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May 6th, 2016:

Lázár: Hungary eyes unified packaging for tobacco products, could ban menthol cigarettes

Following the European Court of Justice ruling on Wednesday that introducing standardized packages, prohibiting menthol cigarettes and applying special rules to e-cigarettes are all lawful practices, the Hungarian government will start drafting a bill on such measures next week, Hungary’s Cabinet Chief János Lázár said yesterday.

During his regular weekly press conference, the cabinet chief said that under the planned legislation, menthol cigarettes will be banned in Hungary, and tobacco products could be sold only in unified packages in the country. Lázár added that special rules will apply to electronic cigarettes as well.

The Hungarian government was first said to be planning such changes in June 2015. Professionals working in the tobacco industry have criticized the measures, claiming they will not reduce the consumption of tobacco products.

FDA decision brings University e-cigarette simulation to attention

Electronic cigarettes are more likely to encourage traditional cigarette smokers to quit than cause non-smokers to begin, according to a recent University of Michigan study.

E-cigarettes — considered an alternative to traditional cigarettes since their introduction to the market in 2003 — are battery-powered products which vaporize a flavored liquid, which is inhaled by the user. Ecigarettes are sometimes used as tools to quit smoking.

According to a 2014 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 22 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 had tried an e-cigarette, and about four percent of adults used e-cigarettes every day or some days.

T he rising popularity of e-cigarettes has raised concern as to how e-cigarettes would be regulated and marketed, and whether they would be treated the same as traditional cigarettes with regard to public policy — despite minimal research conducted on the health effects of e-cigarettes.

For example, despite popular belief, e-cigarettes contain many of the ingredients traditional cigarettes do, such as nicotine, unknown chemicals, flavorings and colorings.

A previous University study indicated that both teenage ecigarette users and their parents wish to see e-cigarette regulation in public places, another concern that accompanies the product.

Last T hursday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it will regulate e-cigarettes and other products — such as cigars and hookahs — in the same way it regulates traditional cigarettes and tobacco.

According to the announcement made T hursday by Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and FDA commissioner Robert Califf, restrictions will be placed on the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, including age restrictions and advertising and promotion restrictions for public health purposes.

Sarah Cherng, a Rackham student and lead author of the University study, agreed that there is a large debate surrounding the potential harms and benefits of e-cigarettes.

“We’re seeing a very large increase in high schoolers and adolescents using electronic cigarettes,” Cherng said. “On one hand, there are people who are very concerned that electronic cigarettes are going to act as a gateway to traditional smoking initiation. Whereas, on the other hand, there is the harm reduction type research … (which believes) e-cigarettes can actually help with smoking cessation — help current smokers stop smoking.”

T he researchers used data from resources such as the National Health Interview and the CDC showing previous and current national rates of smoking, as well as statistics on the growth rate of e-cigarette usage, to come up with a simulation model.

Cherng said the researchers wanted to perform a quantitative analysis to see whether e-cigarettes act as a gateway to smoking initiation or as an aid for current smokers who need to quit.

T here has so far been few studies looking into the health differences of using a traditional cigarette and an e-cigarette, as well as little research on the long-term effects of using ecigarettes as a cessation device.

According to the University study, a 20 percent increase in the rate of smoking cessation would correlate to a six percent reduction in overall smoking popluation by the year 2060. On the contrary, for smoking rates to increase by six percent in 2060, smoking initiation would have to increase by 200 percent — an unlikely occurrence, according to the researchers.

“Based on the patterning of e-cigarette use among adults right now … their use is primarily concentrated among current smokers,” Cherng said. “Any potential effects that e-cigarettes have on smoking initiation or the overall smoking prevalence in the United States is going to have a much smaller effect than if e-cigarettes have an effect on smoking cessation or an increased smoking cessation because we have so many more current smokers using e-cigarettes.”

Consistent with the team’s finding, statistics from the American Lung Association show that 76.8 percent of people who recently used e-cigarettes in 2013 also were traditional cigarette smokers.

Cherng said further research is imperative for future debates and policymaking about e-cigarettes.

“Because the evidence is so scant right now about whether or not they actually do increase smoking initiation among neversmokers versus their effect on cessation, in terms of the policy implications, it’s important to contextualize that in e-cigarette regulation,” Cherng said, adding: “if we can start focusing people towards the potential benefits of e-cigarettes and also enact legislation that helps prevent young kids from using them, then what we expect is that there is a potential of a huge benefit
resulting from e-cigarette use if they increase cessation.”

Paula Lantz, associate dean for research and policy engagement, echoed Cherng’s statements and said in an email interview that there is merit to the argument that too much regulation for ecigarettes could be detrimental.

“(Many) are concerned that the FDA might “over-regulate” ecigarettes, in that it will make it harder for e-cigarettes to be used as a harm reduction approach or smoking cessation tool for current smokers,” Lantz said. “While much more research is needed…the Cherng simulation model forecasts demonstrate quite clearly that, under any reasonable set of assumptions, the harm reduction and smoking cessation gains will significantly outweigh any increase in youth smoking due to e-cigarettes.

T his supports the concerns that over-regulating e-cigarettes will be bad for public health.”

US bans e-cigarette, cigar sales to those under 18 years old

US regulators on Thursday took their first steps to crack down on e-cigarettes and cigars, increasingly popular among American youth, and banned sales to anyone under age 18 in hopes of preventing a new generation from becoming hooked on nicotine.

The Food and Drug Administration’s action brought regulation of e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco in line with existing rules for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco. The new rules take effect in 90 days.

Health advocacy groups hailed the move, while industry officials said it could cripple many of the smaller companies that make e-cigarette devices they say can help traditional smokers quit. Wall Street analysts expect the regulation to herald a new wave of consolidation led by big tobacco companies.

The FDA said it will require companies to submit e-cigarettes and other newer tobacco products for regulatory review, provide it with a list of their ingredients and place health warnings on packages and in advertisements.

The FDA’s regulation had been highly anticipated after the agency issued a proposed rule two years ago on how to oversee the US$3 billion e-cigarette industry and these other products.

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell said health officials still do not have the scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes can help smokers quit and avoid the known ills of tobacco. In the interim, the quick uptake of e-cigarettes by young people has added urgency to instituting consumer protections, Burwell said.

“Nicotine does not belong in the hands of kids,” Burwell told reporters.

E-cigarettes are hand held electronic devices that vaporise a fluid typically including nicotine and a flavour component. Using them is called “vaping.”

Three million US middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2015, compared with 2.46 million in 2014, making them the most commonly used tobacco products for youngsters, according to the most recent federal data.

“This is a real epidemic and banning the sales of these products to minors, much like cigarettes, is a critical step to protecting their health now and into the future,” said Democratic US Representative Lois Capps of California.

Other groups including American Academy of Pediatrics also lauded the FDA move. However, public health advocates have also urged the agency to ban the use of flavoured nicotine liquid in e-cigarette and personal vaporisers.

They say the flavours, which can range from bacon to bubble gum, are a major draw for youngsters to take up vaping. FDA officials said they would consider future regulation on flavours based on further study of the potential risks and benefits of vaping.

In 2009, Congress allowed the FDA to extend its oversight to all tobacco products. The agency began focusing on e-cigarettes, which were quickly gaining traction in the US market.

Cigars had previously not been regulated by the FDA. Their makers had lobbied for their more expensive, typically hand-rolled products to be excluded from such oversight. The agency’s new rules ban flavours in cigars, in another effort to prevent youth use.

Erika Sward, Assistant Vice President for National Advocacy at the American Lung Association, described the regulations as “a win for public health.” She said that the association was disappointed that while the FDA relied on anecdotal information to ban flavours on cigars, it did not use the same metrics regarding e-cigarettes.

The FDA will review products introduced after February 15, 2007, but will give e-cigarette manufacturers up to two years to submit their applications. E-cigarette makers can continue to sell those products while the review is pending.

Agency officials expect that most products on the market will require its review, a costly prospect for the many smaller manufacturers of vaping devices.

“The winners are the large tobacco manufacturers, primarily Altria and Reynolds (American), which have the experience and financial wherewithal” to deal with FDA processes, said Adam Fleck, an equity analyst at Morningstar. “The net result is a very fragmented e-cigarette market is likely to be consolidated.”

Shares in Altria and Reynolds were little changed on Thursday.
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4 Chinese nationals sentenced for peddling contraband cigarettes on WeChat


SINGAPORE – A total of four Chinese nationals – in three separate cases – have been sentenced for their involvement in contraband cigarette activities using the Chinese instant messaging platform WeChat.

In the first case, a 26-year-old man was sentenced on Wednesday (May 4) to five months’ imprisonment for peddling contraband cigarettes via WeChat.

Singapore Customs said in a press statement today that Zhang Daolong was arrested by customs officers as he was leaving his rented room in an apartment in Lorong 28 Geylang on April 28.

More than 235 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized. The amount of duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded exceeded $20,110.

Zhang was one of the four Chinese nationals nabbed by Singapore Customs in the last seven weeks for peddling contraband cigarettes on WeChat.

In the second case, a married couple was sentenced on April 14 to 12 weeks imprisonment for their involvement in contraband cigarette activities.

Ma Feng, 32, and Zhang Qiuping, 33, had set up WeChat accounts to attract potential buyers for their contraband cigarettes.

Ma was in charge of liaising with contraband cigarette suppliers while his wife, Zhang, liaised with and delivered the contraband cigarettes to their buyers, said the Singapore Customs statement.

Zhang was arrested in Woodlands Avenue 6 on April 12 when she was delivering contraband cigarettes to buyers.

Her husband was arrested when custom officers raided the couple’s rented room in an HDB flat in Woodlands Ring Road.

More than 67 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized in this operation. The amount of duty and GST evaded exceeded $5,720.

In the last case, Liu Huawen, 33, was sentenced on March 14 to three months’ imprisonment and a fine of $9,200 or in default two months and two weeks’ imprisonment.

Liu was arrested by Singapore Customs officers on March 11 when he was delivering contraband cigarettes in Jurong West Street 62. The officers then raided Liu’s rented room in a housing flat nearby.

More than 94 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized in this operation. The amount of duty and GST evaded exceeded $8,050.

Investigations revealed that Liu had sourced for suppliers and buyers of contraband cigarettes via WeChat.

Mr Yeo Ban Meng, head of Suppression and Community Engagement, Singapore Customs, said: “We are keeping a close watch on such illegal activities on WeChat and other social media platforms.”

“Offenders will be severely punished in accordance with the law,” he added.

Buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with duty-unpaid goods are serious offences under the Customs Act and the GST Act.

Offenders can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded, and/or jailed for up to six years.

The minimum court fines for first-time and repeat offenders of tobacco-related offences are $2,000 and $4,000 respectively. Repeat offenders who are caught with more than two kilogrammes of tobacco products will also face mandatory jail sentences.

Mr Yeo said: “We urge members of the public to report to Singapore Customs any suspected contraband cigarette activities they come across on instant messaging platforms, and help us to stop such criminal activities from taking place in their neighbourhood.”

Members of the public with information on smuggling activities or evasion of customs duty or GST can call the Singapore Customs hotline at 1800-2330000 or email the authority at