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Archive for October, 2012

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E-cigarettes help smokers quit, but ministry says ban them anyway

| October 16, 2012

Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health is considering banning the import of electronic cigarettes, according to a story in The Costa Rica News.

The ministry says it believes the ban is necessary because the US Food and Drug Administration has said that electronic cigarettes contain toxic substances.

Since a smoking ban was passed inCosta Rica, many companies are said to have promoted the use of the electronic cigarette as a way to help people to stop smoking. But the ministry was quoted as saying that while electronic cigarettes were helpful in aiding quitting, they could be harmful.

Australian taxpayer fund plainly increasing tobacco investments

| October 16, 2012

Australia’s taxpayer-owned Future Fund spent more than $37 million investing in tobacco stocks at the same time as the government was finalising its law on the so-called ‘plain packaging’ of tobacco, according to a story in the Canberra Times.

In a move that has attracted fierce criticism from health groups; the fund’s stake in global tobacco companies has swollen by nearly 50 per cent in recent years to $210 million at the end of June.

Until now, the Fund, which is said to be independent of the government, had not said whether the increase in its tobacco stake had occurred because it had been buying more stock or if its existing shares had risen in value.

Now, however, the fund has revealed its managers bought more shares in tobacco companies before February this year.

In response to questions posed in May, the Fund has said that $37.8 million of the $78.0 million increase in its tobacco holdings between December 2010 and February this year was driven by increased buying.

Share price and currency movements accounted for the remaining $40.2 million of the increase, the fund said in response to a Senate estimates question.

The purchases occurred while the federal government was passing legislation for the ‘plain packaging’ of tobacco.

In response to its critics, the Future Fund argues the tobacco investments do not breach its internal policies because cigarettes are legal.

The Times story said the Fund, worth $77 billion, invested also in ‘nuclear arms companies’.

The Greens have proposed ethical investment rules for the Fund – a position rejected by Labor and the Coalition.

Plain packaging fails to recognize adult smokers have right to choose

| October 16, 2012

The New Zealand government’s proposal to force cigarettes into ‘plain packaging’ fails to respect adult smokers who wish to run their own lives and make their own decisions, British American Tobacco New Zealand (BATNZ) has said in a press note.

“There is already universal awareness of the risks associated with smoking,” said Steve Rush, general manager BATNZ. “A large portion of the pack has graphic warnings which make the packaging very unappealing. “Plain packaging is unnecessary and a step too far.

“We agree that tobacco is harmful and needs to be regulated in a reasonable and proportionate way. But we disagree with disproportionate regulation that only serves to stigmatize and frustrate the many adult New Zealanders who have taken personal responsibility for their choice to smoke.”

BATNZ’s position is more fully expressed at: http://www.agreedisagree.co.nz/our-view.html.

Medvedev threatens smokers: these tobacco laws are “just the beginning”

| October 16, 2012

Russia’s Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, has said that a proposed anti-tobacco law was “just the beginning” of a campaign to counter high mortality rates in the country, according to a story by Stepan Kravchenko and Henry Meyer for Bloomberg News.

The government is due to submit the bill to lawmakers by November 1, outlawing all cigarette advertising and sponsorship immediately and banning sales in smaller retail outlets and smoking in public places from January 1, 2015.

More significantly, the Health Ministry has proposed raising taxes to RUB4,000 per 1,000 cigarettes by the end of 2015 from RUB510 this year, according to a letter from Health Minister, Veronika Skvortsova, to the deputy prime minister, Olga Golodets.

Such a move would escalate Russia’s cigarette tax policy. Excise taxes were already scheduled to increase by about 40 per cent a year between now and the end of 2014 under current government policy.

State-owned Nepalese tobacco factory might be leased to private sector

| October 15, 2012

Nepal’s Public Enterprises Management Board has recommended leasing the assets and management of the Janakpur Cigarette Factory to the private sector, according to a story in Republica.

The Board believes this is the only course of action that might lead to the revival of the state-owned tobacco company, which has been closed for two years.

The recommendation is contained in a report that the Board, a government advisory body on the functioning of public enterprises, is due to hand to the Ministry of Finance.

It will be implemented only if the finance ministry and the Cabinet give the go-ahead.

Leasing out the factory to the private sector had been recommended, in part, because the Board believed the government should not be involved in the production of goods, such as cigarettes, that were harmful, Board member Narayan Bajaj was quoted as saying.

Bajaj, a chartered accountant, said also that the Board believed it was time for private sector involvement in running the factory since the government had failed to generate profits and had lost a significant level of market share to private companies.

Tobacco and alcohol would be off limits under smart-card welfare scheme

| October 15, 2012

UK Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, is aiming to prevent welfare money from being spent on cigarettes and alcohol, according to a story in the Telegraph relayed by the TMA.

Smith has apparently directed department officials to study whether welfare recipients should receive their payments on smart cards, rather than in cash, with the cards limited for use only on ‘priority’ items, such as food, housing, clothing, education and health care.

One of Smith’s close aides said the secretary was serious about the issue because some claimants were spending their welfare money to “fund a habit and children are going hungry.”

The smart cards would be modelled after Australia’s ‘basics card’ scheme, under which claimants use electronic ‘credit’ cards to purchase ‘priority’ items at approved stores across the country.

Smith said he was against using US-style food stamps because they were often traded as a form of currency.