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Cuba aiming to boost tobacco output

| September 1, 2014

Cuba’s vice president, Jose Ramon Machado, on Thursday urged the country’s tobacco farmers to increase output, according to a Xinhua News agency story.

“Cuban tobacco is the world’s best,” the official daily Granma quoted him as saying during a visit to the western province of Pinar del Rio, Cuba’s tobacco-growing center… “It is an advantage that we cannot afford to waste, so we have to have a strong output.”

According to the Xinhua story, another 15,940 ha of tobacco, or about 70 percent of the current national total, are to be planted in the province during the next season.

Tobacco is Cuba’s fourth biggest source of foreign trade revenue, bringing in more than $400 million dollars a year.

Hungary trying to ensure tobacco’s future

| September 1, 2014

Hungary’s government is looking for ways to support the country’s tobacco growers while complying with European Union requirements, according to a story in the EcoNews quoting the farm ministry’s state secretary, Bela Glattfelder.

From next year, about €22.4 million in EU funding would no longer be available and, if that funding could not be replaced with national resources, tobacco growing could end in Hungary, Illes Benyei, the head of growers’ association MADOSZ, was quoted as saying.

Tobacco growers and processors signed an agreement in Ofeherto on Tuesday to work together to support the tobacco sector in Hungary.

Zapping addiction with magnetism

| September 1, 2014

A machine that pulses deep regions of the brain with magnetic current may help heavy smokers quit their habit, according to a Times of Israel story citing an Israeli study.

In the study, which experts said was the most rigorous test of the technology to date, 44 percent of a group of heavy smokers who had failed to quit using other methods were able to stop after a few weeks of treatment.

One third of the smokers who were treated had not lit up six months later.

The magnetic current method is said to stimulate regions of the brain that are central to addiction, using a specially designed helmet.

“We appear to have changed the electrical activity of brain networks in ways that helped people to quit smoking,” said Professor Abraham Zangen, a brain scientist at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, who helped invent the machine and led the prospective double-blind cohort study.

“Heavy smokers who failed previous attempts to stop smoking with medications, with nicotine patches, with psychotherapy – they made it.”

Based on the results of the study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in July, the US Food and Drug Administration is said to be testing the machine for approval.

A Jerusalem-based company called Brainsway hopes to bring the machine to market within a couple years.

A similar Brainsway machine, with a helmet targeting different brain regions, is already being used to treat depression, and the company is testing other helmets for a range of other conditions, including autism and Alzheimer’s disease.

FDA invites comments on application for General snus modified risk certification

| August 29, 2014

The US Food and Drug Administration is seeking public comments on Swedish Match’s request for its General-branded tobacco products to be certified as less harmful than cigarettes, according to a story by Michael Felberbaum for Associated Press.

Swedish Match announced in June that it had submitted a Modified Risk Tobacco Product (MRTP) application to the FDA for eight sub-brands of its General snus product line.

‘The MRTP application seeks a risk modification order permitting the use of warning label statements on the company’s snus tobacco products that differ from those carried by other commercially marketed smokeless tobacco products,’ the company said.

This is the first time the FDA has sought input on a MRTP application and the move is being closely watched by both the public health community and tobacco companies.

The FDA on Tuesday said it would accept comments for 180 days on the company’s application to market General snus as modified risk products.

The agency’s scientific advisory panel plans to review the application at its next meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.

The entire review process is expected to take about a year.

Special protection sought for tobacco control within trans-Pacific trade deal

| August 29, 2014

Tobacco control measures should be excluded from the scope of all chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), according to a report published in the BMJ Publishing Group journal, Tobacco Control.

The TPPA, an agreement aimed at facilitating international trade and investment, is being negotiated by 12 countries of APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation).

In an abstract of their report, the authors, Deborah K Sy and Robert K Stumberg of the Harrison Institute, Georgetown University, Washington DC, US, said the TPPA would grant the same trade benefits and legal protections to tobacco products, services and investments as it would grant to other sectors.

Sy and Stumberg said that in the absence of a complete TPPA text, their analysis had been based on specific leaked chapters, legal analysis from observers in the negotiations, existing free trade agreements among the TPPA parties and positions of the tobacco industry and its allies.

They found that five TPPA chapters posed the most significant threats to tobacco control measures: Investment, Regulatory Coherence, Services, Intellectual Property and Technical Barriers to Trade.

And they concluded that the trade negotiators should expand safeguards to ensure that the TPPA did no harm. ‘The most effective would be to exclude (carve out) tobacco control measures from the scope of all TPPA chapters, as Malaysia has proposed,’ they said.

The abstract is at: http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2014/08/28/tobaccocontrol-2014-051900.abstract?papetoc

Taipei student tobacco tests opposed

| August 29, 2014

The Taiwan Smokers’ Rights Association yesterday accused the New Taipei City government of breaking the law and violating students’ rights with its request that junior- and senior-high schools conduct tobacco tests on suspected smokers, according to a story in the Taipei Times.

“It is not about ‘you have nothing to worry about if you don’t smoke’, the problem is that the [city’s] Education Bureau and the school have no right to ask students to take a tobacco test,” the association’s president Chen Chi-an told reporters and bureau officials during a protest at New Taipei City Hall.

“It does not matter if the student tested positive or negative – such a test is simply unlawful,” he said.

The bureau announced early this week that it had allocated 125 tobacco detectors to junior- and senior-high schools across the city and asked school administrators and teachers to conduct tobacco tests on students who were known to be smokers or suspected to be smokers. Those found to be smokers were to be put through quit-smoking programs.

Chen said the law mandated that such tests could be conducted only if there were a warrant from the court or a prosecutor.

He urged students to refuse to take the test and added that his group would provide legal counsel or assistance to students if needed.

Meanwhile, Peng Yun-hua, the bureau’s campus security office director, defended the policy, saying it was entirely legal and well-intentioned.

Peng told reporters at a press conference that a warrant from a court or prosecutor was mandatory only for conducting intrusive tests, whereas a tobacco test required only that the student blew into a device.

Separately, the Humanistic Education Foundation also voiced its opposition to the tobacco tests, as well as to a request from the Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa to add drug tests to routine physical exams in schools.

The foundation said in a statement that the ministry should not act as if it were the National Police Agency, and that it should not treat students like suspects.

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