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High hopes as Zimbabwe’s market opens

| February 19, 2014

Zimbabwe’s 2014 flue-cured tobacco marketing season was due to open today, with expectations high for both volume sales and earnings, according to a story in New Zimbabwe.

The 91,000 growers—mostly small-scale farmers—who registered to grow the 2013–2014 crop are thought to have produced about 175 million–185 million kg, up from the 167 million kg produced in 2012–2013 by 65,500 registered growers.

Earnings this season are expected to be higher than the $616 million of last season.

BAT Nigeria provides farmer support

| February 19, 2014

The more than 800 members of the Nigeria Independent Tobacco Association in the Oke Ogun area of Oyo State are to benefit from NGN282 million in interest-free loans from British American Tobacco Iseyin Agronomy (BATIA), a subsidiary of British American Tobacco Nigeria, according to a Business Day story.

The loans, which are to be distributed as this year’s planting season gets underway, are  in addition to the provision by BATIA of seedlings, herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers and technical support.

Thomas Omotoye, head of leaf at BATIA, said his company would provide also environment management and give farmers seedlings so they could plant food crops after harvesting their tobacco.

The company is targeting the recovery of 96 percent of the loans it makes to farmers this year.

Newly emboldened health officials predicting US smoking endgame

| February 18, 2014

Health officials have begun to predict the end of cigarette smoking in the U.S., according to an Associated Press story.

They have long wished for a cigarette-free country but previously have shied away from predicting that smoking rates would fall to near zero by any particular year.

But because of what AP referred to as “a confluence of changes,” they now talk about the adult smoking rate dropping to 10 percent during the next decade and to 5 percent or lower by 2050.

Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak last month released a 980-page report on smoking that pushed for stepped-up tobacco-control measures.

His news conference was apparently an unusually animated showing of anti-smoking bravado, with Lushniak nearly yelling, repeatedly, “Enough is enough!”

“I can’t accept that we’re just allowing these numbers to trickle down,” he said, in a recent interview with AP. “We believe we have the public health tools to get us to the zero level.”

The full story, including details of the changes that have taken place since 1984 when then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called for a smoke-free society by 2000, is at http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/02/10/experts-predict-end-smoking-in-america/.

Illicit cigarettes flooding SA’s borders

| February 18, 2014

Counterfeit cigarettes are among the illicit goods most likely to be smuggled across South   Africa’s borders on a daily basis, according to a Mondaq story.

The story said that the illicit trade in counterfeit and genuine cigarettes had grown at a “phenomenal pace” and that cigarettes now comprised one of the most prevalent and problematic counterfeited items available on the black market.

Low production costs and high levels of demand had made counterfeit cigarettes one of the region’s most trafficked goods, with some reports recording that the trade in illegal cigarettes had outgrown sales of narcotics.

Every year, over ZAR4 billion in tax revenue was “lost” to sales of counterfeit cigarettes.

According to the Tobacco Institute of Southern Africa, more than 60 percent of all counterfeit cigarettes originate in Zimbabwe, partly due to poor border controls between the two countries.

Packs of counterfeit cigarettes are sold for about ZAR10 a pack, while packs of licit cigarettes retail for about ZAR30.

The story is at odds with a study published at tobaccocontrol.bmj.com a month ago, which found that, with the exception of 2010, there was no evidence that the illicit trade in cigarettes in South Africa was significantly undermining government revenue.

“Claims that illicit trade has consistently increased over the past 15 years, and has continued its sharp increase since 2010, are not supported,” the study concluded.

Smokers’ lobby can now get some sleep

| February 18, 2014

Smokers, who, in recent years, have been finding it increasingly difficult to book suitable accommodation, now have Smoketels.com, a website that specializes in smoker-friendly hotels, according to a story by Joe Sharkey for The New York Times.

“We don’t offer nonsmoking rooms, so if you’re a nonsmoker, you’re not for us,” said Shawn Bradley, who runs the site but whose background is in Web development.

Bradley’s company says it has smoking rooms available for booking at 100,000 hotels around the world, from Beijing, where there is lots of choice, to New York, where it’s slim pickings.

The accommodation problem for smokers is particularly acute in the U.S., but even there lots of hotels—especially those in the lower mid-level and economy niches—set aside rooms for smokers. “Many chains still offer them,” said Bradley.

But hotels tend to keep quiet about allowing smoking, so booking a smoking room can be frustrating and time-consuming—hence the Smoketels site, which opened for business in November.

Trade agreement package questioned

| February 17, 2014

The New Zealand government has blocked an attempt by Labour to have parliament ask for the release of the full agreed text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement before it is signed, according to an Independent Newspapers story.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said he was “disappointed, but not surprised.”

One of the immediate, specific worries over the treaty concerns the issue of standardized packaging for tobacco products.

“There may be benefits for New Zealand exporters in the agreement but without the release of the full text, we have no way of knowing their extent and nature,” said Cunliffe.

“The government must also reveal whether or not the text makes it more likely New Zealand could be sued by multinational corporations such as tobacco companies.”

But Trade Minister Tim Groser said he would not negotiate the agreement “through the media.”

“We’ll look at any proposal, but the No. 1 thing for the New Zealand government to ensure is that it doesn’t limit any future New Zealand government’s ability to legislate on public health,” said Groser.

Groser said the government was “fully expecting” a legal challenge over standardized packaging regardless of the TPP agreement.

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