco Taxes.”

The authors survey the substantial literature and set out the key findings. Very briefly:

  • tobacco taxes are ‘the single most cost effective way to save lives in developing countries’;
  • the benefits in terms of premature deaths avoided accrue disproportionately to the poorest people (Figure 4);
  • substantial revenues can also be raised; and
  • we know what effective (and ineffective) tobacco taxes look like.


Why then are the appropriate policies not being pursued in more countries? Savedoff and Alwang address this question too (p.13):

“Tobacco companies have undermined public health efforts to save hundreds of millions of lives by delaying the introduction of tobacco taxes, reducing tax rates, or advising countries to adopt tax policies that are less effective at reducing tobacco consumption. They do so by promoting false or exaggerated concerns related to the effect of tobacco taxes on employment, government revenues, poor people and smuggling.”

Those ‘concerns’ include:

  • The claim that other (less effective) approaches are better than tax;
  • The claim that other (less effective) tax approaches may be better for revenue;
  • The claim that tobacco taxes are regressive, and ultimately borne most by households that policymakers (should) care about; and
  • The claim that tobacco tax will increase illicit tobacco (a phenomenon for which only tobacco companies have been found guilty, repeatedly over time and across the world).

No prizes, I’m afraid, for identifying parallels with some of the more extreme lobbying against multinational corporation tax/transparency measures.

Where these tactics have been successful despite the evidence, it is in large part because the tobacco lobby’s power is unmatched – and it is difficult to create an equivalently focused counter-lobby in defence of those unknown people who will lose their lives unnecessarily in the future.

The need for more effective coordination of advocacy for effective tobacco taxes is clear; where it will come from is not, despite important efforts from Bloomberg Philanthropy and the Gates Foundation. Does it fall to a handful of foundations to take on big tobacco around the world? Where are the World Bank and IMF? Where are leading development donor countries which have done much to reduce their own tobacco consumption?