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US trade body seeks more information on Reynolds’ planned Lorillard acquisition

| September 1, 2014

Reynolds American said on Friday that it and Lorillard had each received a request for additional information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in connection with Reynolds’ proposed acquisition of Lorillard and divestiture of some brands to Imperial Tobacco.

‘The second request was issued under notification requirements of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended (the “HSR Act”) and is a normal part of the regulatory review process,’ Reynolds said in a note posted on its website.

‘The effect of the second request is to extend the waiting period imposed by the HSR Act until 30 days after Reynolds American and Lorillard have substantially complied with the request, unless that period is extended voluntarily by both parties or terminated sooner by the FTC.

‘Reynolds American and Lorillard will continue to co-operate fully with the FTC as it conducts its review of the proposed acquisition and divestiture.

‘In addition to the expiration of the waiting period under the HSR Act, both the Reynolds American acquisition of Lorillard as well as the Imperial transaction remain subject to shareholder and other approvals, as well as other customary closing conditions.

‘The companies continue to expect the transactions to close in the first half of 2015.’

Australia ups cigarette excise steeply

| September 1, 2014

The Australian government today increased cigarette excise by 13.7 per cent, the second of four big increases that were set in motion last year by the previous government, according to a story in the Whitsunday Times.

The government has increased the excise on a pack of 20 by A$1.12 to A$9.25 and that on a pack of 40 by A$2.25 to A$18.51.

The former Labor government announced in the middle of last year a series of four increases with the first of 12.5 percent on December 1 2013 to be followed by three more on September 1 of each of the following three years.

Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Mike Daube said his organization estimated that about 800 million fewer cigarettes would be smoked in Australia and about 60,000 smokers would quit their habit just as a result of the latest increase.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said price control through excise was the most effective public health measure to bring down smoking rates.

“Research shows the tobacco excise increase in 2010 caused smoking rates to decline by about 11 per cent,” Clift said.

Cuba aiming to boost tobacco output

| September 1, 2014

Cuba’s vice president, Jose Ramon Machado, on Thursday urged the country’s tobacco farmers to increase output, according to a Xinhua News agency story.

“Cuban tobacco is the world’s best,” the official daily Granma quoted him as saying during a visit to the western province of Pinar del Rio, Cuba’s tobacco-growing center… “It is an advantage that we cannot afford to waste, so we have to have a strong output.”

According to the Xinhua story, another 15,940 ha of tobacco, or about 70 percent of the current national total, are to be planted in the province during the next season.

Tobacco is Cuba’s fourth biggest source of foreign trade revenue, bringing in more than $400 million dollars a year.

Hungary trying to ensure tobacco’s future

| September 1, 2014

Hungary’s government is looking for ways to support the country’s tobacco growers while complying with European Union requirements, according to a story in the EcoNews quoting the farm ministry’s state secretary, Bela Glattfelder.

From next year, about €22.4 million in EU funding would no longer be available and, if that funding could not be replaced with national resources, tobacco growing could end in Hungary, Illes Benyei, the head of growers’ association MADOSZ, was quoted as saying.

Tobacco growers and processors signed an agreement in Ofeherto on Tuesday to work together to support the tobacco sector in Hungary.

Zapping addiction with magnetism

| September 1, 2014

A machine that pulses deep regions of the brain with magnetic current may help heavy smokers quit their habit, according to a Times of Israel story citing an Israeli study.

In the study, which experts said was the most rigorous test of the technology to date, 44 percent of a group of heavy smokers who had failed to quit using other methods were able to stop after a few weeks of treatment.

One third of the smokers who were treated had not lit up six months later.

The magnetic current method is said to stimulate regions of the brain that are central to addiction, using a specially designed helmet.

“We appear to have changed the electrical activity of brain networks in ways that helped people to quit smoking,” said Professor Abraham Zangen, a brain scientist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who helped invent the machine and led the prospective double-blind cohort study.

“Heavy smokers who failed previous attempts to stop smoking with medications, with nicotine patches, with psychotherapy – they made it.”

Based on the results of the study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in July, the US Food and Drug Administration is said to be testing the machine for approval.

A Jerusalem-based company called Brainsway hopes to bring the machine to market within a couple years.

A similar Brainsway machine, with a helmet targeting different brain regions, is already being used to treat depression, and the company is testing other helmets for a range of other conditions, including autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

FDA invites comments on application for General snus modified risk certification

| August 29, 2014

The US Food and Drug Administration is seeking public comments on Swedish Match’s request for its General-branded tobacco products to be certified as less harmful than cigarettes, according to a story by Michael Felberbaum for Associated Press.

Swedish Match announced in June that it had submitted a Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) application to the FDA for eight sub-brands of its General snus product line.

‘The MRTP application seeks a risk modification order permitting the use of warning label statements on the company’s snus tobacco products that differ from those carried by other commercially marketed smokeless tobacco products,’ the company said.

This is the first time the FDA has sought input on a MRTP application and the move is being closely watched by both the public health community and tobacco companies.

The FDA on Tuesday said it would accept comments for 180 days on the company’s application to market General snus as modified risk products.

The agency’s scientific advisory panel plans to review the application at its next meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.

The entire review process is expected to take about a year.

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