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March, 2016:

Bulgarian tobacco firm Bulgartabac to halt exports to Middle East: Reuters

Bulgarian tobacco company Bulgartabac said it would halt sales to the Middle East as of April 1, following media allegations its products made up a large part of the cigarettes illegally smuggled into neighbouring Turkey, Reuters reported.

Bulgartabac denied any wrongdoing, adding its exports had been carried out in full compliance with customs and trade legislation, which had been confirmed by customs and tax audits.

“Given the sensitive situation in the Middle East, Bulgartabac is stopping exports to the region in order to prevent the involvement of the company in artificially created reputation problems that could completely ruin it,”  Bulgartabac said in a statement.

Bulgartabac said the move would result in 400 job losses, about eight percent of the group’s employees.

The allegations against Bulgartabac were reported last month by the Capital daily newspaper as well as the Dnevnik website.

Last year, Bulgartabac’s exports fell 23 percent to 19.3 billion cigarettes on an annual basis.

Age to buy tobacco products increased to 21 in Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) — The age to legally purchase cigarettes and tobacco products in Chicago is now 21 instead of 18.

The Chicago City Council approved the age increase Wednesday along with other efforts to combat illegal tobacco sales. The new ordinance enacts higher taxes including 20 cents per cigar, $1.80 per ounce for smokeless and smoking tobacco and 60 cents per ounce for pipe tobacco.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office estimates the taxes will bring in about $6 million annually. His office says the money will be spent on an orientation program for freshmen at Chicago high schools.

Separately aldermen approved on a voice vote a ban on chewing tobacco at professional and amateur sporting events.

Officials say 10.7 percent of Chicago high school students were smokers in 2013, down from 13.6 percent in 2011.

Ban on display of tobacco products from 2017

Retailers will have to keep tobacco products out of sight from next year, following changes to the law approved by Parliament yesterday.

These products include cigarettes, cigars, beedies and “ang hoon”, or loose tobacco leaves.

The ban on the display of such products is intended to prevent impulse buys, especially among young people who have not yet picked up smoking.

However, specialist tobacco shops, such as those that sell cigars, simply need to make sure that their products cannot be seen from outside the shop.

Duty-free shops at Changi Airport will be exempt from the ban for now, while those at seaports will be subject to rules similar to those for specialist tobacco sellers.

Tighter rules on online tobacco advertisements – such as banning ads from Singapore even if they do not target Singaporeans – were also introduced.

Official Note Verbale issued on TI Interference & ITIC

Has the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) been talking to your government? What recommendations has it been proposing? The FCTC Convention Secretariat (FCS) has issued a Note Verbale warning Parties about the ITIC and its activities, and to reject the tobacco industry’s interference in addressing tobacco smuggling problem.

The FCS has warned governments that the ITIC, which has 4 transnational tobacco companies on its Board, has been working to further the interest of the tobacco industry. The ITIC has been organising regional and global meetings where the meetings feature discussions on tobacco taxation and promote tax policies favouring the industry rather than the recommendations of the FCTC especially Article 6 and its Guidelines.

The ITIC will be holding its next annual Asia-Pacific Tax Forum in Jakarta, on 23-25 May 2016. It has routinely invited government officials, especially from customs departments, to attend its meetings. On its website and publications, the ITIC promotes photos of its own executives posing with officials from Asia to illustrate its close association with Asian governments.

Smuggling of tobacco is a problem is faced by many countries in the region. Big Tobacco (PMI, BAT, JTI and IB [Imperial Brands]) has blamed substantial excise tax increases and high tobacco taxes as the problem. Additionally, the industry promotes its own ‘Codentify’ system to solve the smuggling problem.

The FCS’s Note Verbale advices governments not to accept ‘Çodentify’ to address the illicit trade in tobacco products. The Note Verbale reminds Parties to “reject partnerships and non-binding or non-enforceable agreements with the tobacco industry”.

In addition, Article 8.12 of the Protocol on Elimination of Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, explicitly states that a Party’s obligations shall not be performed by, or delegated to, the tobacco industry. An expert paper, The Tobacco Industry and the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products provides further information on the tobacco industry’s behaviour in addressing tobacco smuggling.

For information on TI denormalization, check out SEATCA’s Tobacco Industry Watch website.

Doctor Explains Why E-Cigarettes Are Just As Dangerous As Tobacco Cigarettes

Currently there is “no regulation on a federal level of e-cigarettes,” Dr. Cuomo said.

There’s a misconception that e-cigarettes may be a better alternative to tobacco cigarettes, but according to Margaret Cuomo, the author of A World Without Cancer, the two are both dangerous. In the video above, watch Cuomo explain the risks involved when you smoke e-cigarettes and how they’re being marketed to kids and sold to minors.

Correction: A previous version of this video misidentified one of the chemicals in the e-cigarette smoke as tin; it is zinc. It has been updated to correct a misstatement that tobacco smoke does not contain some chemicals found in e-cigarette smoke. A reference to risks of cancer associated with e-cigarettes has also been removed; rather, some compounds found in e-cigarettes are associated with risks of cancer and liver disease.

Cigarettes to rise to A$40 a packet under Turnbull plan to force smokers to fund their own health care

Malcolm Turnbull is set to follow Bill Shorten’s lead and hit smokers in the hip pocket with a proposed tax increase that would see a packet of cigarettes cost $40.

A government source has revealed the Turnbull government is looking to introduce a proposal to increase the tobacco excise in the May budget after changes to negative gearing and GST failed, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Turnbull, who previously supported a higher tobacco excise to fund private health insurance rebates, is believed to be taking a more watered down approach than opposition leader Bill Shorten who claimed Labor’s proposal would raise revenue by $47 billion over a decade.

Labor announced that if it wins office the party would increase the excise by 12.5 per cent each quarter until 2020 to pay for the Gonski school funding policy.

Mr Shorten said Labor’s proposal is a health measure to decrease the number of Australian people smoking.

Labor MP Jim Chalmers said the issue would open up another front in the civil war eating up the Liberal Party.

He pointed out that Treasurer Scott Morrison and former prime minister Tony Abbott are on the record opposing any increase to cigarette taxes.

Federal MP Ewen Jones reckons giving up smokes was the best thing he ever did, amid speculation the federal government might follow Labor and hike the tax on cigarettes.

The Queensland coalition backbencher acknowledged the massive cost of smoking to the community and public health system with cancer patients ‘getting bits and pieces chopped off’.

‘One of the greatest things I’ve ever done is given them up,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Mr Jones said he had not heard any concrete proposals from his side of politics on changes to the tobacco excise.

‘No government or party comes towards smokers with a position of policy purity – it is an income stream,’ he said.

Government MP Andrew Laming, who is an eye specialist, argued increasing the excise would hit addicts and low-income people the hardest.

It would also come at the ‘price of their family’s well-being’.

Dr Laming said Labor could not calculate how much money the measure would raise because it was a consumption tax and impossible to model.

‘They spend the money before they’ve got it,’ he told reporters.

Senator Ricky Muir said it was the first he had heard that the government was considering slugging smokers to pay for income tax cuts, although there had been whispers.

‘I think it’s at the point now where raising the price of cigarettes is proven not really to stop the diehard smokers who have been doing it for a long time,’ he told Seven Network.

The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator said it was ‘something I will get to look into in the future’ providing he still held his senate seat.

The 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey report found that around 13 per cent of the Australian population smoke.

Each year the habit is estimated to kill 15,000 Australians and costs the nation around $31.5 billion, according to the Department of Health.

CVS launches $50m campaign to bring up first tobacco-free generation

Dive Brief:

  • CVS Health, the largest drugstore retailer in the U.S., launched “Be the First,” a $50 million, five-year effort to help curb tobacco use, which it notes is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S.
  • “Be the First” is aimed at young people, including elementary school-age kids, because youth tobacco use is rising, with nearly a quarter of high schoolers using tobacco products of some kind, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • The initiative includes comprehensive education, advocacy, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming in partnership with other organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the National Urban League, that work on tobacco use cessation and prevention.

Dive Insight:

When it announced in early 2014 that it would cease sales of tobacco, the drugstore chain knew it was leaving behind $2 billion in business, but CVS president and CEO Larry Merlo said at the time that “the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

Indeed, CVS is in the midst of a hard pivot to become more of an all-around provider of healthcare and medical services in addition to its traditional pharmacy and health and beauty retail business. The chain counts among its executive ranks a physician with a public health degree, Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H.

“We are at a critical moment in our nation’s efforts to end the epidemic of tobacco use that continues to kill more people than any other preventable cause of death, and threatens the health and well-being of our next generation,” Brennan said in a statement. “Ensuring our youth stay tobacco-free requires increased education and awareness of healthy behaviors. We’re partnering with experts across the public health community who have established best practices to help prevent tobacco use. And, by establishing more public-private partnerships to implement these strategies more aggressively, we can help increase the number of people leading tobacco-free lives and move us one step closer to delivering the first tobacco-free generation.”

There’s no doubt that this initiative is in keeping with CVS’s health focus. But the move could also have the benefit of eating into its rivals’ bottom line. Although CVS has sought to encourage other drugstore retailers to follow in its footsteps by ending tobacco sales, none has so far, despite their own forays into medical services.

CVS last month reported Q4 earnings of $1.5 billion or $1.34 per share, meeting expectations from the street. The retailer also reported Q4 revenue of $41.15 billion, beating expectations of $41.01 billion. Retail sales rose 12.5% to $19.9 billion, about half of which stemmed from its acquisition last year of drug distribution company Omnicare.

Police seize 88 tonnes of contraband tobacco in Spain

Spanish police have seized a record 88 tonnes of contraband tobacco, the equivalent of over eight million packets of cigarettes and arrested six people, the government said Friday.

The tobacco was found in several warehouses in the provinces of Jaen and Almeria in the southern region of Andalucia and it had a street value of €14 million ($15.4 million), the finance ministry said in a statement.

Police detained six people who are suspected of chopping up the tobacco so as to make cigarettes and then selling it over the Internet.

“They even posted several tutorials online where they showed how to roll the cigarettes,” the statement said.

The operation more than doubles the previous record seizure of 41 tonnes of contraband tobacco carried out in November 2015 in Andalucia. Eleven people were detained in Jaen and Madrid as part of that operation.

The authorities suspect the six people who were arrested in the latest sting were trying to “substitute” the contraband tobacco operation that was dismantled last year.

Both contraband operations came to light when legal tobacco sellers in Andalucia complained that their sales had dropped sharply.

California raises tobacco buying age to 21

California’s senate on Thursday approved a draft of anti-smoking legislation raising the minimum age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 and regulating e-cigarettes.

Described by senate leader Kevin De Leon as “the most expansive tobacco control legislative package in over a decade,” the measures are part of a package of six bills given the green light by lawmakers.

Under the new laws, e-cigarettes will be reclassified as tobacco products and banned in restaurants, theaters and other public places where smoking normal cigarettes is already forbidden.

“This is California’s chance to make history by drastically reducing Big Tobacco’s ability to target and poison our youth,” said Democrat senator Ed Hernandez, who introduced the bill raising the buying age.

“We will no longer stand idly by while they continue to get generation after generation addicted. We need to make this happen for the sake of our children and the overall health of our state.”

The bills, which also require schools to be tobacco free and allow for local votes to increase tobacco taxes, will be put before Governor Jerry Brown to sign within 12 days and will come into law within three months.

“The fierce opposition from Big Tobacco on this measure proves just how important this measure is and how much their business model relies on selling their drug to our kids,” Hernandez added.

If Brown signs the legislation, California will become the second state, after Hawaii, to increase the tobacco buying age to 21, although New York, San Francisco and dozens of other cities have passed laws of their own cracking down on tobacco, including raising the minimum age for purchasing.

The California Medical Association hailed the move as “another important step re-establishing California’s rightful place as a national leader in the fight against tobacco addiction, the number one cause of preventable death in our state and our country.”

Time for a Tobacco Act, says MCTC

Council chief Cheah says Putrajaya must have the political will to control tobacco use.

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) has alleged that the government lacks the political will to control tobacco use to ensure that young Malaysians don’t develop the smoking habit.

Speaking to FMT, MTMC President Molly Cheah said she hoped Putrajaya would use the time allocated under the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) to finally come up with a Tobacco Act.

Countries committed to signing the TPPA are given two years to amend existing laws or enact new ones before the agreement comes into effect.

“Malaysia is backward compared to other countries who are signing on to the TPPA,” she said. “It still doesn’t have a proper act in place to control the use of tobacco.”

Instead, she said, the government seemed content to control tobacco use through what she called an “archaic” provision of the Food Act 1983.

However, Cheah commended the Ministry of Health for planning to implement a rule requiring plain packaging of tobacco products, saying the measure had shown positive results in other countries.

“We are fully supporting the move and hope that the government will implement plain packaging as soon as possible as it’s shown to be a very effective means to control the use of tobacco.”

She dismissed the notion that the move would have repercussions on intellectual property rights, noting that Australia, one of the TPP partners, was already successful in implementing it.