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EU Commission raises taxing e-cigarette question

| February 20, 2015

The EU Commission is considering looking into whether electronic cigarettes should be taxed in the same way as traditional cigarettes are taxed, according to a story in the Irish Times.

The Commission is said to have asked excise duty experts from across the EU to consider the ‘best way to achieve fiscal equal treatment’ of electronic and tobacco cigarettes.

Such a move would drastically increase the retail prices of electronic cigarettes, hinder or perhaps halt their take up and, presumably, lead to the sorts of illegal-trade levels that currently plague the tobacco industry.

Some support for India’s 85 percent health warnings

| February 20, 2015

Over 500 organizations have written to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi supporting the imposition of 85 percent graphic warnings on all tobacco packs from April 1, according to a DNA India story.

Representatives of women’s groups, youth associations, hospitals, self-help groups and voluntary organizations were said to be among those who sent 4,000 signed letters to Modi.

A number of international public health organizations working on tobacco control and cancer issues had earlier written to Modi and the Health Minister J P Nadda about the issue.

Tobacco manufacturers were informed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in October that they would be required to apply the warnings.

The manufacturers have asked the government to reconsider its order to have the warnings cover 85 percent of both faces of packs.

Irish legal practice urged to cut tobacco link

| February 20, 2015

An Irish legal practice involved in a threatened tobacco-company action over proposed standardized tobacco packaging legislation is coming under pressure from Health Minister Leo Varadkar to sever its connection with the tobacco industry.

Arthur Cox was said to be already facing questions from the Health Service Executive, one of its many public clients, over its involvement in a threatened court action by JTI Ireland against the government’s plan to impose standardized packaging.

The firm, which is among Ireland’s most powerful solicitors’ practices, is legal adviser to JTI Ireland, which has threatened to sue Varadkar and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly if they fail to halt standardized packaging legislation by today.

Varadkar issued a statement to the Times when asked whether he had confidence in Arthur Cox as corporate legal adviser to the HSE at a time when it was representing JTI Ireland in a threatened legal action to block a public health policy.

“There is no conflict of interest as the legislation is being prepared by the Departments of Health and Children and not by the HSE,” said Varadkar.

“But I do think it would reflect well on Arthur Cox if they didn’t represent tobacco companies.”

Swisher forms vapor-product company

| February 20, 2015

US-based Swisher International has formed a new ‘sister’ company, E-Alternative Solutions (EAS), to focus on developing, marketing and distributing electronic cigarettes and electronic vaping products, according to a CSPNet (Convenience Store/Petroleum) story.

John Miller, Swisher senior vice president of sales and marketing who will serve also as the CEO of EAS, said EAS had the ambition to become a market leader in the evolving e-alternative category – “just as Swisher has in the tobacco market for over 150 years”.

Meanwhile, Jacopo D’Alessandris, who has been appointed president of EAS, said the “e-cigarette and vapor space” had been growing rapidly but was still in its infancy. “Breakthrough technology and innovative marketing, coupled with Swisher’s expertise in the tobacco space, will be the key ingredients I will focus on to build EAS’ success,” he said.

Initially, EAS will offer two proprietary liquid vapor product lines. It is testing the products in select markets and selling them online. The liquids, which are used in electronic vapor devices, are manufactured in the US.

Lorillard declares quarterly dividend increase

| February 20, 2015

Lorillard’s board of directors has declared a seven percent increase in the quarterly dividend on its common stock from $0.615 per share to $0.66 per share.

The dividend is payable on March 10 to stockholders of record as of March 2.

The company said this was the seventh dividend increase since Lorillard became an independent publicly traded company in June 2008.

“We are very pleased to continue our policy of periodically increasing our dividend in line with our earnings growth,” said executive vice president and CFO David H. Taylor.

“This dividend increase is consistent with our targeted dividend payout ratio of 70-75 percent of earnings as well as the terms of our merger agreement with Reynolds American permitting the continuation of our historical dividend practices.”

Call for 99 percent tax on cigarette company profits

| February 19, 2015

A leading Irish oncologist and senator has called for a 99 percent tax on the profits of tobacco companies if they pursue threats of legal action against the state, according to a story in the Irish Examiner.

Commenting on news that JTI Ireland had threatened to sue the state over the introduction of standardized packaging, Senator John Crown said the government should fight back.

“We should retaliate … the government should consider some kind of measured response; that if this goes to court they should consider truly punitive taxes on tobacco company profits,” said Professor Crown.

“Perhaps something like a 99 percent tax on the profits of tobacco companies, or perhaps something like putting a €1,000 a pack tax on a pack of cigarettes – if the industry tries these kind of antics with us.”

Speaking after the cabinet had discussed on Tuesday the introduction of standardized packaging, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly, who put forward the plans for standardized packaging during his time as Minister for Health, said he would not give in to pressure.

“I need to be temperate in my language,” he was quoted as saying. “I’ll merely say this – the Irish government will always put the health of its citizens first, and it does so in this case too, without fear or favour from any external force – be that a multinational tobacco industry or other.”

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