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AOI acting on stock-price non-compliance notice

| March 25, 2015

Alliance One International said yesterday that it was notified by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Monday that its common stock was not in compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standard that requires a minimum average closing price of $1.00 per share over a period of 30 consecutive trading days.

‘In response, earlier today the Company notified the NYSE that it intends to cure such deficiency and submitted a plan outlining the actions it intends to complete to increase its share price, including pursuing a reverse split of its common stock on the terms it announced on March 11, 2015,’ Alliance said in a note posted on its website.

‘Under the NYSE’s rules, the Company has a period of six months from the date of the NYSE notice to bring its 30-day average share price back above $1.00. During this period, the Company’s common stock will continue to be traded on the NYSE, subject to the Company’s compliance with other NYSE listing requirements, but will be assigned a “.BC” indicator by the NYSE to signify that the Company is not currently in compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standards.

‘The Company’s business operations and United States Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirements are not affected by the receipt of the NYSE’s notification.’

BAT appoints KPMG external auditors

| March 25, 2015

Following a competitive tender, British American Tobacco has appointed KPMG as its new external auditors for 2015 onwards.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, which had been the company’s auditors since it listed on the London Stock Exchange in September 1998, resigned with effect from March 23.

Shareholder approval to confirm the appointment of KPMG is due to be sought at the company’s annual general meeting on April 29.

E-cigarette campaign denounced as propaganda

| March 24, 2015

California public health officials yesterday launched an ‘information campaign’ that they hope will erode the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes, according to a story in the San Bernadino County Sun.

Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health, was quoted as saying in a statement that, since 1990, California had been a world leader in tobacco-use prevention and cessation.

But the aggressive marketing and escalating use of e-cigarettes threatened to erode that progress for both teenagers and adults, Smith said.

In January, public health officials published an ‘advisory’ on the risks associated with electronic cigarettes. It said, in part, that while several studies had found lower levels of carcinogens in electronic cigarette aerosols than in the smoke from traditional tobacco cigarettes, both had been found to contain at least 10 chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm.

The information campaign is due to continue through June on social media, television and billboards, and at some movie theaters.

But some believe the campaign is not providing ‘information’. “This campaign is nothing more than propaganda, with state bureaucrats more concerned with tax revenues than helping 3.6 million Californians quit smoking,” said Gregory Conley, president of the New Jersey-based American Vaping Association, which advocates for small- and medium-sized vaping and electronic cigarette businesses.

Conley is not happy either that the campaign alleges that the tobacco industry is pulling the strings in the electronic cigarette industry. The industry was neither created nor is dominated by the tobacco industry, he said.

There were 2,000 vape businesses in California that had helped countless Californian smokers to quit, he added.

Netherlands to introduce e-cigarette minimum age

| March 24, 2015

The Netherlands is to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes to people under the age of 18, according to a Dutch News story.

The ban was announced yesterday by junior health minister Martin van Rijn, who said the measure was being introduced in an effort to stop youngsters from smoking.

The new rules will apply to electronic cigarettes with and without nicotine, and will bring the minimum purchase age of these products into line with those of tobacco and alcohol.

“Smoking tobacco may be more dangerous but we have to do all we can to stop youngsters smoking,” said Van Rijn, who is hoping to introduce the new minimum-age rule as soon as possible.

The decision to introduce the age restriction was said to have followed research by the public health organisation RIVM that showed ‘e-cigarettes are more dangerous than thought’.

‘The chemicals included in the smoking mixture include nicotine, propylene glycol and glycerol, aldehydes, nitrosamines and metals’, the News reported.

‘Inhaling these can irritate and damage the airways, cause palpitations and increase the risk of cancers, the RIVM said.

The RIVM is now researching the impact of electronic cigarettes on non-users.

Saudi mobile cessation clinics attract mainly women

| March 24, 2015

Of 9,710 tobacco smokers who attended mobile clinics operated in Saudi Arabia under the Ministry of Health’s Tobacco Control Program (TCP), 8,575, or 88.3 percent were women.

The clinics were said to have ‘played a key role in helping’ 2,296 men and women quit smoking.

Fifty nine percent of those who quit smoking cited health concerns as the main reason, while 14 percent cited religious factors and 13 percent cited family pressure.

TCP launched 10 mobile clinics to provide treatment and awareness services in Riyadh, Jeddah, the Eastern Province, Makkah, Madinah, Taif, Asir, Najran, Jazan and Jouf.

Kawthar Al-Shidwi, head of media and public relations at the TCP, said there were more than 58 anti-smoking centers throughout the kingdom.

Timely adoption of TPD legislation ‘a priority’

| March 23, 2015

The EU Commission has said that the timely adoption of the secondary legislation provided for under the new Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) is a priority.

The Commission made its position clear in answer to questions from the Danish member of the European Parliament, Ulla Tørnæs, who was concerned that it might prove difficult for certain tobacco industry players, particularly those involved in packaging, to comply with legislation in a timely manner.

The Commission said it was proceeding as efficiently as possible, while acknowledging the need to respect legal procedures and produce well-thought-out legislation.

‘Further examination is required in all cases, including consultation of stakeholders,’ the Commission said in its written answer. ‘The industry is involved in the process preceding the proposals for secondary legislation. According to the Commission’s information the industry is already taking the necessary preparatory steps taking into account the key elements of the Directive.

‘Prior to the Commission proposal for a new TPD, representatives of the packaging sector were consulted. They indicated that changes to the design of cigarette packages were frequent practice. They also stated that no major investments would be required if pictorial warnings would be made mandatory.

‘It should be highlighted that in Article 30 the TPD provides for a transitional period during which tobacco products manufactured before the transposition deadline can be placed on the market for twelve months following this date.’

In a preamble to her questions, Tørnæs said that in its work program for 2015, the Commission was focusing on improved legislation. A decisive factor for good legislation was a suitable and predictable implementation period, which gave companies sufficient time to adjust.

Tørnæs made the point that in answer to a previous question, the Commission had addressed the complications caused by delays in delegated legislative acts and implementing acts. In this answer, the Commission had stated that the consequences of a delay had to be ascertained when assessing a particular case.

‘The deadline for implementing the Tobacco Products Directive, Directive 2014/40/EU, is 20 May 2016,’ Tørnæs said. ‘The text of the law will be supplemented by delegated legislative acts and implementing acts. The industry – particularly the packaging sector – will need 12 to 18 months to adjust production so that it complies with the new legislation.

‘According to the indicative plan for the implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive, some of the delegated legislative acts and implementing acts are expected to be published in the last quarter of 2015 or later. This will not give the industry the 12 to 18 months it needs to convert production.’

Tørnæs then posed three questions:

‘Would the Commission explain what consequences delays in delegated legislative acts and implementing acts will have?

‘Would the Commission give earlier examples of directives, where delays in delegated legislative acts or implementing acts made it difficult to comply with the time limit for implementation?

‘Would the Commission describe the steps it took to alleviate these difficulties?’

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