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PMI files plain packaging suit against UK government

| May 22, 2015

Philip Morris International today filed suit in the English High Court to contest the UK government’s recently introduced standardized packaging regulations for tobacco products.

In a note posted on its website, PMI said it was seeking a decision that the regulations – which imposed a wholesale ban on logos and visual trademark elements and required all cigarette packaging to look the same – violated English and European Union law.

“We respect the government’s authority to regulate in the public interest, but wiping out trademarks simply goes too far,” said Marc Firestone, PMI senior vice president and general counsel. “Countries around the world have shown that effective tobacco control can co-exist with respect for consumer freedoms and private property.”

PMI pointed out that in April 2015, all tobacco products in the UK were banned from display at retail, and as early as 2016, EU law would require that health warnings for cigarettes cover up to 65 percent of the pack.

PMI’s filing asserts that:

* ‘The regulations unlawfully deprive PMI of its trademarks. A core doctrine of English and EU law is that there must be fair compensation for deprivations of property, a remedy that the regulations do not provide.

* ‘The regulations violate the EU law that says Community trademarks can be used by identical means throughout the EU, which would be impossible if the UK government bans their use in the UK.

* ‘The regulations obstruct the free movement of goods through means that are neither necessary nor proportionate to achieving the UK government’s public health objectives.

* ‘A case from the English High Court is already before the European Union’s Court of Justice to decide whether standardized packaging is permissible under the EU’s recently enacted tobacco product directive. If not, then the UK regulations would be invalid. It would have been far sounder to hear from the Court of Justice before issuing the regulations.’

PMI said that trademarks conveyed a product’s quality and other attributes and helped consumers select from competing brands in a crowded marketplace. In this and other ways, trademarks were the key to a market economy.

In 2014, it added, Marlboro ranked as the ninth most valuable global brand with an estimated value of $67 billion.

“The UK government rushed out the regulations, with many serious questions left unanswered,” Firestone said. “The law protects trademarks because of their essential functions for consumers and in driving competition. By contrast, a wholesale ban on branding distorts the market and treats consumers as if they’re not capable of making their own decisions.”

Low leaf tobacco prices cause concern in Zimbabwe

| May 22, 2015

Zimbabwe’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture has expressed concern over the low prices being offered at tobacco auction floors this season, according to a story in The Herald.

It has urged stakeholders to educate growers on what they have to do to be rewarded with good returns for their tobacco.

The committee members toured Northern Tobacco, Tianze Tobacco Company and Boka Tobacco Auction Floors, where they were said by the Herald to have expressed dismay at a price cap of $4.99 per kg at a time when prices on contract floors were as high as $6.30 per kg.

Some committee members felt that buyers were exploiting farmers by offering low prices, while others accused the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board of not doing enough to assist farmers, especially on the issue of low prices. Others attributed the low prices to the low quality of the crop being delivered to the auction floors.

The Zengeza West Member of Parliament, Simon Chidhakwa, complained of middlemen buying the tobacco at very low prices outside the auction floors for resale at the floors.

Meanwhile, a story in the Zimbabwean relayed by the TMA said that quality tobacco that in previous seasons had sold for US$4.00 per kg was this season attracting offers of US$1.60 per kg.

Reynolds on the brink of acquiring Lorillard

| May 22, 2015

Reynolds American is poised to win US antitrust approval for its $25 billion purchase of Lorillard as early as next week, according to a story by David McLaughlin for Bloomberg News, quoting ‘a person familiar with the matter’.

If the merger is cleared, Reynolds will account for about a third of domestic tobacco sales and, together, Reynolds and Altria will account for about eight out of every 10 cigarettes sold in the country.

Reynolds first announced plans to buy Lorillard in July last year.

The full story is at:

More Brits vaping but more taken in by health scares

| May 22, 2015

The number of vapers in Britain has risen by 500,000 recently, according to a Press Association story citing figures from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH).

ASH was quoted as saying that there were now 2.6 million vapers in Britain, up from 2.1 million in 2014, with nearly all of this increase attributable to a rise in the number of ex-smokers using electronic cigarettes.

The campaign group said the figures showed the ‘value’ of electronic cigarettes in helping smokers give up tobacco.

But it warned of a ‘worrying’ increase in people falsely believing that electronic cigarettes were as harmful as or even more dangerous than traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Twenty two percent of people were said to believe that electronic cigarettes were as harmful as or even more dangerous than traditional tobacco cigarettes, up from 15 percent last year.

ASH said analysis by researchers at King’s College London had shown that electronic cigarette use had increased among ex-smokers from 4.5 percent in 2014 to 6.7 percent in 2015, but remained the same among current smokers at 17.6 percent.

Vaping remains rare amongst people who have never smoked, with just 0.2 percent of users falling into this category during the past three years.

Number of Saudi smokers expected to climb steeply

| May 22, 2015

The number of smokers in Saudi Arabia is expected to climb from six million now to 10 million in 2020, according to a Saudi Gazette story quoting the Al-Riyadh daily and citing a recent World Health Organization study.

About 40 percent of adult men, 10 percent of adult women and 15 percent of teenagers smoke, and together they get through about 12 billion cigarettes annually.

About 23,000 people in Saudi Arabia die of smoking-related causes every year and the number of people who have cancer caused by smoking is said to be about 10,000, with 80 percent of lung cancer patients identifying as smokers.

Meanwhile, Mubarak Al-Harthy, executive director of the Charitable Society for Former Drug Abusers, said a study the society had conducted had shown that 30 percent of school students between 13 and 15 years of age smoked cigarettes.

But it is not all bad news. Al-Harthy said many smokers believed it was difficult to quit the habit, but this was not true. With strong determination and will, a smoker could easily quit this habit, he said.

“Of course there are withdrawal symptoms but they can be treated and dealt with at specialized clinics for smokers who are trying to quit,” he added.

“The clinics, run by the Ministry of Health, can help smokers kick the habit and lead a healthy and long life.”

E-cigarette study shows risks of e-cigarette studies

| May 21, 2015

A new study has challenged a previous suggestion that some electronic cigarettes could deliver levels of formaldehyde greater than those of traditional tobacco cigarettes.

In January, a report published as a research letter in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that a 3rd generation electronic cigarette (one with variable power settings) operated at its maximum power setting and with a long puff duration generated levels of formaldehyde that, if inhaled in this way throughout the day, would several times exceed formaldehyde levels that smokers ingest from traditional tobacco cigarettes, according to a press note from the journal Addiction.

This apparent new electronic-cigarette health hazard was reported worldwide.

But a new study published online today in the scientific journal Addiction took a closer look at the NEJM findings in the context of real-world conditions and came to a different conclusion. ‘It concluded that 3rd generation e-cigarettes can indeed produce high levels of aldehydes – but only under extreme conditions which human smokers can be expected to avoid because of the immediate unpleasant sensory effects,’ the press note said.

‘The Addiction study, led by cardiologist Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, found that it was possible to get e-cigarettes to produce high levels of aldehydes, but only in what is known colloquially as “dry puff” conditions.  As Farsalinos explains: “Our results verify previous observations that it is possible for e-cigarettes to generate high levels of aldehydes; however, this is observed only under dry puff conditions, which deliver a strong unpleasant taste that vapers detect and avoid, by reducing power levels and puff duration or by increasing inter-puff interval. Minimal amounts of aldehydes are released in normal vaping conditions, even if high power levels are used. In those normal-use conditions, aldehyde emissions are far lower than in tobacco cigarette smoke.”’

Professor Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK, was quoted as saying that the findings of the Addiction study emphasized the importance of making clear the conditions in which tests were undertaken and avoiding sweeping assertions that could mislead the public.

“Vapers are not exposed to dangerous levels of aldehydes,” he said.

“My reading of the evidence is that e-cigarettes are at least 95 percent safer than smoking. Smokers should be encouraged to switch to vaping.”

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