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Thai smokers leading the way in sporting activities

| March 31, 2015

The retail prices of cigarettes and alcoholic beverages increased by about two percent in Thailand after the imposition on Friday of a new sports tax, according to a story in the Bangkok Post.

Manufacturers of these products – or, rather, consumers of these products – are required to make contributions to the new sports fund on top of excise tax and contributions to two other funds.

They currently pay three billion baht a year to the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and two billion baht to ThaiPBS, the public television operator modelled on the UK’s BBC.

The two percent sports tax is calculated on the excise tax the manufacturers pass on each year; and, based on the latest figures, the sports tax will bring in about three billion baht a year.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry is pushing for a fund to promote learning, to which consumers, through the manufacturers, will be required to contribute another 1.5 percent or 2-3 billion baht a year.

Rumor of FTC merger meeting feeds rumor mill

| March 31, 2015

A pivotal meeting between US federal regulators and representatives of Reynolds American and Lorillard is expected to take place this week, according to a story by Richard Craver for the Winston-Salem Journal citing a Wall Street Journal report.

The meeting with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) members could be the last step toward a decision on Reynolds’ $27.4 billion offer for Lorillard, which was announced on July 15 and which the two companies believe will close by June 30.

However, some analysts believe it could be a negative sign that the FTC board wants or needs another meeting at this stage, and they have put the odds of the deal’s being approved at 50-50.

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog, who has projected an FTC decision as early as April, on Monday confirmed her belief that there was a 90 percent chance the deal would be approved.

“We believe the market’s negative reaction to these meetings is unjustified based on our industry sources that are telling us these meetings are completely normal and should be viewed as positive,” Herzog was quoted as saying.

“Further, our industry sources reiterated that absolutely no part of the FTC’s review process has been hostile.”

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 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:

The MacroBusiness story is at:

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