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US politicians put pressure on Ireland over standardized packaging plans

| December 10, 2013

The governor of the U.S. state of Virginia has written to the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, urging him to reject proposals to introduce standardized cigarette packaging, according to a story in The Irish Times.

In a letter last week, Gov. Bob McDonnell said there were other proven ways to regulate the industry that were based on “sound science”; ways that did not undermine “the great Irish business environment.”

The governor’s letter, which has been seen by The Irish Times, made the case that McDonnell and Kenny had a mutual interest in fortifying their economies.

It said the standardized packaging initiative might undermine Ireland’s reputation as a country in which intellectual property rights were fully protected.

Six weeks ago, four senior congressmen wrote to Ireland’s ambassador to the U.S., Anne Anderson, urging her government to scrap the proposal.

“We are increasingly concerned that the Irish parliament may mandate plain packaging of tobacco products,” they wrote.

“The U.S. and Ireland are friends and strong trading partners. We encourage your government to consider more effective ways to regulate tobacco that do not jeopardize intellectual property rights.”

Tobacco vending machines to be ousted from Israel by start of next year

| December 10, 2013

The sale of cigarettes from indoor and outdoor vending machines will be outlawed throughout Israel from the beginning of next year, according to a story by Judy Siegel-Itzkovich.

The law was originally passed in August 2011, but its implementation was postponed until the beginning of 2014 because vending companies said they needed time to adjust to the new regulations. Theoretically, cigarette vending machines could be retrofitted to sell other items.

In enforcing the law, Siegel-Itzkovich wrote, the Health Ministry was fulfilling Israel’s responsibilities regarding vending machines to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which the country had approved and ratified.

Although Israel had ratified the convention in August 2005, it had not implemented all the FCTC’s provisions, she wrote.

And, according to Siegel-Itzkovich, even some anti-tobacco laws that have been passed are not enforced.

Health alliance says e-cigarettes must remain available to smokers

| December 9, 2013

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) has called for the regulation of e-cigarettes as a matter of urgency, but insists that regulation should be framed so as to ensure these products remain available to smokers, according to an Agence Europe story.

The agency report said that, in the absence of health impact studies on e-cigarettes, the EPHA had called for the adoption of the precautionary principle in respect of all devices containing nicotine.

The EPHA’s intervention has come at a time when inter-institutional dialogue on the European Commission’s proposed revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive has essentially stalled in respect of e-cigarettes.

The EPHA has published a document in which it recommends the adoption of watertight European legislation for protecting public health.

Monika Kosinska, EPHA secretary general, said that without a robust regulatory framework in place in the EU, e-cigarettes were hanging in a legal limbo.

It was essential that this emerging range of products was urgently regulated to safeguard people’s health.

“To achieve this, Brussels has to make sure that strict rules on advertising and sponsorship as well as market surveillance and monitoring are the corner stones of new legislation, whilst ensuring that the products are accessible to existing smokers,” she was quoted as saying.

TPP would hand too much influence to tobacco and pharmaceutical firms

| December 9, 2013

Civic groups have warned of the potential negative impacts a proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement could have on the poor and their “medical rights,” according to a story by Lu Hsin-hui and Jay Chen for Focus Taiwan.

The warning came as ministers from 12 countries gathered in Singapore over the weekend for closed-door meetings on the trade bloc.

Fears were expressed over apparent proposals for granting longer patent periods for drugs, for granting drug-data exclusivity and for giving pharmaceutical companies more say in deciding which drugs were eligible for state subsidies as prescribed medications, and how much they were subsidized.

The South East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, a civic group based in Bangkok, faulted the TPP negotiations for backtracking on the prevention of smoking-related health risks.

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control required its 170 signatories to act on the prevention of tobacco-related diseases, but, the Focus Taiwan story said, under current TPP proposals, each member government would be required to consult with tobacco companies when drafting restrictions.

Meanwhile, 32 U.S. groups have written to the U.S. Trade Representative, ambassador Michael Froman, seeking his explicit commitment that the U.S. will not propose or agree to any provisions in the TPP that would undermine the domestic sovereign rights of participating countries to adopt or maintain measures to reduce tobacco use and to prevent the harm it causes to public health.

The 32 mainly health groups pointed out what they saw as the compelling body of statements by major medical, public health and public interest organizations in the U.S. that had consistently called on the U.S. to exercise leadership in the negotiations on the TPP to advance tobacco control measures that contributed to reducing the enormous burden of disease related to tobacco use and prevent incursions by the tobacco industry against those measures.

“We must remove tobacco control measures and tobacco products from trade agreements and assure that tobacco control measures will not be subject to challenge through the TPP and all future trade agreements,” the letter stated. “Malaysia, a TPP trading partner, has proposed carving out tobacco control measures, and tobacco products, from the agreement. This proposal, if accepted, would set a standard in trade law that would complement the global consensus on fighting the tobacco epidemic enshrined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, to which all TPP countries are signatories.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death, claiming over 6 million lives a year. Past trade agreements have provided opportunities for multinational tobacco corporations to make cigarettes cheaper, to launch massive marketing campaigns and to challenge public health measures such as a U.S. ban on clove cigarettes, and plain packaging. The U.S. must lead the way towards policies that protect and improve the public’s health.”

Flood of submissions on Ireland’s proposed standardized packs bill

| December 9, 2013

An attempt is being made to bury Ireland’s Department of Health in paper so as to frustrate efforts to introduce standardized packs for cigarettes sold in the country, according to a story in The Irish Examiner.

The department’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, told the committee on health and children that the department had received 6,000 submissions in recent months. “This is part of the tactical game to drown us in paper,” said Holohan, who claimed the submissions had originated from a number of sources.

Health Minister James Reilly introduced a standardized packaging bill at the committee meeting.

Holohan said some of the submissions made reference to the bill on standardized packaging, as well as the EU’s new tobacco products directive.

Meanwhile, Reilly has said that standardized packaging will help police tackle the illegal trade in cigarettes.

He said the introduction of standardized packaging would not help the illegal tobacco trade, as some had forecast.

Malawi appoints NewCo manager to Tobacco Control Commission

| December 9, 2013

NewCo’s country manager for Malawi, Robin Saunders, has been appointed to the board of the Malawi Tobacco Control Commission (TCC), where he is expected to serve until Sept. 9, 2016.

The TCC is responsible for, among other things, advising the government on tobacco-related matters, regulating the production, processing and marketing of tobacco, and promoting the sale of Malawi’s tobacco.

Saunders has been asked to represent both tobacco merchant companies and tobacco estate growers.

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