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EU illicit trade partly home-grown

| December 16, 2013

Significant amounts of cigarettes are probably produced illegally inside the EU, according to an EU Commission answer to a question posed by MEP Georgios Papanikolaou.

In 2010, five illicit factories were discovered and, in 2011, member states discovered nine illicit factories estimated to have a combined production capacity of more than nine million cigarettes per day, the Commission advised.

Papanikolaou had asked whether the Commission had estimates of illicit tobacco products produced and distributed within the EU.

And he had asked what were the main countries of origin of contraband cigarettes and their main destinations in the EU.

According to available data, the main sources of smuggled tobacco products were, in order of importance: China, UAE, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Belarus and Ukraine, the Commission said.

China continued to be the source country for the majority of seized cigarettes.

And Greece appeared to be a major target for entries of shipments from China and UAE.

‘The EU Eastern Border Anti-Smuggling Action Plan has had already some positive impacts; the share of illicit trade and inflows of illicit cigarettes in this region has decreased,’ the Commission said. ‘However, the EU Eastern border continues to be a target for illicit trade, particularly the Baltic region. The main countries of provenance there are Russia, Ukraine and, increasingly, Belarus.’

The Commission said that almost all member states could be considered final destinations for contraband cigarettes, in particular Ireland and the UK. Other countries, especially Greece, Spain, Italy and Poland were both transit countries and final destinations.

Illicit trade is still increasing in the EU, something the Commission addresses in its communication: Stepping-up the fight against cigarette smuggling and other forms of illicit trade in tobacco products – A comprehensive EU strategy.

Parliament rejects proposed easing of tobacco smoking ban in Bulgaria

| December 16, 2013

Bulgaria’s parliament has rejected a proposal that the country’s public-places tobacco-smoking ban should be relaxed, according to a Bulgarian News Agency story.

MPs last week rejected two bills seeking to amend the Health Act, with 107 voting against, 64 voting for and 17 abstaining.

The easing of restrictions would have seen the establishment of designated, separate smoking and non-smoking areas in large restaurants and coffee shops, while the owners of smaller establishments, with floor areas of less than 70 square meters, would have been able to decide if their establishments should or should not allow smoking.

Smoking would have been allowed in bars and night clubs.

Talking at cross purposes on tobacco bill

| December 16, 2013

The House of Representative’s legislative body (Baleg) in Indonesia has rejected the Health Ministry’s demand that it halt deliberations on a tobacco bill, according to a story in The Jakarta Post.

But it is not clear whether the bill exists, at least not in the form that the ministry has seen.

During a hearing in the House last week, Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi urged the Baleg to reject the bill.

Having read the draft legislation, she said, it was clear that the bill was written to protect the tobacco industry.

“The bill should be scrapped as it contradicts the basic human right of having the highest standard of healthy living,” Nafsiah said.

“If the bill was indeed proposed to protect farmers from imports, then why does it only deal with tobacco?”

But one Baleg member said the minister was jumping the gun.

“The draft that was received by the Health Ministry was not created by the House’s legislative body,” he said.

“Frankly, we haven’t even decided on the name of the bill, let alone written a draft. We want to gather as much as information from government officials as well as the public before drafting the bill.”

In December last year, Baleg announced that a tobacco bill aimed at improving the welfare of tobacco farmers would be one of 12 new pieces of legislation to be deliberated in the 2013 national legislative program.

Some lawmakers, health experts and activists have said that the hurried inclusion of the bill on the House’s backlogged agenda might have been a result of lobbying from major cigarette companies.

Bill proposes banning tobacco firms from lobbying Ireland’s politicians

| December 16, 2013

Three Irish senators are due to bring forward a bill banning tobacco companies from lobbying politicians, according to an Irish Mirror Online story.

Jillian Van Turnhout, John Crown and Sean Barrett are those pushing the new law.

Senator Crown described the tobacco industry as a “pernicious and evil trade”. “Fewer than half of those who ever take up smoking will quit, more than half of those who want to quit will never manage to,” he said.

The three senators are due also to push forward next week with plans to ban tobacco smoking in cars carrying young people.

Meanwhile, the tobacco advisor to the Department of Health, Fenton Howell, has claimed that Ireland will be a cigarette-free country by 2025.

According to the Mirror story, he said many believed the smoking ban was a pipe dream, but it was ‘now a reality’.

Study finds no link between secondhand tobacco smoke and lung cancer

| December 13, 2013

A large-scale study has found no clear link between secondhand tobacco-smoke exposure and lung cancer, undercutting the premise of years of litigation including a Florida case that yielded a $350 million settlement, according to a story by Daniel Fisher for Forbes.

Fisher cites an article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that provides 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.

The full story is at http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2013/12/12/study-finds-no-link-between-secondhand-smoke-and-cancer/.

Legal strategies block tobacco laws

| December 13, 2013

Tobacco companies are pushing back against a worldwide rise in anti-smoking laws using a little-noticed legal strategy to delay or block regulation, according to a story by Sabrina Tavernise for the New York Times.

Tavernise quotes health advocates and officials as saying the industry is warning countries that their tobacco laws violate an expanding web of trade and investment treaties, raising the prospect of costly, prolonged legal battles.

The strategy is said to have gained momentum in recent years as smoking rates in rich countries have fallen and tobacco companies have sought to maintain access to fast-growing markets in developing countries.

Industry officials were quoted as saying that there were only a few cases of active litigation, and that giving a legal opinion to governments was routine for major players whose interests would be affected.

But tobacco opponents, according to Tavernise, say the strategy is intimidating low- and middle-income countries from tackling one of the gravest health threats facing them.

Tavernise’s story is at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/13/health/tobacco-industry-tactics-limit-poorer-nations-smoking-laws.html?emc=edit_tnt_20131213&tntemail0=y&pagewanted=all&_r=0.

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