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Plain packaging dispute moves up a gear

| April 29, 2014

Australia could learn by the end of this year whether its standardized tobacco packaging regulations have fallen afoul of World Trade Organization requirements, according to an Agence France Presse story.

Since Dec. 1, 2012, Australia has required that all tobacco products be sold in packaging designed on behalf of the previous Labor government to be as ugly as possible. Packs are hugely dominated by graphic health warnings, are otherwise a standard olive color, have no logos or other design features, and have brand and variant names in a standardized font and position.

Australia and the five countries that have raised objections to the regulations, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia and Ukraine, agreed at a WTO dispute settlement body meeting on Friday to combine the five separate challenges into a single case.

WTO chief Roberto Azevedo is expected by May 5 to name the three-member panel of independent trade and legal experts, who, under the organization’s rules, will then have six months to issue a ruling.

However, according to a story by Tom Miles for Reuters, panels frequently ask for more time, and the WTO’s dispute system is suffering from a bottleneck.

Additionally, any party to the dispute could appeal, a process that can add months to the outcome, and some disputes drag on for years because of disagreements over whether a country ruled to be in the wrong has done enough to comply with the terms of the WTO judgment.

The Agence France Presse story, meanwhile, quoted trade analysts as saying that the dispute ruling could have far-reaching implications for how governments balanced global intellectual property rules with measures they say are in the public interest.

E-cigarette use among never-smokers negligible, says anti-smoking body

| April 29, 2014

Electronic cigarette use among people who have never smoked remains negligible in Great   Britain, according to an ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) fact sheet.

Only 1.1 percent of “never-smokers” have ever tried e-cigarettes and almost none of those who have tried these products continue to use them.

Among former smokers, 11.8 percent have tried e-cigarettes but only 4.7 percent use them on a regular basis.

ASH has commissioned a series of surveys on e-cigarette use, starting in 2010 with a survey of adult smokers that was repeated in February 2012, February 2013 and March 2014. In March 2013, an additional survey of young people aged 11 to 18 was conducted.

Using its own and government data, ASH estimates that whereas in 2010 only 8.2 percent of current smokers had ever tried e-cigarettes, by 2014, that figure had risen to 51.7 percent.

Between 2010 and 2014, also, there was a gradual but consistent rise in the number of current smokers who used e-cigarettes on a regular basis: 2.7 percent to 17.7 percent.

There are currently 2.1 million e-cigarette users in Great Britain, of whom about 700,000 are ex-smokers and 1.3 million continue to use tobacco alongside e-cigarettes.

The ASH fact sheet is at

TFWA registrations up 23 percent

| April 29, 2014

With less than three weeks to go before the start of the TFWA (Tax-Free World Association) Asia Pacific Exhibition & Conference, 1,480 duty-free operators, travel-retail businesses and landlords had registered for the event, according to the association’s newsletter, Evoice.

Registrations for the event, which will be held in Singapore May 11–15, were up 23 percent on those of last year.

The association is promising that improved registration facilities at street level this year will save time and offer direct access to the show floors.

Interactive screens will help visitors navigate the alleys and stands, with directions downloadable to smartphones via QR tags.

More information of the exhibition and conference is at

Macau ups the ante on smoking lounges

| April 29, 2014

The government of Macau will announce its technical guidelines for the installation of smoking lounges in casinos by June or July at the earliest, according to a Macau Business Daily story quoting Health Bureau Director Lei Chin.

Before the guidelines were launched, Lei said, his bureau was going to discuss the approval criteria with the public works departments and the Fire Services Bureau.

Under the partial smoking ban in casinos, those who have applied for smoking areas—permissible on up to 50 percent of casino floor space—will have to submit a monthly air-quality report to the Health Bureau.

Warning: Proposed e-cigarette rules could devastate public health

| April 28, 2014

A public health expert has expressed serious concerns about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed regulations on electronic cigarettes.

Writing on his blog, Dr. Michael Siegel, who is a professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, said that with the release of its deeming regulations, the FDA was poised to give a huge gift to combustible tobacco and to the diseases and death caused by cigarettes.

“If promulgated as is, the regulations will be devastating to the public’s health by protecting the combustible cigarette market at the expense of the introduction and promotion of much safer alternative products that would otherwise have the potential to substantially reduce lung disease, heart disease, stroke, and cancer,” he writes.

Siegel focuses on two major aspects of the deeming regulations that he says would deal a devastating blow to the public’s health:
1. Electronic cigarette companies cannot inform consumers that these products are safer than cigarettes, and they cannot even tell the public that they are free of tobacco.
2. The regulations put a huge, if not insurmountable, obstacle in the way of new and innovative electronic cigarette products.
Siegel’s blog is at

Bangladesh looks to check growing trend

| April 28, 2014

The government in Bangladesh is planning to check the increase in production of leaf tobacco in the country, according to a story in The Financial Express quoting a UNB News Agency report.

“A policy will be formulated soon to check the cultivation and production of tobacco,” M. Amin Ul Ahsan, coordinator of the tobacco control cell of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, was quoted as telling the news agency.

But despite his use of the word soon, he seemed to suggest that it might take some time to devise a policy acceptable to all. Many ministries and government bodies had interests in tobacco cultivation and production, he added.

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