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Plain talking about plain packs in Ireland

| March 10, 2014

The smokers’ group Forest has launched a new website to fight plans to introduce plain tobacco packaging in Ireland.

Plain Packs Plain Stupid, which has a sludge-brown background to highlight the dull packaging proposed by Health Minister James Reilly, lists some of the consumer arguments against standardized packs.

It also features a campaign video, The Burning Issue, which features interviews with smokers in Dublin.

“The proposed legislation is not fit for purpose,” said John Mallon, spokesman for Forest Eireann.

“Advocates say plain packaging will deter children from smoking. People start smoking for many reasons, often peer pressure, but packaging isn’t one of them.

“I don’t know any smoker who began because they were attracted by the packet. It’s nonsense.

“Plain packaging is gesture politics. It won’t stop children smoking but it might encourage an illicit market in branded or counterfeit packs.

“We urge the government to abandon this reckless experiment that could do far more harm than good.”

Telling it like it is: Dublin smokers given a voice.

Telling it like it is: Dublin smokers given a voice.

Kenya plant to up processing 41 percent

| March 10, 2014

British American Tobacco Kenya (BATK) has estimated that it will this year process nearly 41 percent more leaf tobacco at its plant at Thika, Kenya, than it processed there last year, according to a story in The Star.

The increase, from 27,000 tonnes to 38,000 tonnes, will be mainly down to the arrival of tobacco from two processing plants recently closed by BAT: one at Kampala, Uganda, and the other at Kinshasa, Democratic Republic.

BATK Chief Executive Chris Burrell said the closure of the two plants would cut operational costs.

“(It) will improve our efficiencies, reduce our unit costs and drive improvements in our frontier markets,” he was quoted as saying.

Are you married? Yes, sir! No, sir!

| March 10, 2014

The Korea Military Academy plans to lift a decades-old ban on drinking, smoking and marrying to reflect social changes, according to a story in The Korea Times.

The army has prohibited cadets from drinking, smoking or marrying while attending the elite military academy since its establishment in 1952.

The bans are said to have been introduced to assist in the maintenance of discipline.
But the proposed new rules aim at relaxing the bans.

“The Army is considering improving the current system to apply separate rules on and off campus, taking into consideration the legal regulations, social trend and education purpose,” a senior Army official was quoted as saying. “Cadets will still be prohibited from those activities while on campus, on duty or in uniform, but they will be allowed on other occasions.”

Presumably, “those activities” refer to the drinking and smoking, unless marriage is being used here as a euphemism. It would not be possible to be married while in uniform or on the base but unmarried while out of uniform or off the base.

U.S. manufacturers urged to quit menthol

| March 7, 2014

The U.S.-based Citizens’ Commission to Protect the Truth is urging Lorillard, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Philip Morris USA immediately to stop marketing and selling menthol cigarettes, according to a PR Newswire story.

The commission is described as a group of all “living” former U.S. secretaries of health, education and welfare; U.S. secretaries of health and human services; U.S. surgeons general; and directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from every administration, Republican and Democrat, since that of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In a joint statement the former cabinet officers called menthol “the spoonful of sugar that makes the deadly medicine these companies are selling go down.”

And in letters to these tobacco companies’ chief executives, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr. and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan, M.D., chair and vice chair, respectively, of the commission, said such action was imperative to avoid encouraging children and teens to start and continue smoking and to avoid the devastating impact of menthol cigarettes on the African-American community.

At the same time, the commission called upon the Obama Administration to allow the Food and Drug Administration to act on its Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee’s 3-year-old recommendation “that the FDA ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes based on the distinguished Committee’s finding that removal of menthol cigarettes from the market would benefit the public health.”

State lawmakers look to tax e-cigarettes

| March 7, 2014

Some state lawmakers in Washington, USA, want to levy a 75 percent tax on e-cigarettes, according to a story by Annaliese Davis for the Bellingham Herald.

Sponsored by Seattle Rep. Reuven Carlyle, a Democrat, H.B. 2795 would subject e-cigarettes and other tobacco substitutes to a 75 percent tax, though it would exempt e-cigarettes prescribed by physicians to aid individuals in quitting tobacco, should e-cigarettes be found to be a cessation aid.

Carlyle’s original proposal called for a 95 percent tax, but the rate was reduced to 75 percent in legislation that passed out of the House Finance Committee on Tuesday morning.

The proposed bill passed 7-6, with Chris Reykdal, a Democrat representative, siding with Republican committee members against taxation.

Reykdal said that without data from the Food and Drug Administration, it was hard for him to justify punishing individuals trying to make a potentially healthier choice.

Ukraine upheaval could affect challenge to Australia’s standardized packaging

| March 7, 2014

The ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich could have an impact on the battle against standardized tobacco packaging, according to a Reuters story.

In March 2012, Ukraine launched a case at the World Trade Organization to try to overturn the Australian law, a step seen by anti-tobacco campaigners as a stalling tactic by a government with little interest in the issue.

Later that month, Konstantin Krasovsky, the head of Ukraine’s Tobacco Control Unit at the Ministry of Health’s Institute for Strategic Research was quoted in an Australian newspaper as saying that his country had no economic interest in the issue at all. No one in Ukraine would suffer from Australia’s standardized packaging, he added.

Now Ukraine’s change of government and its empty coffers put the challenge against Australia into question.

“I think in the circumstances that are now created in Ukraine of course it may be very difficult to find money to continue this dispute,” Reuters quoted a source at Ukraine’s diplomatic mission in Geneva, home of the WTO, as saying.

“The mission has not yet received new instructions from Kiev, but Ukraine’s future trade policy is likely to focus more on concrete steps to help its ailing economy than on ‘theoretical’ questions about tobacco.”

However, if other countries helped to fund Ukraine it might continue, since the issue might have a bearing on curbs on other products, such as alcohol, the source said.

In its request for the establishment of a WTO disputes panel, Ukraine said that Australia’s measures “erode the protection of intellectual property rights” and “impose severe restrictions on the use of validly registered trademarks.”

Ukraine is not the only country to be challenging Australia’s standardized tobacco packaging regulation.

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