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Sales up at Swedish Match

| February 18, 2015

Swedish Match’s sales for the year to the end of December, at SEK13,305 million, were up by six percent on those of 2013, SEK12,610 million.

And sales during the fourth quarter of 2014, at SEK3,536 million, were up by 11 percent on those of the fourth quarter of 2013.

Calculated in local currencies, sales for the full year and fourth quarter increased by four percent and seven percent respectively.

Operating profit from product areas (excluding net profit from SM’s share in the Scandinavian Tobacco Group [STG] and larger one off items) for the full year was up by two per cent to SEK3,446 million, while fourth-quarter operating profit from product areas increased by eight percent to SEK900 million. In local currencies, operating profit from product areas for the full year increased by one percent and for the fourth quarter increased by four percent.

Operating profit (including net profit from SM’s share in STG and larger one off items) was down by two percent to SEK3,780 million for the full year 2014, but increased by six percent to SEK992 during the fourth quarter. Basic earnings per share fell during the full year by three percent to SEK13.23 but increased during the fourth quarter by three percent to SEK3.55.

“I am pleased with our fourth quarter performance, and especially with our improving position in the growing value priced snus segment in Sweden which contributed to a more stable market share development in that market, said CEO Lars Dahlgren . “We continue to focus our efforts on building our snus business long term, striving toward our vision of a world without cigarettes.”

TPPA to remain smoke-room story in New Zealand

| February 17, 2015

The New Zealand Trade Minister, Tim Groser, has reaffirmed his government’s stance of not releasing controversial negotiating documents relating to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, according to a story by Jamie Morton for the New Zealand Herald.

This is despite a letter published in The Lancet in which 27 health leaders in Australasia, the US, Canada, Malaysia and Chile had called for public disclosure of the full draft text of the agreement.

The TPPA, which has been negotiated behind closed doors during the past several years, is purportedly aimed at creating a regional ‘free’ trade agreement involving 12 Asia-Pacific countries.

But Otago University senior clinical lecturer, Dr. Erik Monasterio, one of the co-lead authors of the letter, claimed the agreement threatened governmental ability to deliver affordable health care and legislate to protect public health and reduce health inequities.

“The negotiations are not about the way most of us think of trade – you and me buying and selling things,” he was quoted as saying.

“Instead they are protecting the massive investment profits of multinational companies that are bigger than the whole New Zealand economy.”

Monasterio feared that under the TPPA governments could be sued for protecting health, but that governments could not sue back.

“This will stop important health initiatives on tobacco, alcohol, the obesity epidemic, climate change, antibiotic resistance, and other major future challenges,” he said.

Smoking prevalence down to 12.9 percent in Taipei

| February 17, 2015

Taipei’s smoking prevalence among adults aged 18 and above dropped from 18.9 percent in 2008 to 12.9 percent last year, the lowest level among Taiwan’s major cities and counties, according to a story in the Taipei Times quoting Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics.

The Taipei Department of Health is crediting its stringent ban on smoking in all indoor public spaces and some outdoor venues, along with the growing awareness of the health risks of tobacco use, for the drop of 130,000 in the number of city residents who smoke.

But the drop is said to be the result also of cessation programs. According to the Times’ story, while 20 percent of ‘men’ who relied solely on willpower to quit smoking succeeded, 32.5 percent of ‘Taipei residents’ who used the second-generation Smoking Cessation Program were successful.

The program was implemented in March 2012, but, since January 12, it has offered smoking cessation drugs that are fully covered by the National Health Insurance system in 3,049 hospitals, clinics and community pharmacies nationwide.

Smokers using the service are required to pay only a medical registration fee ranging from NT$50 to NT$250 per visit, and 20 percent of the cost of medication, with a cap of NT$200 per prescription. Previously, they had to pay all of the costs beyond the maximum weekly subsidy of NT$250.

Punjab cracks down on electronic cigarette vendors

| February 17, 2015

The charging of four vendors in the Punjab, India, for selling electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine has made the pages of the Hindustan Times and drawn a comment from Hussan Lal, described as ‘Commissioner FDA and Punjab Secretary Health and Family Welfare’.

As well as being charged with the sales offences, the four vendors have been charged also with ‘violating the directive issued by the state government to make the state tobacco free’.

They are said to have been charged under various sections of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, part of which bans electronic cigarettes.

Lal was quoted as saying that as many as 20 districts of the Punjab had ‘already been declared tobacco free’.

Meanwhile, Ajay Singla, state drug controller, Punjab, said electronic cigarettes contained nicotine in chemical form which was a “lethal and addictive chemical”.

Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, nicotine was allowed to be manufactured only as nicotine gums or lozenges. “Every other product which contained nicotine is illegal,” he said.

Employers need specific workplace vaping rules

| February 17, 2015

A recent UK employment tribunal case has sounded a warning that an employer wishing to dismiss an employee for vaping might not be able to fall back on its conventional smoking policy to justify the action taken, according to a piece on cipd.co.uk quoting Stuart Jones, head of employment and pensions at Weightmans.

The case in question did not concern a dismissal, but a constructive dismissal, and the tribunal found that the employer had ‘reasonable and proper cause’ for all of its actions.

However, the tribunal identified as a ‘point of concern’ that, while the employer clearly considered vaping to be the equivalent of smoking, it was not clear that the employee had breached any policy by using an electronic cigarette. She had not been informed of the specific rule she had broken because there was no rule in force prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes. The only potentially relevant policy in place was a conventional no-smoking policy.

Jones commented that if an employer decided that a ban on electronic cigarettes was necessary and appropriate, it would need to consider amending any existing no-smoking policy to explicitly prohibit electronic cigarettes. And any policy would have to extend to third parties, such as visitors.

If an employer chose to restrict, rather than ban electronic cigarettes, a clear policy on usage was advisable. Employers would need to think also about how any changes would be communicated to employees. Avoiding misunderstanding around this relatively novel issue was crucial.

Dismissal in the absence of a designated policy or provision might potentially be fair, but was more likely to be fair where an employer could point to a breach of a specific rule. While all cases would turn on their own facts, a clear and consistently applied policy would certainly strengthen an employer’s position where dismissal was contemplated.

Banks increase support for tobacco production

| February 16, 2015

Tobacco farmers have received an estimated 58 percent of Zimbabwe’s cumulative agricultural bank loans this summer. This translated to about $600 million of the estimated $1 billion that banks budgeted as production support for agriculture during the 2014-2015 season.

The country is targeting to produce 222 million kilograms (kg) of the crop this season, up from 216 million kg from the previous season.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) Executive Director, Paul Zakariya said banks have an appetite to finance tobacco production ahead of other crops because of the limited risks that arise when the crop is auctioned.

“Banks are more keen to support tobacco because of the solid stable policy environment under which the crop is performing.”

“This also relates to the organized marketing of tobacco through the stop-order system, which allows banks to easily follow through on their loans,” said Zakariya.

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