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ITGA strongly opposes plain packs

| June 23, 2014

The International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA) has reiterated its objections to what it calls the worrying developments surrounding the EU’s revised Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), which came into force on May 20.

After the publication of the directive, it said, some EU member states were proposing to introduce standardized packaging, which was a development too far given the mandatory checks the EU still had to perform, first with its own treaty and second with international trade rules, including those of the World Trade Organization.

The ITGA said it would remain vigilant also in respect of secondary legislation, which included a stricter regulation of ingredients. The association added that it wanted to make sure no extreme measures were taken that might discriminate against certain tobacco varieties.

Despite previous assurances by the EU Commission and Parliament that the TPD would not lead to a deterioration in the living conditions of people whose livelihoods depended on tobacco growing in Europe, the current proposals would do exactly that, the association believes.

ITGA President Francois van der Merwe said there was currently a chance to appeal to the Dialogue Groups on agriculture (DG-AGRI) to raise tobacco producers’ concerns at the sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6) of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Moscow later this year. “[The] ITGA calls on the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States Council of Ministers to take this opportunity to remind the EU that the TPD should not become a technical barrier to trade,” he said.

Van der Merwe said the revised proposals were a declaration of an “out and out war” against the tobacco industry. These measures would contradict the so-called “public health” issues they were supposed to support because they would encourage contraband and counterfeit products made from cheap, suspect-quality tobacco that did not meet the health and environmental norms of many countries, inside and outside the EU.

Van der Merwe believes that pack standardization will have far-reaching negative consequences. Pack standardization measures would serve only to worsen the already rampant global problem of counterfeiting and piracy of tobacco products, he said. And it would trigger a price war between manufacturers as they attempted to distinguish themselves from their competitors, with the major casualties being tobacco growers.

Any reduction in leaf production, which would happen if the revised TPD proposals were pushed through, would have a significant knock-on effect, especially in the developing world, said Van der Merwe. In Malawi, for example, more than 1.9 million families were employed in the tobacco sector, which meant that about 70 percent of the adult population of the country was dependent on leaf tobacco production and the associated activities down the line. Tobacco made up 53 percent of Malawi’s exports and 15 percent of its GDP.

The ITGA said it strongly condemned current attempts to impose standardization on tobacco products as blatantly unacceptable discrimination imposed by misguided public health officials within the EU and some of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states.

Vietnam asked to delay raising taxes

| June 23, 2014

The Vietnam Tobacco Association (VTA) has asked the government to delay raising the excise tax on tobacco until smuggling has been “considerably” reduced, according to the news website VnEconomy.

The association made its recommendation after both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health proposed increasing the tobacco tax to 105 percent of the per-pack retail price from the current 65 percent, saying that the move was needed to curb smoking in Vietnam.

Vu Van Tien, deputy director general of the Vietnam National Tobacco Corp., was quoted as saying that local businesses faced huge problems caused by rampant smuggling.

Increasing the excise tax would only exacerbate smuggling given that Vietnamese people were all tightening their belts, he said.

Vu suggested also that the government consider ending its practice of exporting confiscated tobacco, claiming the measure had yet to prove effective.

The practice began as a pilot project in August 2012 after local governments complained that they lacked the funds to seize and destroy smuggled tobacco. So to offset those costs, the government allowed these localities to export high-quality tobacco that they’d seized from smugglers.

During its recent announcement, the trade association offered to support various agencies in fighting tobacco smuggling by providing a bounty of VND3,500 for every pack of smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes seized by the local authorities.

Imperial supplying emergency food aid

| June 23, 2014

Imperial Tobacco is helping support victims of the continuing conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) with emergency food aid.

In a note posted this morning on its website, Imperial said an estimated 140,000 people had been affected by the civil war that began last year, with many taking refuge from the fighting either in the capital, Bangui, or in neighboring Chad.

The company’s subsidiaries, Socacig in the CAR and MCT in Chad, had asked the Altadis Foundation for help in supporting the relief effort currently underway.

As a result, donations totalling €11,200 were paying for staple foodstuffs such as rice, milk, sugar and oil to be distributed through local agencies.

“The situation affecting the CAR has become a humanitarian disaster not only for this country but also for its neighbours,” said Ines Cassin, the foundation’s general manager.

“In such cases, the foundation’s remit is to help meet the emergency needs of the victims and alleviate their suffering.”

New packs make a stand for phone users

| June 20, 2014

South Korea’s KT&G said yesterday it had launched four cigarette packs that can be used as smartphone stands, according to a story in the Korea Joong Ang Daily.

The “smart pack” packs are being used with four versions of the company’s Tonino Lamborghini brand.

KT&G said the new design was an idea suggested by customers on its website.

The smart packs comprised a good example of how KT&G listened to its customers and used their suggestions to improve its products, said Kwon Min-seok, head of the company’s branding team.

Zimbabwe auctions to end next week

| June 20, 2014

Flue-cured tobacco deliveries in Zimbabwe are expected to have passed the 200 million kg mark by the time the 2014 sales season ends, according to a story in the Herald quoting the Marketing Board’s CEO, Andrew Matibiri.

The country’s auction floors are due to close on June 27, earlier than usual despite the big crop, though a clean-up sale will be held on July 15.

The early closure of the auctions is down to the high level of deliveries being received at contract floors, where, according to a report earlier this year, prices have been better than those on offer at auction and where some growers not under contract have been selling their tobacco.

Contract sales will continue until further notice.

The latest marketing board figures show that 194 million kg of flue cured had been sold for $619 million since the opening of the selling season in February.

At the same stage of last year’s selling season, 147 million kg of tobacco had been sold for $543 million.

The average price this year, at US$3.19 per kg, is down by more than 13 percent on that of the previous year, US$3.69.

By the end of the 2013 season, 166 million kg of tobacco had been sold.

Taiwan cracks down on e-cigarettes

| June 20, 2014

Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday warned the public against using e-cigarettes, which are prohibited in the country, according to a story in the Taipei Times.

The import or manufacture of these products constitutes a violation of pharmaceutical regulations and is punishable by a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

All of the e-cigarettes on the market were illicit because no permits allowing the manufacture or import of such products had been issued, said the FDA’s Northern Center section head, Wu Ming-mei, at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Wu said 525 agency people had inspected online stores, night markets and drug stores nationwide between March and last month in an effort to crack down on sales of e-cigarettes.

The agency had discovered 43 e-cigarettes, 28 of which had contained nicotine, seven of which did not contain nicotine and did not claim any therapeutic effects, four of which were being examined by local health departments and four of which had been referred to prosecutors for investigation, Wu said.

Thirty-seven of the 43 prohibited products were sold online, Wu added.

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