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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.

FCTC meeting scheduled for Moscow

| March 7, 2014

The sixth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is due to meet in Moscow on Oct. 13-18, according to Convention News.

The provisional agenda for the meeting is expected to be finalized at a COP Bureau meeting scheduled for next month.

Invitations to Parties and accredited observers to the COP are expected to be sent out during May.

COP6 documents and further information on the session will be posted at “in due course.”

Call for smoking ban in private homes

| March 6, 2014

An anti-smoking activist and community-health specialist has urged the Hong Kong government to ban tobacco smoking in cars and homes so as to protect children’s health, according to a story by Emily Tsang for the South China Morning Post.

Professor Lam Tai-hing was speaking after a new study indicated that secondhand smoke could make children prone to heart attacks and strokes later in life.

Such conditions were in addition to other known risks such as lung cancer, middle-ear disease and respiratory disease.

Lam, professor of community medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said that while smoking in cars when children were present had been banned in some countries, so far no authorities had made a similar ruling for private households.

“Smoking in front of children should be seen as poisoning and abusing them,” he said.

Lam said Hong Kong so far had no legislation specifically to protect children from secondhand smoke.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, said data from 2,401 people in Finland and 1,375 in Australia showed passive smoking led to a thickening of children’s artery walls, ageing blood vessels by 3.3 years by adulthood.

Taiwan announces open-air smoking ban

| March 6, 2014

Smoking tobacco will be banned outside of designated areas in Taiwan’s national parks and scenic areas from the start of next month, according to a story on Focus Taiwan News Channel.

Not all parks and scenic areas will have designated smoking areas, in which case no smoking will be allowed anywhere.

Under the new policy, announced yesterday by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, smoking will be banned also at outdoor concerts.

Subjecting people to secondhand smoke was a violation of their basic human rights, the ministry was quoted as saying.

Those caught violating the new regulations will be subject to fines of between TWD$2,000 (US$68) and TWD$10,000.

Some smoking advocates claim that the regulations announced yesterday are unconstitutional.

E-cigarettes factor in smoking decline

| March 6, 2014

Figures published last week by France’s national drugs watchdog showed that the number of cigarettes sold in France fell by 7.6 percent last year, according to a Naharnet story.

Sales of hand-rolling tobacco continued to rise but, at 2.6 percent, more slowly than in recent previous years.

And for the first time since 2005, the overall value of tobacco-product sales shrank in 2013.

One survey was said to have put the proportion of adults who smoke every day at about 27 percent, down from more than 33 percent in 2010.

Health experts were quoted as saying it was too early to say if a corner had been turned. Survey results varied and the line between regular (daily) and occasional smoking was hard for researchers to assess accurately.

But the Naharnet story said it seemed that the combined impact of recent price hikes—at a time of economic stagnation—and the “phenomenal success” of e-cigarettes might be encouraging millions of French smokers to reassess their habit.

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