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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.

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.”

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