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Fewer men smoking in Uzbekistan

| October 4, 2013

The number of male smokers in Uzbekistan has decreased from 30 percent in 2002 to 22 percent today, according to a story by Maksim Yeniseyev for CentralAsiaOnline.com, quoting figures from the World Health Organization.

Only 3 percent of the country’s women were said to smoke, but it was not clear whether this figure was higher or lower than it was in 2002.

A Health Ministry spokesman, Furkat Sadykov, was quoted as saying that the government had contributed to the reduction in smoking among men by banning tobacco advertising and promotions, restricting tobacco sales and ratifying the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2012.

Uzbekistan established in 2011 the National Centre for Fighting Smoking, which had organized anti-smoking events and worked to help smokers kick the habit, Sadykov said.

In addition, a law aimed at restricting the distribution and consumption of alcohol and tobacco had taken effect in April 2012.

And Uzbekistan had recognized that illicit tobacco sales posed a major hurdle to eradicating smoking.

BAT buys into low-nicotine research

| October 4, 2013

U.S.-based 22nd Century Group, which is developing very low nicotine cigarettes, has signed a $7 million research license agreement with British American Tobacco, according to a story by David Robinson for Buffalo News.

The deal, spanning four years, is said to give BAT access to 28 of 22nd Century’s patents and patent applications involving the alteration of the level of nicotine in tobacco plants.

The companies are due work together on research to further develop the technology.

“Licensing our technology to the world’s second-largest tobacco company is a huge milestone for 22nd Century Group,” said Henry Sicignano III, the company’s president.

Under the deal, BAT will pay 22nd Century $7 million upfront, and up to $7 million more during the course of the research agreement if certain milestones are met.

The agreement also gives BAT an option to terminate the research agreement at any time and convert it into a commercial license to produce products based on 22nd Century’s patents and technology. If that happened, the commercial license would run through to at least 2028.

Joseph Pandolfini, 22nd Century’s chief executive officer said the agreement was essentially about the company’s newer technology. “BAT is going to accelerate things with our second-generation technology,” he said.

PM Thailand vows to fight tax allegations

| October 4, 2013

Philip Morris Thailand (PMT) vowed yesterday to “vigorously defend itself” against Thai tax evasion allegations, according to a story in the Bangkok Post.

Newly appointed attorney general, Athapol Yaisawang, said the indictment had been launched against PMT by his predecessor, Chulasingh Vasantasingh, before his recent retirement.

Although the details of the allegations were unclear, PMT said in a statement any prosecution would violate Thailand’s obligations under a World Trade Organization customs agreement.

“Philip Morris Thailand Limited … intends to vigorously defend itself against these meritless charges,” it said.

Nevertheless, the company said it had not been formally notified by the Thai authorities of a prosecution order, and it expressed hope that the new attorney general would review the case.

Finally faced with smoking-problem solution, US officialdom flunking it

| October 3, 2013

The U.S. faces several unresolved public policy crises including a federal government shutdown, and yet officials are trying to create a problem where none exists, according to the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA).

“Some U.S. Senators and state attorneys general, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have launched a bad-faith campaign against electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), the low-risk alternative to smoking,” according to a CASAA press note released through PRNewswire.

“E-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively by adult smokers and former smokers in order to quit or reduce their smoking habit. Nevertheless, these officials are irresponsibly misleading the public into believing that e-cigarettes pose an extraordinary danger to youth when there is absolutely no evidence to support that claim.”

The government attacks began with the CDC releasing statistics showing that a relatively small number of students, most of whom were already smokers, had tried e-cigarettes. The CDC’s reporting of these results was described as “misleading, to put it charitably” by Carl V. Phillips, Ph.D., scientific director of CASAA, an all-volunteer consumer group dedicated to protecting access to low-risk alternatives to smoking. “Obviously kids experiment with forbidden and often hazardous behaviors, from dangerous driving to illicit drugs,” Phillips said. “Of all the experimenting they do, these low-risk products are hardly the one to worry about.

“The results showed only that a few kids had tried one puff from an e-cigarette, not that any had become habitual users, let alone that it was causing any of them to engage in the actual risky behavior, smoking.”

But the CASAA press note said that this was exactly what the CDC had implied. “With no evidence to support the claim in the data and no reason to believe it was true, CDC touted its results as implying that the availability of e-cigarettes to adult smokers was somehow causing young people to smoke,” the note said.

“This launched a flurry of misleading claims and demands for banning this public health miracle. This includes senators demanding e-cigarette manufacturers respond to questions in what long-time anti-smoking campaigner, Bill Godshall, executive director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, observed were “typical ‘gotcha’ questions, designed so that any answer can be used in anti-e-cigarette propaganda”.

Phillips further commented that the questions were “disturbingly reminiscent of the Senate’s McCarthy-era witch-hunts.”

Meanwhile, CASAA Vice President Kristin Noll-Marsh said that consumers and industry were in complete agreement in supporting bans on sales to minors. “Unfortunately, some anti-tobacco organizations have endeavored to block such bans and then use the absence of restrictions on sales to youth as an excuse to ban sales to adults,” he said. “They do this even though cigarettes are legal and widely available. The sad truth is that children who want to smoke have no trouble acquiring cigarettes.”

“E-cigarettes are estimated to be about 99 percent less harmful than smoking,” CASAA said. “This has led to speculation about why officials are intent on eliminating them.

“The federal and state governments derive a large amount of revenue from cigarettes, profiting far more than the tobacco companies do from each pack sold. Attacking e-cigarettes could serve as a public relations ploy in an era where the government is increasingly considered unable to solve important problems. Deceptively casting e-cigarettes in the same light as smoking may represent a preliminary effort to support high taxes on this low-risk alternative as a revenue-generating measure as opposed to serving any real public interest.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has indicated that it will soon start regulating e-cigarettes, a move that could be beneficial to consumers by improving the quality of the products. But if [the] FDA yields to the demands of officials who are more interested in politics than science, it could spell the end of the most important public health innovation in a generation.”

“Ironically, the cigarette companies would benefit most from restrictive regulation,” said CASAA’s president, Elaine Keller. “It would be a travesty if our government were to choose to protect cigarettes from this low-risk competitor. Restrictive regulations would also favor the low-end e-cigarettes that tobacco companies have recently introduced over those offered by the smaller competitors. This would have a devastating impact on consumers since the smaller competitors offer the kind of higher-quality products that are responsible for millions of smokers switching over the last several years.”

Fake goods bought mostly by people who cannot afford genuine articles

| October 3, 2013

Northern Ireland (NI) is the regional counterfeit capital of the U.K., according to a BBC Online story quoting the results of a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report that looked at the economic impact of counterfeiting.

People in NI were said to have admitted buying more fake clothing and accessories, films, music and alcohol than those in other regions. (Presumably, the survey methodology ruled out the possibility that the people of NI might be more honest when answering questions than are those in other regions.)

More than half of those surveyed in NI said they “sometimes” bought fake items—the highest regional percentage in the U.K.

And 64 percent of those who bought counterfeit products said they did so because they could not afford the real thing, a claim that rings true in the case of cigarettes given that the U.K. government raises taxes so as to make these products unaffordable.

The report, Counterfeit Goods in the UK—Who is buying what, and why?, said adults regularly bought counterfeit alcohol, cigarettes, medicines, films and music, clothes and car parts.

Mark James, of PwC’s anti-counterfeiting team, was quoted as saying that counterfeit goods impacted on profit and jobs, yet people increasingly saw it as a normal, consumer choice.

“The digital economy and global supply chains have made tracking counterfeit goods and measuring their economic damage fiendishly complex,” he said.

Meanwhile, The Scotsman reported that, according to the report, Scottish consumers were less likely than people in other parts of the U.K. to buy counterfeit goods. Thirty-two percent of people in Scotland admitted they sometimes bought fake clothing and accessories, compared with 53 percent of people in NI and 41 percent of people in the U.K. overall.

But the newspaper said that whereas 9 percent of respondents in Scotland owned up to buying fake cigarettes, only 6 percent of those in NI did so.

A report by Rebecca Smithers for The Guardian pointed out that, across the U.K. as a whole, 13 percent of people admitted to buying “imitation branded cigarettes, despite the obvious health risks of such products.”

Lebanon expands tobacco smoking ban

| October 3, 2013

A tobacco smoking ban in enclosed public places, including coffee shops, restaurants and bars, went into force in Lebanon on Monday, according to an Agence France Presse story.

Such a ban took effect a year ago in airports, hospitals and schools, but has now been expanded to include all enclosed public places.

The new anti-tobacco law includes also a ban on tobacco advertisements.

Smokers caught lighting up in an enclosed public space face a $90 penalty, while restaurant owners who turn a blind eye to offenders could be fined anything from $900 to $2,700.

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