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Syria launching first locally-made cigars

| March 31, 2015

In Syria’s north-eastern province of Latakia, workers are rolling the country’s first locally made cigars, despite the country’s suffering a devastating civil conflict now in its fifth year, according to an Al Bawaba.com story.

The project, devised by the state-run General Tobacco Company (GTC), has been three years in the making, with workers learning to hand-roll cigars in accordance with international standards.

“We decided to develop a new product without foreign expertise with the hope of supporting the economy,” said plant manager Shadi Mualla, who is critical of what he believes is the economic war being waged against Syria by the West.

The initiative is expected to create about 1,000 new jobs, according to the company’s director general, Salman al-Abbas.

“The company will start selling the products on the local market very soon and then begin trying to export to friendly countries,” said Abbas.

The tobacco for the cigars is grown by GTC in coastal Latakia, which lent its name to a small-leaved oriental tobacco that was sun-cured and then fumigated over open fires of green wood.

Scholar finds another link between sex and smoking

| March 31, 2015

Men who want to quit smoking should refrain from viewing images of attractive women, according to a Focus Taiwan News Channel report quoting a study by a Taiwanese scholar.

The reason, apparently, is that viewing such images could put men in an immediate-gratification state of mind, leading to reduced self-control over their smoking.

The study, by Chiou Wen-bin, a professor of education at National Sun Yat-sen University, revealed that men who wanted to quit smoking or reduce their tobacco cravings should concentrate on curbing the immediate impulse to smoke.

Viewing pictures of attractive women could stimulate a mating mindset in men, leading them to display increased temporal discounting, which is associated with yielding to the immediately satisfiable impulse to smoke, Chiou said.

Chiou said he and his research team conducted experiments under laboratory conditions to examine whether viewing the faces of attractive women rendered male smokers with the intention to quit or reduce smoking more likely to give in to the immediate impulse to smoke.

Seventy-six men were randomly assigned to view either attractive or unattractive opposite-sex faces.

‘Participants who viewed attractive opposite-sex faces smoked more cigarettes than those who viewed less-attractive faces,” according to the results of the study.

This suggests that ‘thoughts of sex may be connected more closely with impulse-control behaviors such as smoking than previously thought’, the paper stated.

TFWA: planning to stay ahead in Singapore in May

| March 31, 2015

The TFWA Asia Pacific Exhibition and Conference is due to be staged in the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center in Singapore on May 10-14.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Staying a Step Ahead’, a reference to the fast growth of travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region, and to the need for the duty free and travel retail industry to remain competitive and relevant.

US legislators disgusted by trade agreement

| March 30, 2015

At least some members of the US Congress who have had access to the previously secret document relating to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) are said to be disgusted by its contents, according to a New York Times story as reported by Leith van Onselen for the Australian publication MacroBusiness.

The agreement, which has come under fire from a wide range of organizations in a number of countries, is being negotiated in secret by representatives of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

The Times apparently reported that members of Congress have been reviewing the secret document in secure rooms; so their disclosures are the first to be made public since an early version was leaked in 2012.

But the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education (UCSF) last week published a piece from Public Citizen about the leak of the TPPA investment chapter.

The investment chapter reportedly revealed how the pact would make it easier for US firms to offshore US jobs to low-wage countries while newly empowering thousands of foreign firms to seek cash compensation from US taxpayers by challenging US government actions, laws and court rulings before unaccountable foreign tribunals, the Public Citizen said.

After five years of secretive TPPA negotiations, the text – leaked by Wikileaks – proved that growing concerns about the investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) system, which the TPP would extend, were well justified.

Meanwhile Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No.3 Democrat, was reported by the Times to have described what he had read in the document as “really troubling”.

“It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws,” he was quoted as saying.

“I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this”…

Meanwhile, Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, was quoted as saying that while the US Trade Representative would say the US had never lost a case, there were going to be a lot more challenges in the future. “There’s a huge pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for these companies,” he said.

Brown contended that the overall accord, not just the investment provisions, was troubling. “This continues the great American tradition of corporations writing trade agreements, sharing them with almost nobody, so often at the expense of consumers, public health and workers,” he said.

The UCSF story is at: https://tobacco.ucsf.edu/tpp-leak-reveals-extraordinary-new-powers-foreign-firms-challenge-us-policies-and-demand-taxpayer-compensation.

The MacroBusiness story is at: http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2015/03/tpp-bad-even-us-congress-shocked/.

Activists disgusted by free-cigarette distribution

| March 30, 2015

Tobacco-control activists in Indonesia have threatened to file a law suit against Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa for distributing cigarettes to an indigenous tribe in Jambi, according to a story in The Jakarta Globe quoting Merdeka.com.

They have given Khofifah two-weeks to apologize for the action or face legal action.

“We will file a legal suit at the district court because the social affairs minister was deliberately ignoring public health by distributing free cigarettes,” Tulus Abadi, operational manager at the Indonesian Consumers Foundation, said at a press conference on Friday.

Khofifah was criticized after a picture circulated on the internet of her distributing care packages, which included cigarettes, to the indigenous Anak Dalam tribe in Jambi.

The minister was visiting the tribe to express her condolences for the death of 11 people who died of starvation.

Khofifah has dismissed the criticism by saying the free cigarette distribution was just a way to get on the good side of the locals.

“I don’t want to argue but you’d better go there yourself,” she said. “Greet them and ask them about their culture. Do not see things from a Jakarta-centric perspective.”

Investors unfazed by standardized packaging

| March 30, 2015

A wave of standardized tobacco packaging regulations threatening to sweep across Europe might be causing panic among global tobacco companies, but investors in those companies seem far from worried, according to a Dow Jones story.

Despite the UK and Ireland this month having passed laws to impose standardized packaging requirements on tobacco products, and despite the fact that France is already discussing similar proposals, tobacco companies have generally outperformed other consumer-goods makers since the start of the year.

Dow Jones noted that shares in Japan Tobacco Inc. and the Imperial Tobacco Group, which together control 85 percent of the $25 billion UK cigarette market and would be most affected by the imposition of standard packaging there, were both up by about 10 percent during the past three months.

Investors were reasoning that decades of anti-tobacco measures in developed countries had barely harmed the investment case for cigarette companies, so why should this one?