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Health groups welcome tobacco exclusion from trade agreement

| October 6, 2015

The United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations on Oct. 5 reached a final agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after eight years of negotiations, and a provision that excludes the tobacco industry from participation in the TTP’s dispute system has been welcomed by advocates of public health.

The TPP—which is the largest regional trade accord in history—includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam, bringing together countries representing two-fifths of the world’s economy.

Included in the TPP is a provision that protects the right of participating nations to adopt public health measures that aim to reduce tobacco use. The provision also prevents tobacco companies from using the TPP to launch legal attacks on such measures, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

This tobacco “carve-out” from the TPP’s investment dispute system—which would bar tobacco companies from challenging governments’ health policies and threatening lawsuits for the passage of anti-tobacco regulations—has received pushback for its potential to hurt the American tobacco industry but represents a victory for public health advocates.

The provision is viewed by health groups as a critical step toward ending the tobacco industry’s efforts to challenge tobacco control measures—Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco sued the British government in May for the introduction of plain-packaging laws—and it sets an important precedent for future trade agreements.

Tobacco companies have been permitted to challenge governments in the past thanks to investor-state dispute settlement provisions that allow them to sue countries for implementing legislation or regulation that could hurt their profits; however, the tobacco carve-out under the TPP would permit signatory countries to exclude tobacco products from industry protection provided under trade agreements.

The conclusion of the TPP negotiations marks an important first step to developing a set of common rules that govern trans-Pacific commerce, but President Barack Obama now faces the challenge of securing approval of the deal from the U.S. Congress.

JTI calls for transparency on plain-packaging report

| October 6, 2015

The Australian government has not yet published its Post-Implementation Review (PIR) regarding plain-packaging six months after the conclusion of the consultation period.

This delay in publishing has raised concerns about the integrity of the report and caused concerns that its authors could be misrepresenting data or omitting evidence in order to ensure the country’s plain-packaging policy is viewed as a success.

Plain packaging was introduced in Australia in 2012 with an end goal of reducing the nation’s smoking rates. According to the Australian government, the objectives of the plain packaging measure are to reduce the attractiveness and appeal of tobacco products to consumers; increase the noticeability and effectiveness of mandated health warnings; reduce the ability of the retail packaging of tobacco products to mislead consumers about the harms of smoking; and to ultimately reduce smoking rates.

In the three years since plain packaging was introduced in Australia, no change to the decline in smoking rates has been shown, according to the latest official data from the Australian government. Without evidence of a decline in smoking rates, supporters of plain packaging are finding it difficult to claim the measures have achieved their goals.

“The Department of Health [DoH] knows that this policy has failed,” said Michiel Reerink, Japan Tobacco International’s (JTI) regulatory strategy vice president. “The objective of the ban on brands was to improve public health by discouraging people from using tobacco products, and reducing their exposure to tobacco smoke. The government’s own data shows that these objectives have not been met.”

The DoH began its review of Australia’s plain packaging earlier this year, at which time it requested information detailing the impact the policy has had since its implementation. The consultation period ended in March. Although government guidelines suggest that PIRs should be published within three to six months after information is gathered, the Australian government has yet to publish this information.

“Tobacco control lobbyists are traveling around the world on taxpayers’ money to convince regulators that plain packaging has been a success in Australia,” said Reerink. “But anyone who looks at the official data can see for themselves: There is no proof that this ban on brands has worked.”

JTI has called for transparency from the Australian government regarding publication of the PIR.

“We urge the Department of Health to publish a complete and transparent review of this policy, without further delay,” says Reerink. “The PIR should be based on all of the evidence, in line with the requirements of the Australian Government’s Office of Best Practice Regulation. Crucially, the results of the plain packaging policy should be measured against its original objectives. Without this report being published soon, people risk being misled by biased reports and analysis on a measure that has done nothing to improve public health.”

Tobacco excluded from trade dispute system

| October 6, 2015

The tobacco industry has been excluded from participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) dispute system that allows foreign corporations to challenge governments’ health policies, according to a story in The New York Times relayed by the TMA.

After eight years of negotiations, including five days of just-concluded talks in the US, 12 Pacific Rim nations yesterday agreed to be part of the TPP.

The TPP includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam; and it is set to affect 40 percent of the world’s economy.

The Times said that its implementation would mean the phasing-out of thousands of import tariffs and other trade barriers, the establishment of uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, a new code of conduct governing lawyers selected for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) panels, and the tobacco “carve-out” from the investment dispute system that allows foreign corporations to challenge governments’ health policy decisions.

ISDS provisions of the TPP previously proved to be some of the most controversial of the agreement and it is unlikely that the concessions outlined by the Times will assuage some of those opposed.

The TPP has been negotiated in secret between corporations and trade representatives of the countries concerned, but, as far as is known, ISDS provisions would allow a company that invested in a country to sue that country if regulations were enacted that harmed its business, even in the event that those regulations were designed to improve the health of the nation. Such actions are possible now, but, in the main, they have to be conducted before a court of law in the country concerned.

Under ISDS, such actions would be brought before tribunals operating in secret outside of the country’s judicial system. None of the tribunal’s deliberations would be made public despite the fact that taxpayers would have to foot the bill for the defense and, if the company were to prevail, whatever judgement were made against the country. Many believe such provisions are anti-democratic.

The Times said that even though President Obama had ‘fast track’ trade promotion authority ensuring that trade pacts get expedited consideration in Congress with a yes-or-no vote without amendments or filibusters, the TPP could face months of debate.

TPP, the largest regional trade deal in history, could set a precedent for global commerce and worker standards, and could be the capstone for Obama’s foreign policy.

The president has argued that the TPP would build a “bulwark” against China’s economic influence and allow the US to set standards for Pacific commerce.

Though the full 30-chapter text is unlikely to be available for a month, labor unions, environmentalists and liberal activists are expected to argue that TPP favors big business over workers and the environment.

TFWA issues reassurance about Cannes exhibition

| October 6, 2015

The TFWA [Tax Free World Association] has moved to reassure exhibitors and visitors that its partners are working to ensure that its upcoming event in Cannes, France, will take place without disruption, despite the devastating floods that struck the city on the weekend.

The TFWA World Exhibition & Conference 2015 is due to be held at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, Cannes, on October 18-23.

‘The thoughts of the TFWA board, management committee and permanent staff are with our friends and partners in the city of Cannes as they manage the aftermath of the devastating floods of last weekend,’ the organization said in a statement issued yesterday. ‘We are especially shocked and saddened by the loss of life in the Côte d’Azur region and extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims and families affected by this tragedy.

‘In the midst of such an event, business concerns are secondary, but with the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference so close, we would like to reassure our exhibitors and visitors that we are in constant contact with our partners in Cannes who are working round the clock to ensure that our event – and others currently under way – can take place without disruption.

‘Indeed, we are heartened to learn that Reed Midem have been able to open the Mipcom exhibition at the Palais des Festivals this morning without major problems. The reaction of the city of Cannes and its partners to clean streets and properties, and to deploy manpower wherever needed, has been remarkable.
‘Thanks to the professionalism of our partners in Cannes and to the rapid response of the city authorities, we have no doubt that the TFWA World Exhibition & Conference will go ahead according to plan.

‘We would like to take this opportunity to express our solidarity with Mayor David Lisnard and his teams, along with our friends at SEMEC, ALTEC, B Network, Creative Spirit and all those working to ensure the city of Cannes enjoys a swift return to normality.

‘TFWA will provide further information and updates whenever possible.’

Landmark study uses 22nd Century’s low-nicotine cigarettes

| October 5, 2015

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has published an article detailing a landmark study that used low-nicotine Spectrum cigarettes produced by 22nd Century, a leader in tobacco harm reduction.

The double-blind, parallel, randomized clinical trial was led by the Center for the Evaluation of Nicotine in Cigarettes and involved 840 smokers at 10 locations. Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products, the study included six styles of 22nd Century’s Spectrum research cigarettes.

The cigarettes had nicotine contents ranging from 15.8 mg per gram of tobacco (similar to commercial brands) to 0.4 mg per gram (“very low nicotine”). The very low nicotine Spectrum cigarettes contain 95 percent less nicotine than conventional cigarettes, according to 22nd Century, which claims to be the only company in the world capable of growing tobacco with such low nicotine content.

The authors concluded that data from the study suggests 22nd Century’s proprietary low-nicotine Spectrum cigarettes were “associated with reductions in smoking, nicotine exposure, and nicotine dependence, with minimal evidence of nicotine withdrawal, compensatory smoking, or serious adverse events.”

Researchers found that during the sixth and final week of the trial, participants who were assigned Spectrum cigarettes with 0.4 mg/g nicotine smoked fewer cigarettes per day (14.9) than those who were assigned to their usual brand of cigarettes (22.2). In addition, very low nicotine cigarettes were found to reduce exposure to, and dependence on, nicotine and to reduce cravings while adverse events were generally mild and similar among groups. In the 30 days following the trial, smokers of very low nicotine cigarettes reported that they attempted to quit smoking at a rate double that of participants who smoked cigarettes with 15.8 mg/gram nicotine (34.7 percent compared to 17 percent).

“The evidence is getting stronger that reducing nicotine reduces smoking and makes people less addicted to cigarettes and, in doing so, might make them more likely to quit,” Dr. Eric Donny, the study’s lead author, was quoted as saying in article posted on

To further test that theory, Spectrum cigarettes are being used in a phase III clinical study that follows 1,250 smokers for five months.

The results of previous studies using very low nicotine cigarettes have demonstrated a variety of desirable outcomes, including reduced smoking, reduced nicotine exposure, reduce nicotine dependence, increased abstinence, reduced exposure to toxicants and few adverse events with little evidence of withdrawal-related discomfort or safety concerns.

Unlike “light” cigarettes, which reduce nicotine yields by diluting the smoke rather than by reducing the nicotine content of tobacco, very low nicotine cigarettes do not result in compensatory smoking.

“The current study by Donny and colleagues adds to a growing literature supporting the feasibility and potential benefits of a national nicotine reduction policy … ” public health policy reform advocates Drs. Michael Fiore and Timothy Baker explained in a separate article published in same issue of the NEJM. “Reducing the nicotine content of combustible tobacco to levels that will not sustain dependence seems to us to be the most promising regulatory policy option for preventing [at least] 20 million premature deaths.”

Prosecutors raid KT&G over alleged corruption

| October 5, 2015

Prosecutors announced on Oct. 2 that they have raided the headquarters of KT&G, South Korea’s leading tobacco maker, due to allegations that the company created slush funds in the process of taking over other companies, according to The Korea Herald.

The office of Min Young-jin, the former head of KT&G Corp., as well as that of his secretary, were included on the list of raids, the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said. Prosecutors confiscated from the state-run tobacco firm accounting books and transaction information regarding KT&G’s business partners. They suspect Min created secret funds while taking over and managing a local cosmetics company and a bio venture company that has become KT&G’s affiliate.

Min resigned in July, when prosecutors launched the investigation.