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Fine cigar auction, London, December 1

| November 11, 2014

C.Gars Ltd’s fifth winter auction of rare, aged and vintage cigars is due to be held in London on December 1.

Managing director, Mitchell Orchant, said his company was currently holding 350 Lots and that bids were expected to range from £40 to £30,000, which would be a record for a C.Gars auction.

Due to the high number of Lots, the auction is set to start at 16.00, at Boisdale Belgravia.

It will be followed by a dinner and smoke-in on Boisdale’s cigar terrace.

The C.Gars winter 2014 auction catalogue is online at www.cgarsltd.co.uk.

 

BAT moves swiftly to investigate U.S. tobacco farm labor abuse allegations

| November 10, 2014

British American Tobacco says it is bringing forward to next year a scheduled independent review of its US supply chain.

This follows the publication of a number of reports alleging labor abuses on US farms, including tobacco farms.

One report, A Smokescreen for Slavery: Human Rights Abuses in UK Supply Chains, by UK Labour Party members Jim Sheridan and Ian Lavery, followed a July fact-finding trip (see July 25 story: Joint US and British delegation to check on conditions on US tobacco farms) to migrant camps and tobacco fields, which was led by the Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee.

Asked to comment on a Huffington Post blog by the two MPs last week, BAT said that it hada long and proud history in agriculture, working directly with farmers around the world and advancing agricultural best practice.

“We do not own tobacco farms or directly employ farmers, instead we partner with over 100,000 contracted farmers and third party suppliers around the globe,” a spokesperson said.

“Our Social Responsibility in Tobacco Production (SRTP) programme sets out the standards we expect of our leaf suppliers, including in the US. We publish all supplier scores on our website at www.bat.com/srtpdata.

“We take any allegations of poor working conditions within our supply chain very seriously.”

The spokesperson said that since being made aware of the alleged issues in relation to farm labor in the US, BAT had been in regular dialogue with both the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJRT), with whom it contracted to purchase a small amount of tobacco leaf.

Last week’s report, a personal account by Labour Party MPs with whom BAT recently met, alleged a number of specific issues in North Carolina, USA. “While it is not clear the issues identified take place within our supply chain, further investigation is needed,” the spokesperson said.

“We have therefore brought forward to next year a scheduled independent review of our supply chain in the US.

“While we are a large shareholder of RJRT, we do not control the company.

“With regards to the specific issues raised in relation to US law, we maintain that they can only be resolved through a multi-stakeholder approach – one that involves all key US based stakeholders in the process, not just FLOC and RJRT.

“We agree with RJRT that the Farm Labor Practice Group, whose members include FLOC, federal and state level government, tobacco growers and other relevant organisations, remains the best mechanism for resolving these US specific issues.”

Farm labor practices in the US have been much in the news recently. In announcing recently new leaf tobacco supply arrangements with Philip Morris International, both Universal and Alliance made mention of the US Agricultural Labor Practices code.

Universal said that ALP was designed to further its corporate goals and the goals of its customers of progressively addressing and eliminating concerns found in agriculture with child and other labor issues, and achieving safe and fair working conditions on all farms from which Universal sourced tobacco.

The MP’s report is at: http://www.toledoblade.com/attachment/2014/11/06/Trade-Union-Group.pdf.

EU Commission quizzed over OLAF’s relationship with tobacco industry

| November 10, 2014

The European Commission has been asked how it can guarantee that co-operation between the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the tobacco industry won’t lead to a reduction in tobacco-industry vigilance by OLAF.

In a preamble to his question, Marc Tarabella, a Belgian politician and member of the European Parliament, said that since 2004 the Commission had, via OLAF, concluded agreements with the four biggest tobacco-products manufacturers in order to combat the smuggling and counterfeiting of cigarettes.

OLAF used information provided by the tobacco industry, while the multi-national corporations were financing the work of the investigators by contributing €2 billion, up to 2029, to the EU’s budget.

‘As part of this collaboration, customs agents were sent into the company Japan Tobacco International (JTI) for training,’ Tarabella said. ‘At the same time, the company JTI was involved in an investigation into contraband cigarettes conducted by the OLAF in 2011. In other words, the investigator is trained by the persons it must investigate.

‘How can the Commission guarantee that this collaboration with the tobacco industry will not result in a conflict of interests for the OLAF and, subsequently, in a reduction of vigilance with regard to the tobacco industry?’

Tarabella’s question is due to be answered by the Commission in writing.

Meanwhile, in another intervention on the question of the tobacco industry’s contributions to the EU’s budget, Tarabella said that exactly what this money was buying manufacturers, which had been dubbed ‘reasonable expectations’, remained classified.

However, he said that the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which had been ratified by the EU, obliged signatories to protect tobacco control policies from the influence of the tobacco industry.

He then went on to pose two questions:

* ‘How is the European Commission able to demonstrate that the money paid by the tobacco industry and whatever the industry is receiving in exchange do not contravene this principle?

* ‘Does the Commission intend to renegotiate a contract with PMI once the current contract expires in 2016?’

PM to hold discussions on plant closure

| November 10, 2014

The UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to meet Northern Ireland representatives to discuss the forthcoming closure of the Lisnafillan tobacco factory at Ballymena, County Antrim, according to a UTV News story.

It was announced last month that the plant, owned by Japan Tobacco International, would be shut down during the next two years with the loss of 900 jobs.

The news was described as a major economic blow to County Antrim and Northern Ireland.

David Cameron, who was asked about the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions, agreed to hold meetings during his next visit to Northern Ireland.

Graphic warnings unveiled in Philippines

| November 10, 2014

The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) has published 12 templates for the graphic health warnings set to be included on tobacco packs, according to stories in the Daily Inquirer and the Sun-Star.

The 12 warnings are to be rotated so that each variant of every brand displays them all with approximately equal frequency during a period of 24 months.

They include images of or metaphors for people suffering from the effects of stroke, emphysema, mouth cancer, gangrene, impotence, throat cancer, neck cancer and premature births, and babies with low birth-weight.

With the release of the templates, tobacco manufacturers have 12 months to comply with the health-warning law.

On top of that, retailers will be given a further eight months to exhaust their stocks of tobacco products not bearing the new picture warnings.

US farm labor issues continue to dog tobacco interests around the world

| November 7, 2014

A report released on Wednesday by two members of the British Parliament asks tobacco companies to guarantee freedom of association for US farm laborers, according to a story by Vanessa McCray for The Blade newspaper.

The report, by Labour Party members Jim Sheridan and Ian Lavery, followed a July fact-finding trip (see July 25 story: Joint US and British delegation to check on conditions on US tobacco farms) to migrant camps and tobacco fields, which was led by the Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee.

The eight-page report, “A Smokescreen for Slavery: Human Rights Abuses in UK Supply Chains,” details the duo’s findings and observations during the multiday visit to North Carolina.

The trip included stops at several labor camps, where, the report said, working conditions were ‘overwhelmingly deficient’.

Many workers feared retaliation if they complained, the report stated.

The MPs focus largely on British American Tobacco, which has its headquarters in Britain.

Sheridan was quoted as saying that BAT, the largest shareholder of Reynolds American Inc., should lobby Reynolds, the major buyer of North Carolina tobacco, to commit to full freedom of association for farm workers.

McCray quoted BAT as saying in a written statement that it takes seriously allegations of poor working conditions but noted the company didn’t own tobacco farms, employ farm workers, or control Reynolds.

‘While it is not clear the issues identified take place within our supply chain, further investigation is needed,’ read the company’s statement.

Farm labor practices comprise a high-profile issue for the tobacco industry at the moment. In announcing earlier this week new leaf tobacco supply arrangements with Philip Morris International, both Universal and Alliance made mention of the Agricultural Labor Practices code.

Universal said that ALP was designed to further its corporate goals and the goals of its customers of progressively addressing and eliminating concerns found in agriculture with child and other labor issues, and achieving safe and fair working conditions on all farms from which Universal sourced tobacco.

The MP’s report is at: http://www.toledoblade.com/attachment/2014/11/06/Trade-Union-Group.pdf

The Blade’s report is at: http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2014/11/06/U-K-report-urges-tobacco-workers-rights.html.

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