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Bangladesh government told to halt tobacco growth

| December 29, 2014

Tobacco cultivation is increasing in Bangladesh and anti-tobacco campaigners want the government to intervene, according to a bdnews24.com story.

The campaigners were said to have cited figures from the Directorate of Agricultural Expansion showing that tobacco cultivation had increased from 70,000 ha during the 2012-13 growing season to 108,000 ha during the 2013-14 season.

Lawmakers, researchers, activists and journalists at a policy dialogue organised by the Anti-tobacco Media Alliance (ATMA) said tobacco companies lured poor farmers into cultivating tobacco.

MP Saber Hossain Chowdhury, who is also an anti-tobacco campaigner, said tobacco farming was posing a threat to food security as well as to public health.

Additionally, it destroyed forests and damaged the environment and ecology.

Chowdhury said farmers should be induced to cultivate alternative crops on land currently under tobacco and adopt a policy of gradually phasing out tobacco farming.

Earlier this month, The Financial Express reported that tobacco growers had urged the government to support them in producing alternative crops.

The farmers were said to have made these ‘demands’ at a press conference entitled Voice of victims: Non-profitable tobacco farming, allurement to harmful profit held at the National Press Club.

The ATMA was said to have taken the initiative to support the farmers in placing their demands.

Korea cigarette tax hike predicted to slash sales

| December 29, 2014

KT&G said on Thursday that the prices of all its cigarettes sold on the South Korean market would increase by WON2,000 (US$1.80) starting on January 1, according to a Korea JoongAng Daily story. The increase is in line with the government’s increase in tobacco taxes.

With the increase in place, KT&G’s brands such as Esse, The One and Raison will retail at WON4,500, up 80 percent from WON2,500 now. Lower-tier cigarettes including This, Hallasan and Lilac will retail for WON4,000, up 100 percent from WON2,000 now.

KT&G initially considered adding an extra WON200-500 on top of the required tax increase in an attempt to offset the predicted decline in the value of its sales. ‘We expect decreases in sales volume and revenues due to the price increase, but we placed only the minimum increase because of concerns for any negative effects that the price increase will have on households with lower incomes,’ KT&G was quoted as saying in a statement.

The government defended its decision to raise taxes in the wake of a backlash from the public, saying that the measure was meant to discourage tobacco use.

It estimated that the WON2,000 rise will cause a 34 percent decrease in annual sales of cigarettes, with tobacco companies losing out on WON940 billion in sales.

Korea has among the lowest cigarette prices of nations within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), while the proportion of Korean men who smoked stood at 44 per cent during 2013, which was among the highest smoking incidences in OECD countries.

Opposition politicians and critics have accused the government of attempting to plug holes in its tax revenues by squeezing ordinary citizens while maintaining tax cuts for the wealthy.

Others have questioned why the authorities in Korea, where cigarette prices have not been increased for 10 years, have suddenly decided to impose an increase so huge that it is likely to destabilize the market.

Meanwhile, Philip Morris was said to have decided to raise its prices by WON2,000 while Imperial Tobacco was going for a WON2,200 increase.

Korean smokers seek relief in e-cigarettes, patches

| December 29, 2014

With the price of cigarettes set to be increased sharply at the beginning of next year, KT&G is making forays into the electronic cigarette market, according to a story in The Korea Economic Daily.

Quoting industry sources on December 23, the Daily said that KT&G had almost completed preparation for a launch on to the electronic cigarette market and was now only fine-tuning the date of release.

One key factor behind KT&G’s decision to enter this market has been the higher-than-expected growth of the domestic electronic cigarette market ahead of the cigarette price hike.

Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco have already released their own electronic cigarette brands.

Meanwhile, the Daily reported in a separate story that Handok Pharmaceutical was benefiting from ‘quit smoking fever’ ahead of the cigarette tax and price increase on January 1.

Handok was the biggest beneficiary of the current anti-smoking environment because it was ‘currently claiming as much as 66 percent of the nicotine patch market with its Nicostop brand’.

Bad year for cigarette litter-bugs in Abu Dhabi

| December 29, 2014

Abu Dhabi law-enforcers this year fined 816 people for throwing cigarette butts on the road, according to an Emirates 24/7 story.

‘Most of those fined were caught red-handed dumping their cigarette butts on the ground in public places despite repeated warnings by the Abu Dhabi municipality’, the story reported.

Municipality officials said inspectors caught the offenders during routine patrols in public places.

Hundreds of inspectors were deployed daily through the emirate for this purpose.

There was no mention of whether anybody was prosecuted for discarding other types of litter.

Call for e-cigarettes to be included under MSA

| December 24, 2014

Three leading US Democrats have written to 29 state attorneys general urging them to classify electronic cigarettes as cigarettes under the Master Settlement Agreement.

‘This action would have an immediate and much needed impact because it would stop the e-cigarette makers from marketing their products in ways that are appealing to kids,’ said the December 19 letter signed by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Sen. Dick Durbin, and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr.

‘Bringing e-cigarettes under the MSA would not remove them from the market or make them unavailable to adults who may see them as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes.

‘But it would bar the manufacturers from targeting youth, using cartoons and youth-oriented sponsorships to promote their products, and advertising on outdoor billboards.’

The 29 attorneys general targeted by the December 19 letter were those who, in a joint letter of August 8, had supported the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule that would bring e-cigarettes under its control, and that suggested ways in which the proposal should be strengthened in key ways, such as prohibiting characterizing flavors in newly deemed tobacco products.

The December 19 letter writers expressed concern that it could be months before the FDA finalized the proposed rule and urge the attorney generals to use their authority under the MSA to take immediate action.

Members of Congress first raised the idea of action under the MSA in a letter to attorneys general dated February 12.

Smokers should not exhale while driving in Taiwan

| December 24, 2014

People in Taiwan caught smoking while driving on ‘busy roads’ will be liable to a fine of NT$600 under a package of amendments to the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act due to come into force next year, according to a story in The China Post.

The sequence of actions involved in smoking while driving, such as lighting a cigarette, exhaling smoke and holding a cigarette, are all punishable acts under the new rules.

The Post said that according to the text of the amendments, the critical point was whether others were affected by these acts, which were most applicable to busy roads. The penalties were to be applied only when other people were in close proximity to the smoking driver because the object of the exercise was to protect other road users.

Meanwhile, the United Evening News reported that the dangers the Department of Railways and Highways had in mind when designing the measures to protect other road users included ash floating into the eyes of pedestrians.

Additionally, it was thought that people who were near a smoker might be burnt by the sparks flying off a cigarette, and that traffic safety might be impacted by the smoke.

The department was said to have made the new rules after receiving ‘several’ complaints from the public. The date for the imposition of the new rules has not been set but it is expected to fall sometime in the first half of next year.

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