Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

October, 2016:

Tobacco law loophole under review

The Excise Department may ask the government to allow the legal import of electronic cigarettes and baraku, which would be taxed like cigarettes, says director-general Somchai Poolsavasdi.

He said the department has noticed a loophole in the current tobacco law, which does not define these products as new types of tobacco-related goods intended to replace conventional cigarettes.

“We are still uncertain whether we will allow them to be imported legally or not, but if we decide to allow it we will have to tax them for sure,” said Mr Somchai.

“We have decided to take the first step to treat them properly by adjusting the legal definition of tobacco to cover all of these items. It not only concerns electronic cigarettes and baraku, but everything that has been created to be consumed in place of cigarettes,” he added.

Under the Tobacco Act 1966, tobacco products are defined as those made from tobacco leaf only, hence, it cannot govern cigarettes in electronic form or water pipes, also known as baraku, which are also now available in electronic form.

“Once we define these goods as taxable items, it will be easier for us to tax them later if we allow them to be imported legally,” said Mr Somchai.

While new ways of smoking and vaping have been available on markets worldwide for years, it is illegal to import such items into Thailand, resulting in them being smuggled in.

“It is quite complicated as tobacco is a sensitive issue here. We have to study thoroughly the pros and cons of allowing them to be imported legally,” he said.

It is still debatable whether e-cigarettes or baraku are healthier alternatives to cigarettes and cigars.

The amended law on excise tax has been passed by the Council of State after earlier being approved by the cabinet. It is now under consideration of the National Legislative Assembly. If the NLA approves the revised law, it will come into effect 180 days after it is announced in the Royal Gazette.

The excise tax restructuring is part of the Finance Ministry’s comprehensive tax reforms, while the Tobacco Act is a part of the tax reform plan. The legal amendments will switch the excise tax basis to state-recommended retail prices from ex-factory prices. The change is expected to come into force by mid-2017.

Switching the method of calculation will standardise duty collection and create more fairness and transparency, said the director-general.

Under the current system of calculating excise tax, importers have used loopholes to understate the value of costs, insurance and freight (CIF) in order to reduce their tax burdens.

But the excise duty calculation based on state-recommended retail prices will make it harder for importers to evade making tax payments, said Mr Somchai.

Even though state-recommended retail prices are normally higher than ex-factory prices and CIF value, he said the change will not further burden importers, as the Excise Department will mitigate the effects by lowering the current rates.

Apart from the Tobacco Act, six other laws will be integrated into a single act to standardise and simplify the tax collection process to facilitate the new tax calculation structure.

They are the Liquor Act of 1950, the Playing Card Act of 1943, the Excise Tariff Act of 1984, the Excise Tax Act of 1984, the Allocation of Excise Tax Act of 1984 and the Allocation of Liquor Tax Act of 1984.

E-cig studies provide more conflicting outcomes on potential harm

Another week, another release of studies that have conflicting outcomes on the attractiveness and potential risk of electronic cigarettes, particularly to young adults.

One report, from researchers at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health, determined that government agencies and public-health advocates may be providing an incomplete assessment of smoking e-cigs and vaporizers.

“The proportion of American adults who perceive e-cigarettes to be equally or more harmful than traditional cigarettes has tripled over the last few years (from 12 percent to 35 percent), highlighting the need for more accurate public-health messaging,” according to the researchers. Their study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The other report, from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 40 percent of current e-cigs smokers ages 18 to 24 had never tried traditional cigarettes before consuming e-cigs and vaporizers, while 43 percent were current traditional cigarette smokers.

By comparison, nearly all adults at least 45 years old were listed as a current or former traditional cigarette consumer.

The CDC report determined that 3.5 percent of adult Americans, or about 8.7 million, were current e-cig users in 2015. The report did not provide how many young adults were current e-cig users.

E-cigs, such as the top-selling Vuse brand by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., typically are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge and create a vapor that is inhaled. Vaporizers can be supplied and reused through the insertion of a liquid capsule.

Neither report broke new ground per se.

But until a universally accepted definitive study is released, the two reports add more evidence to support either anti-tobacco advocates, who promote a “quit or die” approach to tobacco products, or anti-smoking advocates, who believe reduced-risk tobacco and nicotine products can play a pivotal role in decreasing the number of traditional cigarette consumers.

For example, anti-smoking advocates have explained the increase in young adults consuming e-cigs as experimentation typical of individuals their age, and a better alternative than traditional cigarettes.

The Georgia State researchers based their report on data from the Tobacco Products and Risk Perception surveys from 2012 through 2015. Nearly 16,000 adults completed the surveys.

Researchers said the proportion of adult smokers who thought e-cigs were addictive more than doubled from 25 percent in 2012 to nearly 57 percent in 2015. Similar trends were seen in non-smoking adults.

“Although the impact of long-term use of e-cigarettes on health is still unknown, the available scientific evidence indicates that e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible cigarettes,” the researchers said.

Some studies, including from the Royal College of Physicians, have claimed that e-cigs and vaporizers are up to 95 percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

However, a pivotal component of the Food and Drug Administration’s tighter e-cig and vaporizer regulations was that they were necessary to limit or thwart the use of nicotine and tobacco products by youth. The regulations, which went into effect Aug. 8, ban the sale nationwide of those products to anyone under age 18.

Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said May 5 that “there are still many open questions about are e-cigarettes a gateway to smoking more harmful products.”

However, most recent federal reports have shown a significant decline in youth smoking of traditional cigarettes in the past 10 years.

Interestingly, among the sponsors of the Georgia State study is the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products.

“Our public health messages should accurately convey to cigarette smokers that switching completely to e-cigarettes would reduce their risks even if e-cigarettes are addictive and not risk-free,” said Dr. Michael Eriksen, dean of Georgia State’s School of Public Health.

Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, responded to the CDC data by saying it “raises fresh concerns that a large majority of adult e-cigarette users are using e-cigarettes in addition to regular cigarettes rather than in place of them.”

“If there is a public health benefit to the emergence of e-cigarettes, it will come only if they are effective at helping smokers stop using cigarettes completely, responsibly marketed to adult smokers and properly regulated to achieve these goals.”

In August, a national study on youth vaporizer use determined that up to 65 percent of students consume the products for flavor, compared with 20 percent for nicotine.

University of Michigan researchers said the results “challenge the common assumption that all vaporizer users inhale nicotine.” The results were published in the publication Tobacco Control.

Patrick Miech, the lead Michigan researcher, said in an email to the Journal that “vaping is a case where the science has yet to catch up with policy, which seems to be guided more by emotion and anecdote than hard facts.”

Scott Ballin, past chairman of the Coalition on Smoking or Health, has called for “all stakeholders to curtail their public relations efforts and call for scientific cooperation, monitoring and surveillance.”

Missing link between smoking and inflammation identified

It’s no secret that using tobacco is bad for you, but what has been a mystery until now is how tobacco causes increased inflammation throughout the body. Now, a team of researchers from the United States and Sweden have learned why. In a new report appearing in the November 2016 issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, scientists show that nicotine activates certain white blood cells, called neutrophils, which in turn release molecules that lead to increased inflammation.

“Our study reveals an explanation how nicotine contributes to induction of inflammation and in doing so shows new possibilities for future therapies to treat tobacco-related diseases which each year lead to premature deaths of several million people worldwide,” said Constantin Urban, a researcher involved in the work from the Umeå Centre for Microbial Research in Sweden.

To make this discovery, the researchers stimulated isolated neutrophils from humans and mice with nicotine and could measure a dose-dependent release of inflammatory molecules. By using pharmacological small molecule inhibitors as well as neutrophils from genetically modified mouse strains the team could identify essential receptor and signaling pathways involved in the nicotine-mediated activation of neutrophils.

“The cancer-causing effects of smoking have been known for decades, but how smoking is related to immune changes has been less clear,” said E. John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology. “Because of the direct link between nicotine itself and inflammation, this study has important implications including that alternative forms of nicotine inhalation, such as vaping that lacks other chemicals from cigarette smoke, may nonetheless still have detrimental immunological effects.”

Scientists stunned by new report about smoking

A new report about smoking suggests that the effects of vaping on the habit may be completely misunderstood.

An alarming new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that vaping might not be the easy cure to smoking that we thought it was, because many adults who use e-cigarettes also smoke tobacco cigarettes.

A total of 59 percent of all adult e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes, and just 30 percent of e-cigarette users were former smokers, with the remaining 11 percent made up of people who had never smoked before.

A total of 40 percent of e-cig users between the ages of 18-24 were never-smokers, indicating this actually may be a new way to get people hooked on smoking or vaping, especially for young people. About 43 percent were current smokers and 17 percent were former smokers in that age group.

The new report follows a September statement from the CDC showing a rise in vaping in teens.

“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in the statement. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”

“About 90 percent of all smokers begin smoking as teenagers,” said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC Office on Smoking and Health. “We must keep our youth from experimenting or using any tobacco product. These dramatic increases suggest that developing strategies to prevent marketing, sales, and use of e-cigarettes among youth is critical.”

Big Tobacco hooking kids in Ukraine

A Ukraine tobacco control group is exposing Big Tobacco’s tactics for getting kids hooked.

Ukraine recently joined the global campaign Big Tobacco Tiny Targets through research led by the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the NGO, Advocacy Center LIFE.

During the research 102 schools were monitored within a 250-metre radius.

The research found:

  • 81 percent (376 out of 460 points of sale) of supermarkets, convenience stores and kiosks sold tobacco products;
  • 96 percent of these used aggressive marketing displays, putting tobacco products in or near the cashier zone and next to sweets and snacks where children could easily see them;
  • 55 percent were advertising tobacco to kids with oversized packs, illuminated advertisements and flavoured cigarette promotions.

Advocacy Center LIFE Chairman Andriy Skipalskyi said Ukraine had made tremendous progress implementing different tobacco control measures, but more needs to be done concerning children and tobacco.

“Our next step is to limit the tobacco accessibility particularly for children. Hence, the adoption of the display ban and implementation of Articles 9, 10, 11, and Guidelines, of the WHO FCTC into Ukrainian legislation are crucial for countering the tobacco industry marketing of deadly products to children.”

– See more at:

Vaping: It’s not a safe way to quit smoking

I am a respiratory therapist and tobacco specialist at Essentia Health St. Mary’s Hospital, and I work nearly every day with people struggling to breathe due to smoking cigarettes. It can be very difficult to quit smoking, and I want to offer smokers all the support they can get when quitting.

Unfortunately, I see a growing number of patients who turn to e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking. That is why I felt I had to write the Detroit Lakes Tribune in response to an article “The End of Vaping?” that may have led some readers to believe that e-cigarettes have been conclusively proven safe and effective as a tool for people to quit smoking. I’d like to offer the following perspective as a local health care professional.

Research shows that the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes contains heavy metals, formaldehyde and other cancer-causing chemicals. E-cigarette aerosol also contains nicotine, the substance in tobacco that addicts smokers.

There is also no conclusive scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are effective for smoking cessation; in fact, quite often, users become addicted to both. If people wish to quit smoking, I encourage them to use evidence based support services and approved cessation aids.

At Essentia Health, we have specialists trained to provide these support services in person and for as long as you would like. Additionally, anyone in Minnesota can call QUITPLAN (1-888-354-7526) to find out about other free and low-cost services available to all Minnesota. Why would anyone want to take a chance on e-cigarettes when we already have tools that are safe and scientifically proven to work?

Also, despite the implication from the retailer in the article, there is no conclusive clinical research, or research of any kind, for that matter, that shows e-cigarettes reverse the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a debilitating disease that causes permanent damage to lung tissue.

This past summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deemed e-cigarettes a tobacco product, just like cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. When the deeming regulations are fully implemented in 2019, manufacturers will have to disclose the ingredients in e-cigarette liquid and include the Surgeon General’s warning on all packaging, among many other important consumer protections. This will provide more transparency to consumers and will aid in research about the health effects of e-cigarette use. In the meantime, I urge our community not to be unduly swayed by the self-interested statements of the e-cigarette industry.

(Vickie Lee is a registered respiratory therapist and certified tobacco treatment specialist at Essentia Health in Detroit Lakes)

Remember When Mike Pence Said Smoking Doesn’t Kill?

Pence also took money from tobacco companies and fought tax hikes on cigarettes.

Mike Pence’s record in Indiana has taken a backseat to his running mate’s particular brand of flamboyant ignorance, but we shouldn’t let Donald Trump’s antics distract from the vice presidential candidate’s surprising public health stance: Pence is unabashedly pro-tobacco.

“Time for a quick reality check,” Pence wrote in an op-ed that BuzzFeed reporter Andrew Kaczynski dug up last year. “Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill.”

Pence’s backward views aren’t a product of the times: The Republican vice presidential nominee penned those words less than 20 years ago ― BuzzFeed reported the publication date as 2000, though The New York Times put it at 1998. In either case, it happened more than 50 years after Surgeon General Dr. Luther Terry wrote the landmark report on smoking and health that started America’s smoking decline.

“Two out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and nine out of 10 smokers do not contract lung cancer,” Pence went on. It’s not clear which data Pence was referencing, but his premise is wrong.

Smoking certainly kills. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, cigarettes account for 30 percent of all cancer deaths and kill more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns and illegal drugs combined. Beyond cancer, smoking damages almost every organ in the body, including the lungs, heart, blood vessels, reproductive organs, mouth, skin, eyes and bones.

Today, 17 percent of Americans smoke, down from more than 40 percent in 1965, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During a 2000 congressional debate, Pence said that the scientific link between smoking and lung cancer wasn’t the point of his editorial.

Indeed, Pence was writing in the larger context of condemning a government that is concerned with safeguarding against public health issues like tobacco use. But regardless of context, minimizing the danger of smoking is a dangerous tactic. And it wasn’t the first or last time Pence took a pro-tobacco stance. A Pence spokesman did not immediately respond to request for further comment.

Pence’s policy in Indiana was decidedly pro-tobacco

First in congress and then as governor, Pence made a string of pro-tobacco choices. Over his political career, he has also taken more than $100,000 in campaign donations from tobacco companies.

In 2009, Pence was was one of 97 members of the House of Representatives who voted against the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which added new warnings discouraging minors from smoking and allowed Congress to regulate tobacco.

In 2015, during Pence’s one-term Indiana governorship, he signed a bill to loosen the terms of the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act by allowing new cigar bars to open.

And last February, Pence fought a bill passed by Indiana Republicans to improve roads that would have raised the cost of gas by a few cents and the the cost of cigarettes by $1 per pack. The bill passed in March, without the tax increase.

To date, Indiana has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the country.

These would be anti-public health moves in any state, but they’re particularly disastrous choices in Indiana. Almost a quarter of residents smoked in 2014, far more than the national average of 17 percent. What’s more, 16 percent of pregnant women in Indiana smoked in 2011, which can cause birth defects and lead to miscarriages.

In his op-ed, Pence posed a question to his readers. “What is more harmful to the nation, second hand smoke or back handed big government disguised in do-gooder healthcare rhetoric[?]”

Shirking public health responsibility in the name of small government is familiar territory for Pence. In 2015, Pence delayed instituting a clean needle exchange in Scott County, Indiana, after the county’s only HIV testing center closed.

That turned out to be a costly public health failure: Under the Indiana governor’s watch, HIV rates spiked in Scott County, reaching nearly 200 new cases and earning it the honor of worst HIV outbreak in state history.

E-cigarettes as a source of toxic and potentially carcinogenic metals

Download (PDF, 238KB)

Blu unveils new vaping range to comply with EU tobacco product legislation

E-smoking brand Blu has unveiled its next-generation range ahead of the deadline for retailers to sell off stocks that don’t comply with strict EU legislation.

From 27 May 2017, it will be unlawful to sell vaping products that contravene EU Tobacco Products Directive II (EUTPD II), which focus on quality and safety, and include the requirement for a product warning stating, “This product contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance.”

The new EUTPD II-compliant line-up from Blu will roll out on 1 November with improved technology ‘to provide a better experience for consumers’. It includes a PRO e-cig kit, with a Clearomiser mouthpiece, and a selection of e-liquids.

The brand has also launched a guide to EUTPD II to help retailers understand the changes being put in place.

The vaping market was booming, with a retail sales value of £168m and showing an 18% increase on sales last year, according to Jennifer Roberts, vice-president of customer marketing at Blu (UK). “But it’s going to see a lot of change over the next six to nine months as the next stage of legislation comes into effect,” she added.

Retailers should begin to promote non-compliant stock to sell through, said Roberts. “By beginning the changeover to compliant stock as soon as possible, retailers will give a positive message to shoppers and show they understand the category and are a credible vaping stockist.”

QuickStats: Cigarette Smoking Status Among Current Adult E-cigarette Users, by Age Group

Download (PDF, 177KB)