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Major US tobacco manufacturers prepare for year of public ‘self flagellation’

| January 14, 2014

Altria, Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard are preparing a full-page mea culpa to run in the Sunday editions of the US’ ‘top’ 35 newspapers, as online notices for those papers’ websites and as prime-time television spots to run for a full year on CBS, ABC, and NBC, according to a story by Clara Ritger for the National Journal.

The tobacco companies are required also to run statements on their websites and cigarette packages.

This act of ‘self-flagellation’, as Ritger described it, stems from a 2006 federal court decision ordering the tobacco companies to correct the record on statements they made about the health effects of smoking.

On Friday, the companies’ lawyers and the Justice Department struck a deal on how they will issue the apology.

A mock-up of a notice that could publish as a full-page in The New York Times reads, ‘A Federal Court has ruled that Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard, and Altria deliberately deceived the American public about designing cigarettes to enhance the delivery of nicotine and has ordered those companies to make this statement’.

It goes on to say that the industry ‘intentionally designed cigarettes to make them more addictive’, and that nicotine ‘changes the brain’, making it harder for smokers to quit their habit.

The tobacco companies could appeal against the language of the notices. But first, US District Judge, Gladys Kessler, is scheduled to review the agreement about how to issue the corrective statements on January 22.

The Justice Department first brought the case against the tobacco industry in 1999, arguing that tobacco manufacturers knowingly and intentionally misinformed the public about the negative health consequences of smoking.

According to Ritger, the statements would ‘correct misinformation’ about ‘the health effects of smoking, the addictiveness of smoking and nicotine, the false advertising of low-tar and light cigarettes as less harmful than regular cigarettes, the designing of cigarettes to enhance the delivery of nicotine and the health effects of second-hand smoke’.

Australian state expected to introduce smoking bans in multi-unit housing

| January 14, 2014

The government of the Australian state of New South Wales is expected to ban cigarette smoking in multi-unit housing, according to an Australian Broadcasting Corp. story.

The story was carried, too, in the Newcastle Herald newspaper, where Matthew Kelly reported that the ban would apply to “common areas” of multi-unit housing.

The ABC piece said that a study by associate professor Billie Bonevski, of the University of Newcastle, had found that cigarette smoking “placed people at increased health risk,” though the Herald story indicated that Bonevski’s study had related only to exposure to smoke.

Kelly wrote that Bonevski, of the Hunter Medical Research Institute, had drawn on data from about 161,000 participants who took part in the 2012–2013 NSW study of people 45 and older.

“More than 12,000 people, including 8,000 nonsmokers, were routinely exposed to smoke in their homes for eight hours or more a week,” said the Herald story. “More than 7,000 were exposed for at least eight hours a day.

“Multi-unit dwellers were 19 percent more likely to be exposed than those living in houses, and more women than men were likely to be exposed because they [women] tended to spend more time at home.”

Last month, Daniel Fisher reported for Forbes that a large-scale study had found no clear link between secondhand tobacco-smoke exposure and lung cancer.

Fisher cites an article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that provided the results of a study of 76,000 women over more than a decade.

The study found a link between smoking and cancer, with lung cancer 13 times more common among current smokers and four times more common in former smokers than in nonsmokers.

But the study found no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke.

Health minister delivers fighting talk

| January 14, 2014

Sri Lanka’s health minister, Maithripala Sirisena, has said he is prepared to face up to any challenge that the fight against smoking might throw up, according to a story in the Daily News.

Addressing a gathering after an “anti-smoking walk” in Colombo on Monday, he said, “No one will be able to stop our fight against smoking.”

“I have many challenges and threats as the health minister, but my effort to save over 20,000 Sri Lankans who die annually due to smoking will not be stopped,” he added.

The story said that laws were being prepared that would require cigarette manufacturers to include graphic health warnings covering 80 percent of packs.

It wasn’t clear whether this meant 80 percent of the total surface area, or 80 percent of one or more sides.

UAE looks at imposing plain packaging

| January 14, 2014

Anti-tobacco proposals have been put forward in the UAE that would impose “plain packaging” on cigarettes and double the price of tobacco products within two years, according to a Gulf News story quoting a health ministry official.

And these are perhaps more than proposals. “The law is expected to be enforced throughout the GCC by 2016,” said Dr. Wedad Al Maidour, head of the ministry’s National Tobacco Control.

Wedad was quoted as saying that it had been proposed that the warning on cigarette packs should be increased to cover 70 percent of the pack, whereas at present it took up half of the pack. It was not clear whether this meant 70/50 percent of the pack or 70/50 percent of one or more sides of the pack.

And Wedad appealed to governments to help raise the price of tobacco products. Cigarettes and tobacco were very cheap in the GCC, she said, where a pack of 20 cost just AED7.

In comparison a pack cost £8 (AED48) in the U.K., where tax on tobacco was regularly increased.

Anti-tobacco campaign to be televised

| January 13, 2014

A three-month anti-tobacco campaign on Bangladeshi television is seeking to create awareness about the adverse impacts of tobacco and motivate people to abide by the provisions of the country’s new tobacco control act, according to a story in The Financial Express quoting a UNB news agency report.

The campaign, which is said to have been organized by Progga (Knowledge for Progress) and supported financially by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Bloomberg Philanthropists, will appear on five private television channels.

The new control act, called the Smoking and Use of Tobacco Products Control (Amendment) Act, 2013, provides for three months imprisonment and a fine of BDT100,000 for those found to have published or broadcast tobacco advertisements; so just about the only television exposure people will have to tobacco products will be through the campaign.

A quarter of French cigarettes illicit

| January 13, 2014

Sales of cigarettes in France, which dropped about 7.6 percent last year, were impacted by high taxes and, to a lesser extent, the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, according to an Agence France Presse story.

Pascal Montredon, the head of the French association of tobacco shop owners, blamed the drop in sales on recent tax hikes.

Later this month the third tax hike in a little over one year will go into effect, at which point 80 centimes will have been added to the price of a pack of cigarettes.

The price of the most popular brand will have risen by about 11 percent to €7, while the price of the cheapest brand will have gone up by about 12 percent to €6.50.

Montredon said the high prices had encouraged the expansion of illegal imports, which he estimated as accounting for nearly one in four of the cigarettes smoked in France.

The growing popularity of e-cigarettes, which for the moment were tolerated in many places where smoking was banned, must have had an impact, added Montredon, but not as big an impact as the parallel market had had.

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