Monthly Archives: March 2012

Plain tobacco packs ‘could have huge impact on stores’

Retailers are being urged to back a campaign against the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products, with a consultation on the proposal set to start later this month, according to today’s Independent Retail News.

Smokers’ group Forest kicked off its Hands Off Our Packs campaign last week, with many lobbyists expecting the three-month consultation to be unveiled on national No Smoking Day on 14 March.


Cigarette Shop
Cigarettes dispaly in a tobacco store

Health campaigners around the world are pressing governments to introduce plain packs, with Australia set to be the first country to adopt the measure later this year.

Simon Clark, director of Forest, told Independent Retail News: “We hope to get as many retailers on board as possible because it’s an issue that’s going to have a big impact on small retailers and village stores.”

He claimed that as the ban on smoking in public places had contributed to the closure of pubs around the country, so plain packs could lead to small retailers shutting up shop.

Store owners should raise the issue with their MPs, Clark said. “If just half a dozen retailers in a constituency write to their MPs, the politicians will take that issue seriously. We would simply urge retailers to write to their MPs and contact us as well. We can provide them with campaign tools, leaflets to hand out to their customers, window stickers, anything they need to get the message across.”

He added: “The concern we have is this won’t stop with tobacco. The next logical step would be to put alcohol in some form of plain packaging. We would find a situation in 20 years’ time when a significant number of products that small retailers rely on for their regular income are supplied in plain packs.”

At the launch of Hands Off Our Packs, Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank, said: “There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that banning the branding of cigarettes will reduce the number of children or adults taking up smoking.”

Chris Snowdon, author of a report about plain packaging published last month, said the measure “seems to be aimed at inconveniencing retailers, stigmatising consumers and helping counterfeiters.”

But anti-smoking group Ash said there was “a growing body of evidence” supporting the idea that plain packaging will help prevent young people from taking up smoking.

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Tobacco News


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Yanukovych signs law to ban tobacco advertising

In what public health activists are hailing as a big victory for the nation, President Viktor Yanukovych on March 13 signed into law a national ban on all forms of advertising, sponsorship and promotion by the tobacco industry.

Gauloises Ad
Gauloises cigarettes advertising in Ukraine

The law, which will take effect in six months, prohibits all forms of advertising in print and also at the point-of-sale, such as street kiosks, where most customers buy their cigarettes. Moreover, the tobacco industry would be prohibited from employing people to work the streets and give away packs of cigarettes as promotions. It would also ban industry-sponsored nightclub parties that attracted young people. The law also forbids advertising on cigarette packs just as another law requiring stronger, graphic warnings on packs takes effect.

The measure strengthens previous bans on tobacco advertising on TV, billboards, radio and most print publications.

“This is a big victory for public health,” said Konstantin Krasovsky, one of Ukraine’s leading public health activists. “The experience of other countries shows that a comprehensive ad ban will lead to a decline in smoking, not as fast as with tax increases. The advertising ban will have more influence not on current smokers, but on deterring future smokers. Advertising is meant more to attract new customers.”

Krasovsky, who has been pushing for such an ad ban for more than 15 years, said the politics of public health have changed for the better in Ukraine.

During President Leonid Kuchma’s tenure from 1994-2005, Krasovsky said that tobacco-control activists had no allies in the administration and the tobacco industry had tremendous clout. Kuchma twice vetoed tobacco ad bans passed by parliament with support from all political forces, Krasovsky said. No ad ban was put into place under President Viktor Yushchenko’s term from 2005-2010 either.

While the tobacco industry in Ukraine remains strong, Krasovsky said, more people are realizing the harmful effects of smoking, which causes more than 100,000 premature deaths in Ukraine every year.

As a consequence, not only did members of all political parties support a tobacco ad ban, Krasovsky said that several influential members of Yanukovych’s administration and inner circle supported the legislation.

Among them, Krasovsky cited: presidential aide Hanna Herman; the president’s representative in parliament, Yuriy Miroshnychenko; and the president’s younger son, Viktor Jr., a member of parliament who forcefully and publicly came out in support of the advertising ban on March 5.

Unlike many other laws in Ukraine that get passed but remain unenforced, Krasovsky believes the advertising ban will work better than the laws requiring restaurants and bars to set aside areas for non-smokers.

“For advertising, it’s easier to enforce,” Krasovsky said. “It’s difficult to control 100,000 restaurants, but much easier to control 100 advertising agencies. We also expect the tobacco industry will find loopholes, but we will try to close these as much as we can.”

Combined with other public-health measures, Krasovsky said that Ukraine is already seeing a decline in mortality among middle-aged people due to changes in lifestyle. Statistics show that people are smoking less and drinking less alcohol, he said. While some 11 million Ukrainians, or 29 percent of the population, still smoke, that’s four million fewer than in 2005, Krasovsky said.

More progress can be made, Krasovsky said, if parliament adopts legislation that imposes a 100 percent ban on indoor smoking in all public places, including restaurants and bars. Moreover, he said, government should hike cigarette taxes more – both to raise revenue and because it is the most effective way to reduce smoking.

Ukrainian cigarettes remain among the cheapest in the world. Consequently, the tobacco industry makes more than are consumed in the nation. Many of the rest end up smuggled illegally to the West.

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Tobacco News


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A Boost for Keeping Menthol Cigarettes Legal

A Food and Drug Administration scientist has found a lower risk of dying from lung cancer among menthol smokers compared to non-menthol smokers at ages 50 and over, according to a report in the Winston-Salem Journal.

Glamour Menthol Aroma
Glamour Menthol Aroma cigarettes

The scientist, Brian Rostron of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, studied data of 6,074 smokers from 1987 to 2006, including 1,417 who smoked only menthol cigarettes.

The lower risk of dying from lung cancer was found in all age groups, in men and women, and with black smokers compared with white smokers.

“These results agree with expectations that any association between lung cancer and menthol smoking would be greatest at ages in which smokers have smoked longer and accumulated more pack-years of smoking,” Rostron said in a study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research .

The report adds another layer of complexity to the public-health debate over menthol cigarettes, which are mint-flavored and one of the few growth sectors of the shrinking cigarette business, according to the newspaper report.

The FDA in June began an independent review of research following a report from its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory committee that recommends a ban of menthol cigarettes.

The committee said the flavoring has led to an increase in smokers–particularly among teens, African-Americans and those with low incomes. It also said menthol flavoring makes it harder for them to quit.

A menthol ban or other restrictions on the cigarettes would fall heavily on Lorillard Inc., whose Newport brand is the top-selling US menthol cigarette at 35% of the market.

“The public-health implications of any decreased lung cancer risk of menthol smoking compared with non-menthol smoking, if ever conclusively demonstrated, are inevitably problematic,” Rostron said. “Smoking of any kind of cigarette is known to profoundly harm individual and population health.

“Further study is needed into possible explanations for the observed association and the public-health impact of potential reasons for it. This research could potentially identify ways to decrease the individual risk of cigarettes.”

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Tobacco News


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Tobacco firms celebrate as judge rules against graphic images on packets

Judge rules mandate to put images, including a sewn-up corpse of a smoker, on cigarette packets violates free speech.

Tobacco Companies
Cigarette manufacturers

A judge has blocked a federal requirement that would have forced US tobacco companies to put large graphic images on their cigarette packages later this year to show the dangers of smoking.

US District Judge Richard Leon in Washington ruled that the mandate to put the images, which include a sewn-up corpse of a smoker and a picture of diseased lungs, on cigarette packets violated the free speech amendment to the constitution.

He had temporarily blocked the requirement in November, saying it was likely cigarette makers would succeed in a lawsuit, which could take years to resolve. That decision already is being appealed by the government.

Some of the largest US tobacco companies, including RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co and Lorillard Tobacco Co, had questioned the constitutionality of the labels, saying the warnings didn’t simply convey facts to inform people’s decision whether to smoke but instead forced the cigarette makers to display government anti-smoking advocacy more prominently than their own branding. They also said changing the packaging would cost millions of dollars.

The Food and Drug Administration said the public interest in conveying the dangers of smoking outweighed the companies’ free speech rights.

In his ruling on Wednesday, Leon wrote that the graphic images “were neither designed to protect the consumer from confusion or deception, nor to increase consumer awareness of smoking risks; rather, they were crafted to evoke a strong emotional response calculated to provoke the viewer to quit or never start smoking.”

“While the line between the constitutionally permissible dissemination of factual information and the impermissible expropriation of a company’s advertising space for government advocacy can be frustratingly blurry, here the line seems quite clear,” Leon wrote.

The FDA and the Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling, but the Department of Health and Human Services released a statement saying the administration was determined to do everything it could to warn people of smoking’s dangers.

“This public health initiative will be an effective tool in our efforts to stop teenagers from starting in the first place and taking up this deadly habit,” the statement said. “We are confident that efforts to stop these important warnings from going forward will ultimately fail.”

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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Tobacco News


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China may raise tobacco price to curb consumption

China is studying the possibility of increasing prices and hiking tax to curb the consumption of tobacco, an official said.

Chinese Smoking
Chinese woman smoking a cigarette

Miao Wei, minister of industry and information technology, and a deputy to parliament, the National People’s Congress, said it was important to reduce the number of smokers and the amount of tobacco they use.

China now has 350 million people smoking, and over one million people die of smoking-related diseases annually, the China Daily reported.

The report said studies have found that when tobacco prices are increased by one percent, the number of smokers goes down by 0.4 percent.

Health Minister Chen Zhu last week said the move follows a tax hike on cigarettes in 2009, which could not meet the country’s target of easing the rising use of tobacco.

“Most of the growing proportion of smokers are young adults who consume low-end cigarettes and are sensitive to price,” he said.

China National Tobacco Corp, the state-owned cigarette company, reported an annual net profit of 118 billion yuan (around $19 billion) in 2010. But it evoked widespread public criticism of the company’s windfall at the cost of people’s health.

The mounting health concerns forced authorities to raise the levy on cigarettes by six to 11 percent in May 2009. But the tax did not curb cigarette use as some experts expected.

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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Tobacco News


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Uganda becomes key tobacco producer

Uganda is becoming a key tobacco growing country six years after British America Tobacco Uganda (BATU) decided to concentrate on growing the leaf and leaving the production of cigarettes to its Kenyan operations.

Uganda Tobacco Field
A farmer at a tobacco field

British American Tobacco has already made Uganda the key location for its leaf operations. The company relocated its regional headquarters for Leaf Operations in Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (EEMEA), from South Africa to Uganda.

From just one country with only 30,000 farmers, Uganda will now oversee 11 countries, three continents, 1,038 employees and 100,000 farmers. According to Alain Schacher, BATU’s Managing Director, who is also EEMEA Regional Leaf Supply Manager, the choice was between Uganda and Zimbabwe, another key source.

But Uganda emerged favourite because of its potential for growth, with more opportunities for expansion in terms of the farmers’ base, availability of land and political stability.

“For BAT, Uganda is a key source for tobacco for the group. To improve synergy between the global strategy and the local implementation, we felt Uganda was the best location,” Schacher says.

Last year, BATU farmers produced 18,000 tons of tobacco leaves higher than 12,000 tons produced in 2010. The move by BATU to close its cigarette factory in Jinja in 2006 and shift its equipment to Kenya raised debate over the company’s future in Uganda.

Some people argued then that some investors were finding Uganda hostile, and Kenya offered better opportunities. But BATU has proved all those sceptics wrong.

“For BAT, Uganda is a key source for tobacco for the group. To improve synergy between the global strategy and the local implementation, we felt Uganda was the best location,” Schacher says.

“We want to grow our farmers bigger, not necessarily to commercialize but a farmer with half an acre can move on to an acre so that we have effective means of dealing with them,” he adds.

This year, the company looks forward to consolidating last year’s produce. “By the office being here, farmers are assured of transformation. You get prime knowledge, prime technology and resources. They are at the heart of the business,” Schacher notes.

BATU intends to spend about $5m in its Uganda operations over the next two to three years. According to Schacher, with tobacco leaf growing, the company’s benefits trickle down to more people as opposed to the factory in Jinja which by the time it closed, it employed only 35 people.

Schacher further notes that it was hard for the country to achieve a lot with the cigarettes. He says 25,000 tons, for example, produce 30 billion sticks of cigarettes. Uganda consumes a total of two billion sticks annually.

“We are a supplier of tobacco, not a supplier of cigarettes,” he says.

BATU exports tobacco leaves to more than 20 countries in the world. The announcement of the new office comes on the heels of several milestones that BAT Uganda has registered this year including a total dividend payment of 11.2 billion to shareholders at Shs 228 per share as well as a 7% increase in profits in the first half of 2011.

The company is listed on the Uganda Securities Exchange, where the counter has turned around after years of its share performing poorly. BAT Uganda also launched a 3.3 billion project to expand the Central Purchasing Point in Hoima to boost its operations in Bunyoro region where it works with 15,000 farmers of its 30,000 contracted farmers.

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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Tobacco Articles


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EU moves towards plain packaging for tobacco products

European health commissioner John Dalli has said that the EU must focus its efforts on “young people and whether they really understand the dangers of the tobacco products they are purchasing”.

Speaking at the discussion organised by the Smoke Free Partnership last Wednesday, Dalli said that the true costs of smoking must be understood, calling on member states to take a long term view, adding that he had received warnings from national ministers telling him to steer clear of tobacco regulation.

Burning Cigarette
Burning cigarette releasing cigarette smoke

“Tobacco products should be presented in a manner that does not encourage or facilitate the uptake of smoking among young people, with the key issue being to reduce the attractiveness of cigarettes”, he said.

The Maltese commissioner said that “cigarette packets, additives and flavourings” are increasingly being used as marketing tools, with flavourings making it “easier to smoke at a younger age”.

Dalli also said he is looking into how to include electronic cigarettes, which he views as being just as bad as traditional cigarettes, in the tobacco products directive.

The event, which looked at standardised packaging of tobacco products, was co-hosted by German EPP deputy Karl Heinz-Florenz and UK S&D deputy Glenis Willmott.

Heinz-Florenz said that parliament’s environment committee had taken “important steps” towards regulation on pictorial warnings and standardised packaging, saying that the commission will be tabling a new report on this soon.

The German MEP promised to start work on this issue “immediately”, but stressed that “the impact assessment is not yet ready” and that there is a need for “serious figures”.

Australian ambassador to the EU Brendan Nelson said that the message that “there is no safe level of consumption for tobacco products” must be spread, adding that even being in the vicinity of those who use the products can damage your health.

Nelson said that the European parliament and national parliaments must be “constantly reminded” of the dangers and costs of these products.

Australia is the world leader in tobacco regulation, having successfully halved its number of teenage smokers, and, on 10 October 2011, voting though legislation regulating the need for larger graphic health warnings and generic packaging.

International expert on warning labels David Hammond stressed that packaging is the “cornerstone” of tobacco marketing.

Hammond said that “plain packaging will reduce the perceived quality of different brands” and removes the possibility of tobacco companies “targeting sub-groups”, such as young women, in focused marketing campaigns.

“Packaging policies are cost-effective, sustainable and their effects are straightforward,” he said.

Céline Brassart, a legal consultant and member of the bar in New York, said that plain packaging legislation would be compatible with EU laws on international trade and intellectual property rights.

Despite tobacco companies owning their trademarks, “this is a privilege not a right”, said Brassart, adding that trademarks can be regulated for “public health reasons”.

Tobacco companies are currently suing the Australian government over its tobacco legislation, but Brassart said that the industry would be required to convince a member state to begin proceedings against the EU on their behalf under WTO agreements.

Regarding contraband cigarettes, Luk Joosens, an expert for the association of European cancer leagues, dismissed industry claims of more regulation equalling more illicit trade.

Joosens pointed to bans in Canada, Ireland and Iceland which had not led to any increases in illicit trading, adding that he felt plain packaging could help in dealing with contraband as visibly recognisable brands are easier to forge.

S&D deputy and co-host Glenis Willmott was highly critical of the tobacco industry for spreading “myths” about plain packaging, before calling for warnings which cover 100 per cent of the packet, as these are “far more effective”.

Willmott also said that the EU’s tobacco products directive should be brought under the World Health Organisation’s framework convention on tobacco control.

Florence Berteletti-Kemp, director of the Smoke Free Partnership said, “Plain packing is feasible, legal and easily implementable. It does not cost any money to governments and works for public health. There is no excuse not to do it.”

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Posted by on March 9, 2012 in Tobacco News


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