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October 1st, 2015:

U.S. Proposes Provision on Tobacco in Trade Pact

ATLANTA — The United States proposed this week to bar tobacco companies from using special trade tribunals to sue or threaten countries that passed antismoking laws, hoping to remove one roadblock to what would be the largest regional trade agreement in history.

The tobacco provision remains tentative, but its inclusion in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated here would be a major victory for public health advocates and could set a precedent for other trade pacts.

Tobacco companies have been using existing global trade agreements to counter antismoking laws, especially in poorer nations, and advocates fear that the Pacific trade accord could provide another legal weapon.

Public health experts said the tobacco industry’s use of so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement tribunals had become so widespread that many poorer countries were abandoning their antismoking efforts. Those underdeveloped nations are also the newest markets for tobacco companies, which are struggling to offset big declines in smoking in the United States and other rich countries.

The Obama administration had originally refrained from proposing such a provision, prompting fierce criticism from anti-tobacco activists who had urged the administration to use the trade talks to stop the practice. But late Wednesday, President Obama’s chief trade negotiator, Michael B. Froman, offered the proposal as an alternative to broader ones from Australia and Malaysia. American officials said the other nations’ plans could affect not only tobacco companies but also tobacco farmers and the alcohol and soft-drink industries, which would provoke political opposition in Congress and other nations.

The tobacco proposal will still meet opposition in Washington, where Mr. Obama would need bipartisan support to approve any trade agreement next year.

“I’ll not only vote against it, I’ll work hard to have it defeated if it goes in the final agreement,” said Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican from the tobacco state of North Carolina, who supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership effort.

“Once you carve out someone from dispute settlement agreements, then who’s next?”

Mr. Tillis’s Republican colleague from North Carolina, Senator Richard Burr, also complained. And Mr. Tillis said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority leader, had expressed reservations. Mr. McConnell had no comment.

Tobacco consumption more than doubled from 1970 to 2000 in the developing world, which is now home to more than three-quarters of the world’s smokers.

“Countries want to put a stop to the abuse of the trade system by the tobacco companies,” said Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an anti-tobacco advocacy group. “This language sounds like it does that.”

Companies declined to comment on the provision on Thursday, saying it was not final. A group of business trade organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement this week it would oppose “a wide range of product and industry exclusions from core rules.”

The tobacco exception is one of a number of changes that would be made in such trade arbitration panels largely in response to widespread criticisms. On the left and right, critics have complained that the settlement process favors big corporations and threatens the sovereignty of nations to take actions and pass laws safeguarding public health and safety.

The trade agreement, if reached, would put the burden of proof on companies that sue through the tribunals. Also, a company would no longer be able to challenge a country’s laws or regulations simply by arguing that these laws would hurt the company’s “expectations” of profit.

Lawyers named to serve as arbitrators on the trade panels would be subject to a code of conduct and could be challenged about possible conflicts of interest. Some variation of the Investor-State Dispute Settlements tribunals has been part of trade agreements for decades, including about 50 to which the United States is a party. The settlement process gives companies the right to sue governments directly, instead of having to persuade a foreign state to take their case. A small panel of lawyers decides the matter, not a country’s courts, under the theory that the courts might be biased against foreign investors.

In the worst case, such tribunals exist to protect against foreign governments’ expropriation or nationalization of an industry. More often, these tribunals are intended to give foreign investors a sense of financial security. But critics say they are increasingly abused by deep-pocketed multinationals — notably the tobacco companies.

Philip Morris International has sued Australia and Uruguay for antismoking efforts under such agreements. This week, the head of the World Health Organization noted that Australia had spent $50 million to defend its mandate for plain packaging of cigarettes against industry opposition. In Africa, at least four countries — Namibia, Gabon, Togo and Uganda — have received warnings from the tobacco industry that their laws run afoul of international treaties.

“This is a brave step for the administration to take,” said Thomas Bollyky, a trade lawyer and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Gregg Haifley, the federal relations director at the American Cancer Society’s advocacy arm, said the provision would bring American trade policy in line with United States health policy. “The tradition in trade has been to treat tobacco as just another business, just another product,” he said, adding, “This proposal changes that dynamic.”

Trade ministers for the Pacific nations stretching from Canada to Chile and Japan to Australia will meet for a third day on Friday in what could be the conclusion of six years of negotiations toward the largest regional trade alliance ever, one that opens long-protected markets and ends thousands of tariffs. But differences linger on pharmaceutical drugs, autos and more.

Still, the cautious optimism was enough to elicit bipartisan concern on Capitol Hill that the talks here are moving too fast toward agreement.

Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress’s two committees with jurisdiction over trade — the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees — cautioned against a hasty deal in a letter to Mr. Froman and to Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the committees’ chairmen, and Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Representative Sander Levin of Michigan, the panels’ ranking Democrats, demanded greater communication with Congress and “stakeholders,” including business, labor and consumer groups.

George Osborne ditches tobacco tax plan after pressure by cigarette firms

Every major multinational urged the Chancellor to drop the plans, floated shortly before the election, Treasury documents showed

George Osborne ditched a £150million-a-year tax on cigarettes designed to help the NHS after fierce lobbying by big tobacco firms.

Every major multinational urged the Chancellor to drop the plans, floated shortly before the election, Treasury documents showed.

Several firms even threatened to put up the price of a pack of fags if he went ahead with the plan, which was floated as a Tory vote-winner shortly before the election.

Imperial – which produces the Lambert & Butler and Embassy cigarette brands – wrote: “We consider this proposal to be thoroughly wrong-headed.

“Recent history has shown that the market has regularly passed on the full cost of specific excise rises to consumers.”

Japan Tobacco International – which produces Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut – told Mr Osborne the tax was “seriously flawed”.

Philip Morris warned of “higher retail prices” which would cause people to buy fewer fags.

Following the consultation Mr Osborne quietly abandoned the plan in his summer Budget.

The new documents show that in doing so he ignored the advice of a raft of public health bodies and cancer-fighting charities.

The Association of Directors of Public Health told him: “We strongly support a levy to raise this amount of money to be used for tobacco control.”

And the British Heart Foundation added: “The levy can help the UK address the substantial health and financial costs caused by tobacco.”

But Mr Osborne instead accepted Big Tobacco’s argument that a new tax would push up the price of fags.

The Treasury published an economic assessment which warned fewer people would buy cigarettes as a result, meaning the tax would raise only £25million-a-year.

“The impact of a levy on the tobacco market would be similar to a duty rise, as tobacco manufacturers and importers would pass the costs on to consumers,” the Treasury said.

“This is supported by analysis which shows that a levy of £150 million would only raise £25 million after behavioural effects.”

Tillis: Tobacco Carve-Out Could Kill TPP in the Senate

North Carolina’s Senate delegation has renewed warnings over a proposal to leave the U.S. tobacco industry unprotected in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and one member is warning he could muster the votes to derail the proposed agreement.

It would take only a simple majority to pass legislation approving of any final TPP deal through the Senate, thanks to the revival of Trade Promotion Authority earlier this year, a measure that was the result of common ground between President Barack Obama and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

The Senate voted 60-38 to pass the fast-track authority legislation in June. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a presidential hopeful, missed the vote, though he has supported free trade.

“I think if Sen. Rubio had been in [attendance], he probably would have voted for it, so there were 61 votes for TPA. I think there are easily more than a dozen votes that could go the other way on TPP, if they try to force this precedent,” North Carolina GOP Sen. Thom Tillis said in an interview with CQ Roll Call.

Doing the math, if all supporters of TPA otherwise supported TPP, that could bring the deal down below the 50 votes needed to pass in the Senate, with the possibility of a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

But of course given the importance of the tobacco industry to Kentucky, the home state of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, there’s no telling if a deal with such a carve-out would get real consideration in the Senate at all.

“Sen. McConnell has said that if we move down the path of a carve-out, that he will be one of the people to lead the opposition. We’re talking about a provision in the TPP that’s unlike any provision in past trade agreements, at least in recent history, if ever. And it’s carving out a specific agricultural product, in this case tobacco,” Tillis. “It sets a precedent that we think could be problematic in TTIP and trade negotiations with African countries.”

The offices of Tillis and senior North Carolina GOP Sen. Richard M. Burr issued a statement Thursday indicating the United States had proposed such a carve-out provision. Negotiations have been ongoing in Atlanta.

“Over the last seven years, this Administration has consistently picked winners and losers by rigging the rules in favor of the organizations and industries they like best,” Burr said in a statement. “Agricultural trade is critical to our nation’s economy and every sector of that industry creates jobs across the board. It is imperative that all of U.S. agriculture is treated fairly.”

New tobacco and e-cigarettes rules come into force

1st October 2015 – A raft of new rules about tobacco, e- cigarettes and smoking come into effect in England and Wales today.

The new changes concern selling e-cigarettes to people under 18, adults buying tobacco products and e-cigarettes for minors, and smoking in vehicles when under-18s are present.

The new regulations coincide with the start of Stoptober, the annual mass attempt to encourage people to quit smoking.

Here is our brief guide to the changes.

Smoking in cars with children

From 1st October 2015, it is illegal to smoke in a private vehicle carrying someone under the age of 18.

The change in the law aims to protect children from exposure to smoke in cars that can be 11 times more concentrated than in a smoky bar.

It is also now illegal for a driver – including a driver with a provisional licence – not to stop someone smoking in an enclosed car when an under-18 is present.

The rules do not apply to a convertible car as long as the roof is completely retracted and stowed. However, the rules DO apply even if a car has an open sunroof.

The rules apply to motorhomes and campervans when they are being used as a vehicle, but do not apply when they are being used as living accommodation.

The new rules do not apply to ‘vaping’ with e-cigarettes.

The rules do not apply to work vehicles or public transport as these are already covered by smoke-free legislation.

The police will be responsible for enforcing the law and can issue a fixed penalty notice of £50 for each offence.

Welcoming the changes in a statement, Neena Modi, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says: “A ban on smoking in cars will help safeguard the 300,000 children or more, going to their GP with smoking related illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia. It will also go some way to help reduce sudden infant deaths and asthma, which have strong links to passive smoking.”

Age of sale for e-cigarettes

It is now illegal in England and Wales to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18.

The regulations spread wider than just e-cigarettes to include any nicotine inhaling product.

The law has been changed because of concern that e-cigarettes may appeal to young people and act as a ‘gateway’ to smoking regular cigarettes.

A study published by Liverpool John Moores University in April 2015 found that 1 in 5 teenagers had tried e-cigarettes, and that around 16% of teenagers who had tried ‘vaping’ had never smoked normal cigarettes.

From the 1st October 2015, anyone found guilty of selling e-cigarettes to a minor could face a fine of up to £2,500 on conviction at a magistrates’ court.

The law also gives the authorities powers to ban persistent offenders from selling e-cigarettes, other nicotine inhaling products or tobacco for a period of up to one year.

Proxy purchasing

From the 1st October 2015 it became illegal in England and Wales for someone over the age of 18 to buy, or attempt to buy, tobacco or e-cigarettes for someone under the age of 18.

This practice is known as ‘proxy purchasing’.

Trading standards officers will be responsible for enforcing the law and will be able to issue fixed penalty notices to retailers. Failure to pay could lead to prosecution in a magistrates’ court.

The law is changing to reflect the extra danger posed by second-hand smoke to children because they breathe more rapidly and have less developed airways, lungs and immune systems.

Supreme Court to decide whether EU can bring racketeering case against US tobacco company

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will decide whether the European Union can pursue its lawsuit claiming that tobacco company R.J. Reynolds sponsored cigarette smuggling in Europe as part of a global money-laundering scheme with organized crime groups.

The justices agreed Thursday to review an appeals court ruling that said the EU and 26 of its member states were within their rights to sue in U.S. courts under federal racketeering laws.

The suit alleges that RJR directed, managed and controlled the scheme that involved laundering money through New York-based financial institutions.

A federal judge threw out the claims, but a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that racketeering laws can apply to crimes committed in foreign countries.

The EU alleges that RJR orchestrated the scheme with the help of Colombian and Russian criminal groups and that the company laundered money through New York-based financial institutions. The EU claims the company’s actions hurt the economies of EU member nations by depriving governments of tax revenues.

The suit alleges several violations of racketeering laws, including mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, violations of the Travel Act and laws banning material support to foreign terrorist organizations.

The company calls the claims baseless. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. is a subsidiary of Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Reynolds American Inc.

Earlier this year, the full 2nd Circuit declined to reconsider the case by an 8-5 vote, prompting four separate dissenting opinions. Four of the dissenting judges warned that the court had reached a new and far-reaching interpretation of the racketeering law “that finds little support in the history of the statute, its implementation, or the precedents of the Supreme Court.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not take part in the court’s consideration of the case. She previously served on the appeals court and wrote an opinion in the case in 2004 at an earlier stage of the litigation.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments this winter in RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Community, 15-138.

Tobacco down the Drain? — Chromatography Investigates

How can you get a direct measurement of consumption? Asking people to answer surveys or monitoring how much of an item is sold will only get you so close — especially if it is something that society frowns on like cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. It would be extremely difficult to get a measurement of everything entering someone’s body.

Record keeping? Have you ever tried keeping an accurate food diary, or been asked by the doctor how many units of alcohol you drink in a week (never more than 21 honest). So what about measuring the waste produced, can this give a better idea of what we consume? Welcome to sewage epidemiology.

What is sewage epidemiology?

Defining sewage in this instance is simple — it is the excrement and urine that goes down the toilet. Combining that with epidemiology — which is the study of patterns, effects and causes in a population — and sewage epidemiology is using the information scientists can glean from our bodily wastes to estimate consumptions by a population.

Sewage epidemiology has its origins in monitoring illegal drugs in communities — using the information to monitor drug usage in different populations and changes in drug use. Scientists collect untreated sewage samples and analyse them for drugs and drug metabolites. Chromatography can play a part in this work as discussed in the article, Direct Analysis of Urinary Opioids and Metabolites by Mixed-mode µElution SPE Combined with UPLC/MS/MS for Clinical Research.

The analysis then needs to be applied to the population using information like drug concentration, wastewater flow rate and population size. One of the advantages is that the method can supply real-time data and by linking the monitoring data with other drug information — it allows changes in health policies or drug usage can be seen relatively quickly.

Tobacco monitoring

Although society considers illegal drug use to be a concern, there is a legal drug that kills many more people in a year — tobacco and smoking. In the UK alone, over 100,000 people die each year from smoking related illnesses and smoking costs the NHS over £2 billion per year. Governments around the world put in place regulations and policies to try and reduce the number of people smoking. But how can you assess whether the policies are having an effect?

Sewage epidemiology has been used to monitor these changes — but most methods rely on the analysis of nicotine and cotinine (nicotine’s metabolite) in wastewater to estimate smoking levels. As part of the action to reduce smoking involves nicotine patches or the use of electronic cigarettes which contain nicotine, current methods will not give an accurate picture.

Researchers from the University of South Australia have recently published a study in Drug testing and Analysis suggesting two other alkaloids could be used to monitor tobacco use in wastewater. The alkaloids — anabasine and anatabine — are not found in the replacement therapies, only in dried tobacco.

So the next you flush — somebody might be monitoring

TPP Carve Out for Tobacco Shows Core Flaws in Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

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Why the United Nations should press for higher taxes on tobacco

By Michael R. Bloomberg and Margaret Chan October 1 at 9:04 PM

Michael R. Bloomberg was mayor of New York from 2002 to 2013. Margaret Chan is director-general of the World Health Organization.

For the first time, the global sustainable-development goals being negotiated at the United Nations treat tobacco use — and the chronic diseases it causes — as a development issue. It’s long overdue.

Around the world, about 6 million people die every year from a tobacco-related disease. That’s one person every six seconds, or 10 every minute. By 2030, 8 million people are expected to die each year from tobacco use — and 80 percent of those deaths will occur in developing countries. In the United States alone, smoking-related illnesses result in $170 billion in annual medical spending.

The cause of these problems — tobacco sales — can also contribute to their solution. The tobacco industry, which generates more than US $35 billion in profits annually, should bear the costs it inflicts upon society. And there is a straightforward way to ensure that it does: taxation. Why, after all, should governments effectively subsidize tobacco companies by picking up the tab for the health-care costs they generate?

Increasing taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products has mostly been a strategy for reducing usage — and it has proved incredibly successful. The evidence is clear that raising tobacco taxes cuts use, encourages smokers to quit and discourages young people from starting. In fact, the most price-sensitive demographic for tobacco use is young people, who tend to have less disposable income than their elders. Low-income populations are also sensitive to price increases, making taxes especially effective in poorer countries where tobacco use is rising fast.

Those same countries also have the greatest need for better health-care services. In addition to reducing the burdens on health-care systems, tobacco taxes can help countries absorb the huge costs imposed by tobacco usage. Fortunately, governments have begun waking up to the idea that tobacco taxes provide an opportunity to achieve both of those critical goals: reducing use and raising revenue. In South Africa, France and New Zealand, tobacco taxes have helped cut use and provided funding for health care.

In 2012, the Philippines passed its landmark Sin Tax reform law. This legislation, which increased tax rates on low-priced cigarettes by more than 300 percent, generates revenue for the country’s universal health-care insurance program. By 2014, these funds had helped the government subsidize the health-insurance premiums of approximately half the population.

The tobacco industry, of course, rejects the idea that it should pay for the long-term health costs its products generate, and it is working hard, directly and through front groups, to persuade governments to go easy on the taxes. If any other consumer product were known to kill one in two of its users, there would be calls on governments to ban it. Yet in much of the world, tobacco is only lightly regulated and taxed.

This is despite the fact that tobacco taxes have already been formally endorsed by governments representing 90 percent of the world’s people, through a legally binding global treaty — the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control — as an important and effective means to reduce tobacco consumption. The treaty even provides guidelines for governments to put in place or strengthen tobacco taxes.

If the primary role of government is to protect lives — and we believe it is — then tobacco taxes are an essential tool. The United Nations should encourage countries to raise tobacco taxes to support the world’s development goals and reduce tobacco use.

New Studies Show Need for FDA to Quickly Regulate All Tobacco Products and Ban All Flavored Tobacco Products

New Studies Show Need for FDA to Quickly Regulate All Tobacco Products and Ban All Flavored Tobacco Products

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2015 / – The following is a statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

Two new studies published today by the CDC and the FDA demonstrate the urgent need for the FDA to issue its long-overdue final rule regulating all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and cigars, and to expand the current ban on candy- and fruit-flavored cigarettes to include all flavored tobacco products.

The first study shows that despite its claims to have changed, the tobacco industry continues to lure kids into nicotine addiction with a wide assortment of sweet-flavored products.

Based on data from the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the study finds that 70 percent of U.S. middle and high school tobacco users have used at least one flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days. Among youth who used each of the following tobacco products in the past 30 days (considered current users), 63.3 percent (1.58 million) had used a flavored e-cigarette, 60.6 percent (1.02 million) had used flavored hookah tobacco, 63.5 percent (910,000) had used a flavored cigar, 58.8 percent (690,000) had used flavored smokeless tobacco, and 53.6 percent (900,000) had used menthol cigarettes. About 18 percent of all high school students reported using at least one flavored tobacco product in the past 30 days, far more than the 5.8 percent who reported using only non-flavored products.

Tobacco industry documents show the industry has long recognized that sweet flavors mask the harshness of tobacco and attract new tobacco users, especially kids. While a 2009 federal law banned sweet-flavored cigarettes, tobacco companies have introduced cheap cigars in a rainbow of youth-friendly flavors from watermelon to chocolate, and e-cigarettes are now available in literally thousands of flavors, including gummy bear, cotton candy and even “unicorn puke.” And the FDA has yet to take action to ban menthol cigarettes despite the conclusions of its own 2013 report that menthol cigarettes lead to increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults, greater addiction and decreased success in quitting smoking.

Today’s study shows why it must be a priority for the FDA to ban all flavored tobacco products. Once and for all, it’s time to stop tobacco companies from targeting kids with flavors like menthol, watermelon and gummy bear.

The second study provides important new data showing that many youth e-cigarette users aren’t just experimenting with these new products, but using them on a regular basis.

As reported earlier this year, the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed that rates of youth e-cigarette use tripled from 2013 to 2014, with current (past 30 days) use among high school students rising from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014. Today’s study takes a deeper look at the same survey results and reports on frequency of use of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products. Among those students who had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, it found that 15.5 percent of high school students and 11.8 percent of middle school students had used e-cigarettes on at least 20 days, which is considered frequent use. This amounts to an estimated 340,000 middle and high school students who were frequent users of e-cigarettes. Among high school e-cigarette users, the study found that 38.4 percent had used e-cigarettes on at least six days in the previous month.

In another troubling finding, the study reports that a large majority of youth e-cigarette users also used other tobacco products. Among students who reported using e-cigarettes on 1-5 days in the past 30 days, 54.8 percent reported using multiple tobacco products. As the frequency of e-cigarette use rises, use of multiple tobacco products rises as well.

These studies show why the FDA and the Obama Administration must act without further delay to protect our kids by issuing a final rule to regulate all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and cigars. It is inexcusable that the FDA and the Administration have missed deadline after deadline even as the evidence mounts that these unregulated products pose serious threats to the health of our children. We cannot afford more delays that allow tobacco companies to keep targeting kids with sweet flavors and other tactics.

Asia-16 Illicit Tobacco Indicator 2014 – Hong Kong October 2015

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