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Sampoerna looking to comply with exchange ruling

| June 29, 2015

Philip Morris International said on Friday that its Indonesian subsidiary, Sampoerna, in which it holds a 98.18 percent interest, would explore options to comply with the Indonesian Stock Exchange’s (IDX) mandatory requirement of a minimum threshold for public shareholding.

On January 30, 2014, IDX introduced a regulation requiring all listed public companies to have at least 7.5 percent of their total paid up capital owned by the public by January 30, 2016.

‘Sampoerna has engaged investment banks to assist with the evaluation of various strategic options to fulfill this requirement’ PMI said in a note posted on its website.

‘These include potential capital market transactions.’

Andhra tobacco growers in ‘disastrous predicament’

| June 26, 2015

Flue-cured tobacco growers in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh are facing a disastrous predicament, according to a story in the latest issue of the BBM Bommidala Group newsletter quoting the member of parliament, Y.V. Subba Reddy.

The MP said that there were no buyers for the low- to medium-grade flue-cured that accounted for more than 70 percent of production this year.

He has promised to take up the plight of the growers during the monsoon session of parliament and has urged growers not to make any ‘distress sales’ in the meantime.

Growers sold 38.58 million kg of flue-cured for an average price of Rs109.30 per kg after 80 days of auctions at the continuing 2015 sales season, according to Tobacco Board of India data.

Of the total, bright grades comprised 20.84 million kg, while 15.98 million kg comprised medium grades and 1.75 million kg low grades.

Concerned about the slow rate of auction sales, grower associations and Reddy have urged the Indian government to allow international cigarette manufacturers and leaf merchants to take part in the auctions directly, rather than, as now, through local partners.

Reddy has asked the board to make market interventions so as to provide relief for growers.

Park ban on smoking ‘excessive and unnecessary’

| June 26, 2015

A smokers’ group has criticised a ban on smoking and vaping in public parks in the county of Waterford, Ireland, describing the measure as ‘excessive and unnecessary’, according to a story in the Irish Times.

The Irish branch of Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest) was responding to the introduction by Waterford City and County Council of by-laws prohibiting smoking and swearing in its parks.

The new rules, designed to discourage ‘anti-social behaviour’, will ban also, among other things, barbecues, gambling, the use of firearms, religious ceremonies, horses and model airplanes.

The by-laws were passed by the council last week and will come into effect on July 1.

‘There is nothing anti-social about smoking in a public park,’ Forest said in a statement.

‘There is no risk to anyone else, including children. Most of the time, unless you’re very close, you won’t even be aware they’re doing it.’

And the group said it made even less sense to ban electronic cigarettes.

“Vaping is not smoking, however you look at it’ Forest said. ‘An increasing number of smokers are using e-cigarettes as a harm reduction or smoking cessation aid. Why ban something that some people are using to quit smoking?”

Forest said there were already laws to deal with people making loud or repeated profanities in public places. “These new rules are excessive and unnecessary’ it said. ‘The overwhelming majority of people know how to behave in public spaces without being regulated to an inch of their lives.”

Forest Éireann is funded by Forest UK, which receives donations from tobacco companies in Britain and Ireland.

NSW to continue allowing vaping in public

| June 26, 2015

The sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and their use in cars with minors present are due to be banned after new laws were passed in the parliament of New South Wales, Australia, according to a story by Nicole Hasham for the Sydney Morning Herald.

The new laws will mean also that the sale, packaging, advertising and display of the devices will be subjected to further regulation.

But after the introduction of the laws, electronic cigarettes may continue to be used in enclosed spaces such as cafés and on public transport because the government refused a push by other parties to have the devices treated like tobacco products.

President handed fast-track authority for trade deals

| June 26, 2015

In what is being seen by some as a major victory for US President Obama, the Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday voted 60-38 for legislation granting the president fast-track authority to complete trade deals, according to a story on National Public Radio (NPR).

Such authority means that trade deals such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is currently being negotiated away from the public eye, mainly by corporate representatives, will be fast tracked through Congress, which will be allowed to vote yes or no to the deal but not to offer amendments.

The TPP and other trade agreements often include investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms, which have been condemned by some politicians as anything from a charter for big corporations to rip off taxpayers to an attack on democracy. The Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, writing in The Hill, said the US should not be signing trade agreements that could be used as a basis for action to prevent democratically passed public health laws from taking effect.

And the US democrat, Elizabeth Warren, described ISDS as an obscure process that allowed big companies to go to corporate-friendly arbitration panels that sit outside any court system in order to challenge laws they don’t like. These panels, she said, could force taxpayers to write huge checks to big corporations without those corporations having to file suits in court, and with no chance of an appeal or judicial review.

Meanwhile, the NPR reported that, on the same day that the Senate passed the fast-track legislation, it approved also Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) legislation, which is aimed at helping displaced workers.

The TAA legislation had been backed strongly by the White House and Democrats and was expected to clear the House of Representatives.

Earlier this month, House Democrats defeated the TAA legislation in an attempt to derail fast track authority.

Smokers still a substantial minority within EU

| June 25, 2015

Figures from a just-released Eurobarometer survey indicates that 26 percent of EU residents are current smokers, down from 28 percent in 2012, according to a story in Malta Today, relayed by the TMA.

The survey was conducted among nearly 28,000 residents of the EU’s 28 nations.

Sweden, with 11 percent, and Finland, with 19 percent, were found to have the lowest proportions of smokers, while Greece, with 38 percent, and Bulgaria, with 35 percent, had the highest.

Twelve percent of EU residents have tried e-vapor products, the survey found, up from seven percent in 2012, while two percent use them.

Four percent of current EU smokers also use e-vapor products, with the highest rate of dual use found in the UK (11 percent), France (eight percent), Denmark (seven percent) and the Netherlands (seven percent).

Three percent of former smokers use e-vapor products, with the highest rates found in the UK (eight percent), Ireland (six percent) and France (six percent).

No more than one percent of never smokers in any country are current electronic cigarette users.

Meanwhile, Ireland, with 74 percent, Cyprus, with 73 percent, and Malta, with 69 percent, had the largest proportions of survey respondents who supported banning corporate colors, logos and promotional elements from tobacco product packaging.

Such packaging restrictions had the lowest level of support in the Netherlands (43 percent) and Bulgaria (45 percent).

Sweden, with 70 percent, Finland, with 68 percent, and Malta, with 67 percent, had the largest proportions of respondents in favor of increasing taxes on tobacco products, while support for higher taxes was lowest in France (39 percent), Greece (41 percent) and Bulgaria (43 percent).

The survey findings are at: (Malta Today 6/23).

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