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Failure of TPP talks an ‘interim victory’

| December 11, 2013

The failure to reach agreement during negotiations in Singapore on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is being seen as an interim victory for campaigns by the Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH) and its allies.

CPATH said in a press note issued through PRNewswire yesterday that it wanted to extricate tobacco control measures and other public health protections from nullification by corporate trade rules.

It said that multinational tobacco companies were systematically exercising rights found only in trade agreements to challenge lifesaving public health protections. “Medical and public health organizations worldwide, and our legal advisers, explored the problems and possible solutions during the four years of TPP negotiations, and concluded that the only genuine solution would be to carve out (or remove) tobacco control laws and regulations from trade agreements,” the press note said. “Malaysia has advanced just such a proposal. This 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.

“The U.S. Trade Representative has not agreed, nor exercised leadership towards a viable resolution. U.S. trade policy is set in secret, driven by 600 corporate advisers.”

CPATH’s co-director Ellen R. Shaffer paid tribute to the public health and medical community for consistent support. She said that partners and colleagues in the U.S. and in TPP countries, such as the South East Asia Tobacco Control Alliance and the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control, had issued strong calls to protect public health.

“Their compelling statements on the domestic sovereign rights of countries to adopt and maintain measures to reduce tobacco use and to prevent its harm have helped make public health and tobacco a central issue in TPP negotiations,” Shaffer said.

CPATH said that other U.S. proposals for the TPP would jeopardize global access to affordable medicines, require that countries allow the patenting of surgical methods, place restraints on public health insurance programs and subject government formularies and reimbursement programs to greater interference from pharmaceutical companies.

“We must restore democratic practice and principles of economic and social sustainability to the trade negotiations process,” said CPATH co-director Joseph E. Brenner. “We need a 21st century trade agreement. Carving out tobacco could signal the dawn of that century.”

New Mode unites four Mevius products

| December 11, 2013

Japan Tobacco Inc. is to integrate four of its Less Smoke Smell products under the new name of Mevius Mode.

Two of the products are currently within its Mevius D-SPEC line, and two are within its super-slim Mevius Style Plus line.

The flavor and aroma of these products will remain the same, but they will be sold in updated packaging.

The company said that the changes were aimed at making it clearer to consumers that these products were all part of the Mevius Less Smoke Smell lineup.

They were also aimed at introducing more consistency into the packaging design of products within the Mevius brand.

Most US states not serious about funding tobacco prevention and cessation

| December 10, 2013

The U.S. state of North Dakota currently spends $9.5 million a year on tobacco prevention cessation programs, a level of funding that meets that recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But this level of funding represents only 14.8 percent of the $64.3 million revenue that this year the state will collect in tobacco taxes and payments from the 1998 tobacco settlement.

And yet North Dakota ranks in first place on the table of states protecting young people from tobacco,  according to the annual report on states’ funding of tobacco prevention programs titled A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement 15 Years Later.

The report was released yesterday by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

The report assesses whether the states have kept their promise to use a significant portion of their settlement funds—estimated to total $246 billion over the first 25 years—to fight tobacco use.

North Dakota looks to be throwing money at the tobacco issue when compared with Missouri, which is in 50th place on the table of states protecting young people from tobacco.

Missouri currently spends $76,364 a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 0.1 percent of the $73.2 million recommended by the CDC.

This is despite the fact that Missouri will this year collect $183.5 million in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes.

Nationally, the report finds that most states are failing adequately to fund tobacco prevention and cessation programs.

It finds that the states this year will collect $25 billion from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend just 1.9 percent of that amount—$481.2 million—on tobacco prevention programs. That’s less than 2 cents of every dollar of tobacco revenue.

And it finds that states are falling woefully short of the CDC’s recommended funding levels for tobacco prevention programs.

Altogether, the states have budgeted just 13 percent of the $3.7 billion the CDC recommends.

Only two states, Alaska and North Dakota, currently fund tobacco prevention programs at the CDC-recommended level.

‘Grave risks’ in secrecy over TTP plans

| December 10, 2013

As the final round of ministerial talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership resumed on Sunday, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote to each of the 12 participating nations, warning that the deal and the secrecy surrounding it presented “grave risks,” according to a story by economics correspondent Peter Martin, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Australian government has refused the Senate access to the text of the trade deal it is negotiating, saying it will be made public only after it has been signed.

But Australia’s delegate, Trade Minister Andrew Robb, has told Fairfax Media he is prepared to agree to so-called “investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions” in return for access to markets including those of the U.S., Japan and Canada.

The provisions, rejected by the previous Labor government, allow foreign corporations to sue sovereign governments.

Robb agreed to ISDS provisions in order to clinch the South Korea-Australia free trade agreement announced last week but with what he said were “carve-outs” in “areas such as public welfare, health and the environment.”

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.

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