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December, 2016:

Smoking while pregnant may compromise children’s kidney function

In a new study, young children showed signs of kidney damage if their mothers smoked while pregnant. The findings, which appear in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN), add to the list of negative health effects that can result from maternal smoking during pregnancy.

Because smoking is a well-known risk factor for kidney failure in adults, a team led by Koji Kawakami, MD, PhD, Maki Shinzawa, MD, PhD, and Motoko Yanagita MD, PhD (Kyoto University, in Japan) wondered whether maternal smoking during pregnancy might affect children’s kidney health. The researchers conducted a population-based retrospective study using a database of health check-ups from pregnancy to 3 years of age in Japan. The investigators looked for the presence of proteinuria—or elevated protein the urine, which is a sign of reduced kidney function—in urinary tests from 44,595 children.

In the population examined, 4.4% of women smoked only before pregnancy and 16.7% continued smoking while pregnant. The frequencies of proteinuria in the child at age 3 were 1.7% when mothers continued to smoke during pregnancy, 1.6% when mothers stopped smoking during pregnancy, and 1.3% when mothers were nonsmokers, respectively. Maternal smoking during pregnancy was associated with a 1.24-times increased risk of child proteinuria compared with no exposure to maternal smoking during pregnancy.

“Maternal smoking during pregnancy is known to be associated with preterm birth, low birth weight, and neonatal asphyxia. The findings from this study suggest an additional adverse effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy,” said Dr. Kawakami. “Prevention of child proteinuria is important since child proteinuria can lead to development of chronic kidney disease in adulthood and ultimately end stage renal disease.”


Cigarette packs to carry graphic health warnings

Starting Friday, graphic warnings about the harmful effects of smoking will be attached to cigarette packs sold in South Korea.

According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, all cigarette packs sold here, including those sold at duty-free shops, must carry one of 10 designated full-color and disturbing photos with warnings on the adverse effects of smoking.

Some of the photos depict the body parts of smokers suffering from fatal diseases such as lung cancer, oral cancer, heart attack and strokes. Text warnings include those about the dangers of secondhand smoke, smoking while pregnant, as well as possible side effects such as sexual dysfunction, skin aging and premature death.

The graphic health warnings must be placed on the upper part of both sides of cigarette packets. The photos are required to cover more than 30 percent of both sides of each packet, the ministry said.

The ministry also plans to resume anti-smoking TV ads, introducing real cases of victims of smoking. It had stopped doing so 14 years ago.

It will take one month before the cigarette packs with the warnings will appear in the market due to production and distribution procedures. However, some of the cigarette packs with graphic warnings will be released at retail stores starting Friday for promotion purposes near crowded downtown areas such as Gwanghwanmun, Yeouido and Gangnam, the ministry added.

Anti-smoking campaigns that use such visual images were first introduced in Canada in 2001. Such practices are currently adopted by 101 countries around the world.

“After reviewing figures from 18 countries which adopted the graphic health warning labels, it was found that the smoking rate fell by 13.8 percent in Brazil, while the average for these countries was around 4 percent, after these labels were attached,” said the ministry official.

In June, the National Assembly approved a bill that makes it obligatory for tobacco-makers to display graphic warnings on cigarette packs to promote people’s health.

Under the law, the graphics will be replaced every 24 months and a notice about the next 10 photos will be announced six months ahead of the replacement. Violators of the law will face up to a year in jail or up to 10 million won ($12,000) in fines, or revocation of the company’s business license.

The smoking rate among South Koreans, aged 19 or older, dropped to 39.3 percent last year from 43.1 percent in 2014. It marked the first time that South Korea’s smoking rate fell below 40 percent.

The decrease came after sharp hikes in tobacco prices here. The government raised tobacco prices by 2,000 won (USD 1.67) per pack in January as part of an anti-smoking campaign.

The ministry announced last year that it aims to lower the smoking rate among South Korean men to 29 percent by 2020.

By Kim Da-sol (

Ireland Strategic Investment Fund sells off shares in tobacco companies

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund has sold off its stakes in tobacco companies.

The ISIF held stakes in a number of tobacco firms including Altria and Philip Morris, a legacy from the global investment portfolio held by the the National Pension Reserve Fund before it was repurposed.

The latest annual report from the National Treasury Management Agency, which oversees the ISIF, puts a value of €1m on the stake in Altria and €1.2m on the Philip Morris shares as at the end of 2015.

The total value of equities held by the ISIF in its discretionary portfolio was €5.35 billion.

That portfolio is being being sold off gradually to support the ISIF’s mandate of investing to support economic activity and create jobs in Ireland.

The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the divestment had been “a commercial decision” but one which was informed by Government policy on tobacco.

The ISIF also has a sustainability and responsible investment policy.

The Irish State has just sold its shares in big tobacco companies

It had been claimed that the investments made a ‘mockery’ of the State’s aim of a tobacco-free Ireland.

THE IRISH STATE’S sovereign wealth fund has just sold all of its shares in tobacco companies in a move to offload some of its ‘legacy investments’.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan announced today that the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (Isif) “has completed the sale of its remaining investments in tobacco manufacturing”.

Isif said its decision to sell off its legacy investments in tobacco manufacturing companies “is part of a wider review of the exclusion of categories of investment from the fund as a whole, which is due to be completed in early 2017″.

Isif recently told that, as of 30 September 2016, it had equity holdings in three tobacco companies with a value of €1.5 million. A spokesman for the NTMA said that the company also held €16.7 million in tobacco-related corporate bonds.

This is relatively small relative to Isif’s total investments. The organisation, which was established with remaining funds from the National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF), has a total fund of €7.9 billion and expects to have about €3 billion of that by the end of 2016.

The NTMA’s investments in the companies are made through fund managers, rather than the organisation actively selecting the firms or industries.

Ethical investment

Isif’s ethical investment policy for armaments is mainly influenced by its commitment to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, but this policy does not stop its funds going into the sector altogether.

Under the UN guidelines, Isif is required to carry out investments on an ‘active-ownership basis’, which means it does not have to rule out any companies as long as it works to improve their environmental, social and governance policies.

A law that would have banned Isif from investing in tobacco companies was recently floated in the Seanad by Fianna Fáil Seanad health spokesperson Dr Keith Swanick, who said that the state’s investments in tobacco companies “makes a complete mockery of the stated objectives of a tobacco free Ireland by 2025″.

The Department of Finance said that all of Isif’s investments since its establishment in December 2014, “comply with the fund’s sustainability and responsible investment policy, which sets out key principles for responsible investment”.

Tobacco control

Minister Noonan welcomed Isif’s decision, saying: “Ireland has earned a significant reputation as a leader in tobacco control and, as we know, tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable death in Ireland and throughout the world.

The legislation that established the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, provides that the fund’s investment strategy will be carried out in accordance with government policy. Today’s decision reinforces the government’s policy on tobacco.

He added: “Public policy is not fixed and can evolve, and the ongoing reviews by the Isif are opportunities to fine tune its investment approach in the light of relevant developments both nationally and internationally.”

This story was updated to include more information on the value of ISIF’s tobacco holding

Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on

Letter of Support for Proposed 85% Health Warnings

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Support for Hong Kong’s Proposed 85% Graphic Health Warnings

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CalPERS extends ban on tobacco to external asset managers

The Investment Committee for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) has voted to broaden the tobacco investment restrictions to externally managed portfolios of public assets.

The €270 billion pension scheme also decided to remain divested from tobacco-related securities in internally managed public equity and debt portfolios.

Commenting on the decision, chair of the Investment Committee, Henry Jones, said: ‘There is no doubt that divestment as an investment strategy presents challenges.

However, after careful consideration of all the benefits and risks, the Committee has decided not only to maintain our current policy regarding tobacco divestment, but to extend the restrictions.’

The CalPERS tobacco restrictions date back to 2000, when concerns over ongoing litigation and regulatory risks facing the tobacco industry prompted it to take action.

Analysis performed in 2015 by Wilshire Associates, CalPERS board’s investment consultant, indicated that the pension fund’s restrictions on tobacco reduced portfolio returns by approximately $3 billion between 2001 and 2014. The committee decided in April 2016 to request a review of the current tobacco restrictions.

CalPERS chief investment officer, Ted Eliopoulos, said that he appreciated the committee’s willingness to review the sensitive topic of investment in tobacco. ‘We understand their concerns and will maintain the current tobacco exclusions while working to extend the tobacco divestment to our external portfolios.’

As part of the action, CalPERS staff will now study the appropriate timing and implementation.

Largest public pension system to sell all tobacco stocks

The nation’s largest public pension system is giving up tobacco.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System decided Monday to sell its last $550 million worth of tobacco-related investments nearly two decades after trading away the bulk of them.

In a 9-3 vote, the CalPERS investment committee disregarded the advice from its own financial advisers who recommended reversing a sell-off of tobacco stock that was approved in 2000, which has cost the system more than $3 billion in lost earnings.

At that time, CalPERS divested tobacco holdings managed by its in-house advisers, but it allowed outside managers to retain the investments they controlled.

Public health organizations overwhelmingly opposed a reinvestment, saying it would send the message that California supports a product that causes cancer and raises health care costs.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in de-normalizing tobacco, to get people to think that tobacco is not OK,” said Jim Knox, vice president of the American Cancer Society’s advocacy arm. “To have the largest pension program in the world to suddenly get back into tobacco in a big way sends the wrong message.”

Hiking tobacco excise alone won’t reduce smoking: Finance Ministry

The Finance Ministry doubts that the increase in tobacco excise can reduce the prevalence of smoking in the country, arguing that the regulation needs to be combined with non-fiscal policy to make it more effective.

Suahasil Nazara, the ministry’s fiscal policy office (BKF) head, said besides gradually increasing excise tax, educating people about the negative impact of smoking and preventing youths from purchasing tobacco products also were equally important.

“I don’t believe that increasing excise tax will reduce the prevalence of smoking. We need to use a combination of fiscal and non-fiscal policies,” he said in a discussion on cigarettes at Hotel Borobudur in Central Jakarta.

In eight years, the number of tobacco factories had gone down from 4,669 in 2007 to 714 in 2015, which reflected the recent decline in cigarette production. The fact implied that production had decreased in line with market forces, he said.

The government’s argument was slammed by Hasbullah Thabrany, a professor of public health at the University of Indonesia’s School of Public Health, who said the reason behind the declining number of tobacco companies was because many small companies—mostly hand-rolled cigarettes—were unable to compete with big firms.

The Finance Ministry announced in October that it had issued a regulation to increase excise taxes by an average of 10.54 percent next year for several types of cigarettes. The price increase was lower than the target set by the government this year of 11.33 percent. (win/evi)

KT&G cigarettes smuggled into S. America, messing up local market

By Lee Hyo-sik

Billions of KT&G Esse and Pine cigarette brands have been smuggled into Chile, Guatemala and other South American nations this year, distorting the region’s tobacco market, according to industry officials there Tuesday.

The officials told The Korea Times that made-in-Korea goods account for more than 50 percent of the contraband cigarettes in some countries. They urged Korea’s largest tobacco company, headed by CEO Baek Bok-in, to take steps to prevent its products from being smuggled and sold on the black market in South America.

They say the increasing volume of illegally traded KT&G products has tarnished Korea’s image at a time when more and more Latin American consumers buy made-in-Korea vehicles, electronics and other consumer goods, as hallyu, the Korean cultural wave, sweeps the region.

An executive at one multinational tobacco firm operating in Chile said as much as 25 percent of the nation’s cigarettes sales were made on the black market, adding that the ratio has been increasing since Chile raised a tobacco sales tax in 2010.

“The majority of the falsified cigarettes were manufactured in Korea and India, most of which were smuggled from Bolivia,” said the executive, who declined to be named. “Contraband cigarettes are much cheaper because they are not taxed. The size of Chile’s cigarette black market has been expanding rapidly. It is estimated that KT&G’s Pine and Esse brands account for more than 50 percent of the black market cigarettes.”

The Korean cigarette maker supplies Esse and Pine to three importers in Bolivia: ZABIM SRL, ZAIRE and BBS SRL. However, substantial amounts of cigarettes brought into Bolivia through a Chilean port have been smuggled back into Chile.

KT&G produces Esse brand cigarettes for export at its main Shintanjin plant, South Chungcheong Province, and its plant in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province, makes Pine brand cigarettes for overseas markets.

“100 percent of Korean products seized in Chile have the Bolivian stamp. In a bid to curb the influx of KT&G cigarettes into the nation’s black market, tobacco companies here filed a complaint with the Korean Embassy in Chile. But nothing has been done,” the executive told The Korea Times. “We believe that KT&G is well aware of this situation, but it hasn’t done anything either. This has seriously damaged Korea’s image in the country.”

In November alone, the Chilean government seized 4.2 million KT&G brand cigarettes.

Guatemala has also been struggling to deal with the soaring volume of KT&G contraband. Pine Change and Esse Change brands, initially shipped to neighboring Belize, are smuggled into Guatemala, distorting its tobacco market.

“Guatemala is another country hit by the influx of smuggled KT&G cigarettes. Despite several initiatives by the authorities there to stop the problem, KT&G brands continue to enter the market, accounting for over 45 percent of the total contraband in Guatemala City and its adjacent areas,” the executive said. “The Guatemalan government has so far seized over 32 million cigarettes, 25 percent of which are KT&G brands.”

Tarnishing Korea’s image

The increasing volume of illicitly traded KT&G cigarettes has adversely affected Korea’s image abroad, according to an official at one of the foreign cigarette makers in Korea, who said the nation’s largest tobacco firm should ensure its products are sold abroad legally.

“KT&G has turned a blind eye to what happens to its products after selling them. But it shouldn’t,” the official said. “The company must make sure that its cigarettes are distributed and sold legally in foreign markets. Otherwise, this would cause further damage to its corporate brand and adversely affect Korea’s image.”

In response, KT&G officials said they are unaware of the large-scale smuggling of its cigarettes in South America, arguing the products are shipped to legitimate buyers through legal channels.

“We place an official stamp issued by the Bolivian government on all our products exported to that country,” a KT&G spokesman said. “As far as we know, our cigarettes have always been exported legitimately. But there is no way for us to know how the products are distributed and sold afterward.”

In 2015, the company sold 46.5 billion cigarettes in more than 50 foreign countries, compared to its domestic sales of 40.6 billion.

The Middle East accounted for 48.8 percent of KT&G’s overseas sales, followed by Latin America and Europe with 14.2 percent, and Central Asia with 11.5 percent. The Esse brand cigarettes were the most popular, accounting for 55.5 percent of the firm’s total sales abroad, followed by Pine with 29.2 percent and Time at 5.3 percent.