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Biofuel production triggered by tobacco enzymes

| April 16, 2015

A ‘Bioboost’ research project under way in Norway is using genetically engineered tobacco plants as a ‘factory’ to produce enzymes that can break down biomass from forest-based raw materials, potentially leading to the economic and sustainable production of biofuels, according to a Science Daily story relayed by the TMA.

The project is being led by Dr. Jihong Liu Clarke of the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research (Bioforsk).

The first step in the production of forest-based biofuels requires that the biomass is broken down to sugar with the use of a cocktail of enzymes.

But the current high cost of producing the enzymes – in a fermentation-based system – is a major impediment for cost-effective biorefinery.

Now, researchers are using genetically engineered tobacco plants as a potential replacement for the energy-demanding fermentation-based systems.

Dr. Liu Clarke said producing the enzymes in plants was cheap because plants could use free carbon dioxide and energy.

And the tobacco plant was ideal for this purpose because it had many large leaves that provided “good” biomass; it grew quickly; and it could be harvested three or four times a year.

Tobacco firms challenge FDA’s authority over packs

| April 16, 2015

The US’s biggest tobacco companies are suing the Food and Drug Administration over recent guidelines that they claim overstep the agency’s authority in respect of tobacco-products packaging, according to an associated press story.

Lorillard and units of Reynolds American and Altria filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming the FDA’s guidance infringes on their commercial speech.

The FDA gained authority to regulate tobacco in 2009 with the passing of the Tobacco Control Act, which handed it the power to pre-review new tobacco products that were significantly different from products already on the market.

Last month, the agency issued guidelines intended to help manufacturers determine which new products require FDA review.

But the tobacco manufacturers allege that the FDA is asserting overly-broad authority to approve or deny any labeling change that would make a product ‘distinct’.

The company lawsuit argues that the FDA only has prior review of tobacco labels claiming a ‘modified risk’.

The FDA said in a statement that it did not comment on litigation.

Namibia leaf project gets environmental clearance

| April 15, 2015

A N$14 billion tobacco and maize project mooted for Namibia’s Zambezi region has received environmental clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, according to a story in The Namibian.

The Chinese company, Namibia Oriental Tobacco, has applied for 10,000 ha in the Zambezi Region for tobacco and maize production.

The environmental impact assessment submitted by the company states that the primary purpose of the farm will be tobacco production, though maize will be planted on a rotational basis in order to prevent or minimise the occurrence of tobacco related pests and diseases.

The company endorsed the project by stating that from 1995 to 1997 trials in tobacco production in Namibia’s Omaheke, Oshikoto, Otjozondjupa, Okavango (East and West) and Omusati regions were conducted and that they had shown tobacco could be a ‘very profitable option’.

It said also that tobacco produced in Namibia could fill the market niche created by the reduction in tobacco production in Zimbabwe.

A letter seen by The Namibian addressed to the company from the environment ministry showed that the project still needed to receive authorisation from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry for the clearing of a state forest.

Authorisation for water abstraction would also need to be obtained from the department of water affairs in the same ministry.

France takes major step towards standardized packs

| April 15, 2015

France’s lower house of parliament yesterday passed a number of measures, one of which would require cigarettes to be sold from May next year in standardized packaging with graphic health warnings, according to a story by Emile Picy for Reuters, relayed by the TMA.

The measures include, too, a ban on smoking in cars carrying ‘children’ and a ban on the use of e-vapor products in offices and on public transport.

Beyond tobacco, the measures include one aimed at fighting anorexia and one aimed at ensuring that doctor consultations are generally free for patients at the point of use.

The bill will now go to the upper house.

Tobacco sales ban within 250 meters of schools

| April 15, 2015

It will be illegal to sell tobacco products within 250 meters of Jordan’s schools and health institutions from October 1, according to a story in The Jordan Times describing new Health Ministry regulations.

Under the regulations, shops will be allowed to display tobacco products only at payment points, and cigarette packs will have to be sealed and only within the seller’s reach.

Commenting on the new rules, Firas Hawari, director of the King Hussein Cancer Centre’s cancer control office, said the farther the source of cigarettes was from schools the harder it was for students to consume tobacco. He would like to see the distance extended to 500 meters.

“Students have very limited time… especially while waiting for their parents to pick them up,” he was quoted as having told the Times.

Hawari said that the new regulations for displaying cigarettes at shops and supermarkets could contribute to minimising smoking among young people, an issue he described as “one of the biggest problems in Jordan”, but one for which there was “very limited awareness among decision makers and citizens”.

To further curb smoking among children, he called for increasing the prices of tobacco and firmly enforcing the Public Health Law, which bans selling tobacco to children under the age of 18 and prohibits smoking in public areas.

Hawari said that while 30 per cent of Jordanians were smokers, smoking rates among health-sector workers stood at about 40 percent.

Additives think tank to seek evidence for court case

| April 15, 2015

As part of measures being taken in support of a damages suit being brought against major tobacco companies by South Korea’s state health insurer, the Health Ministry plans to establish a think tank to research the additives used in cigarettes manufactured and distributed in the country, according to a story in The Korea Herald.

The National Health Insurance Service last year filed a lawsuit against KT&G, British American Tobacco and Philip Morris seeking damages of WON53.7 billion (US$52 million) for the costs of treating tobacco-related diseases.

The think tank, which is due to be established in August, will conduct research to determine if local tobacco makers use additives to make their products more addictive.

“The think tank’s researchers will conduct studies to determine if the products contain any harmful additives…,” an official from the Health Ministry was quoted as saying.

“Any findings that prove the harmful effects of tobacco will be submitted to the court as evidence.”

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