UK cigarette companies accused the government of pursuing a ‘failing tobacco tax policy’ after it used last week’s budget to continue imposing above-inflation duty increases, according to a story in The Times.
At the same time, the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) claimed the government’s policies towards tobacco were boosting the market for illicit products.
“The illegal market cost the treasury £2.1 billion in 2013-14 and whilst we recognise the government’s commitment to a renewed anti-illicit tobacco strategy, further tax rises will simply undermine these efforts,” Giles Roca, the TMA’s director-general, was quoted as saying.
The Indian government will likely delay the implementation of its notification requiring tobacco products to carry graphic health warnings on 85 percent of the ‘pack surface’, according to a Times of India story relayed by the TMA.
The delay will apparently be used for greater interaction with stakeholders to ensure that the legislation is properly implemented.
The Parliamentary Committee on Subordinate Legislation had urged the Ministry of Health to delay the implementation so that it could hold more discussions with stakeholders and submit its ‘final and objective’ report.
The committee said it had received representations from MPs and tobacco-industry stakeholders who were against the proposed notification.
These people and organizations were concerned that it would have an adverse impact on the livelihoods of a large number of people.
The committee said it was it was of the firm opinion that all such concerns needed to be examined before the amendment notification was brought into force.
India’s current tobacco health warnings are required to occupy 40 percent of the ‘pack surface’.
Malawi’s Agricultural Parliamentary Committee is investigating complaints by tobacco farmers who are unhappy with an Integrated Production System (IPS) that they say the government has imposed on them, according to a story by the Nyasa Times.
And farmers aren’t the only ones who have reservations about the system. A paper on Tobacco Production and Market Review Policies by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, presented at the 2014 Tobacco Industry Annual Seminar, confirmed that the IPS had a number of problems.
The paper reportedly pointed out that the system lacked ‘transparency in loan portfolios’. For example, the tobacco buying companies were said to be free to charge farmers any level of interest on the value of farm inputs.
A farmer in Dowa was said to have told the Times that farmers were charged K30,000 for each bag of fertilizer that cost K16,000 on the open market.
One MP who is serving on the committee looking into the complaints, Nkhosa Kamwendo, said the system was just there “to steal from the farmers…”
Kamwendo said his job as an MP was to protect the people in his constituency who made their living from farming; so if those people were being ripped off he was failing in his duty.
Bloomberg Philanthropies (BPh) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) said on Wednesday they were creating a $4 million fund to help governments defend their tobacco control policies.
A Reuters report, relayed by the TMA, said the fund would be administered by the US-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
BPh and BMGF said countries with limited resources should not be bullied into making bad health policy choices.
In a briefing, Michael Bloomberg said the new fund would “help countries who are sued by the tobacco industry fight back in court and win”.
He said that while he supported capitalism and trade, the industry’s use of international trade agreements to prevent countries from passing tobacco control laws was unacceptable.
The issue, he added, was “about sovereignty and whether a country has the right to set its own public health policies”.
The initial investment is expected to grow as more donors join.
I-Mei Food, one of Taiwan’s biggest food companies, said on Wednesday that it would stop selling tobacco products in its stores from next month, according to a story in the Taipei Times.
The company cited the nation’s poor air quality, parents’ reaction to smoking, and actor-turned-activist Sun Yue’s anti-smoking efforts as reasons behind its decision.
Meanwhile, there has been a mixed reaction from the nation’s four major convenience store operators to I-Mei Food’s decision.
President Chain Store Corp’s 7-Eleven, the nation’s biggest convenience store chain, said it was still trying to understand the issue.
Family Mart said it had not discussed the issue, while Hi-Life and OK Mart said they had no plans to stop selling cigarettes.
OK Mart said its stores had a policy of selling but not promoting tobacco products.
Major hypermarket operators Carrefour, RT-Mart and Amart, and the Pxmart supermarket chain said they were maintaining their tobacco sales policies.
However, Costco said it would stop selling tobacco in its local outlets once its existing stocks were sold out.
More than 5.8 trillion cigarettes were smoked worldwide last year, about the same number as were smoked in 2013, according to a Reuters report relayed by the TMA and citing figures from the Tobacco Atlas.
The latest issue of the Atlas, which is produced by the World Lung Foundation (WLF) and the American Cancer Society, was released yesterday during the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, which is being held in Abu Dhabi this week.
The stability in the level of smoking was put down to rising consumption in China having balanced falling consumption elsewhere.
Meanwhile, in 2013, the last year for which detailed figures are available, 6.3 million people were said to have died from ‘smoking-related illness’.
At the same time, the top six transnational companies were said to have generated profits totaling US$44.1 billion, which the WLF said was equivalent to a profit of US$7,000 for each ‘smoking-related death’.
The report said that if current trends continued, a billion people would die a smoking-related death this century.
Low- and middle-income countries account for more than 80 percent of tobacco product users and tobacco-related deaths.
The report said also that in 24 countries the smoking rate among ‘girls’ was higher than the rate among ‘boys’, while in just two countries more women than men smoked.