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Comedian hits out at tobacco-firm lawsuit threats

| February 18, 2015

John Oliver, host of the US television program, HBO’s Last Week Tonight, turned his attention to the tobacco industry during Sunday night’s episode, and, according to a story by Ryan Parker for the Los Angeles Times, it wasn’t pretty for the main target, Philip Morris International.

The HBO host was said to have spent about 20minutes ripping into the tobacco company’s threats of lawsuits – especially in poorer nations such as Togo – in what Oliver called an attempt to ward off more stringent regulations on cigarettes, such as laws that require cigarette packs to feature pictures of diseased body parts and warnings of the health consequences of smoking.

PMI directed the Times towards a statement it had made in which it said, in part, that while it recognized the tobacco industry was an easy target for comedians, it took seriously the responsibility that came with selling a product that was consumed as a result of an adult choice and was harmful to health.

And it suggested that people interested in the issues raised in the program should visit its website.

The full story, with links to the relevant parts of the PMI website, is at: http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-82835250/.

Health Canada accused over e-cigarette study delay

| February 18, 2015

Researchers in Canada have claimed that the federal government has effectively stymied scientific studies aimed at determining whether electronic cigarettes are a life-saving alternative to tobacco cigarettes or a magnet drawing more people to smoking, according to a story by Tom Blackwell on nationalpost.com.

And some experts have accused Health Canada of needlessly delaying the scientific study of electronic cigarettes while planning to dispatch teams of secret shoppers to test how willing stores are to sell the devices to young people. The department has apparently just issued a $350,000 tender for a contractor to provide the service, using teenagers who, while masquerading as ‘typical customers’, will try to buy the devices at 4,000 or more retailers and then report back to adult observers.

Canadian governments have used such programs regularly in the past to keep tabs on compliance with tobacco-marketing laws, but this would mark the first time they had been applied to devices touted as a much-safer alternative to conventional cigarettes.

Scientists need Health Canada’s green light for studies because nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes are not legally available in the country.

But one respected scientist has said the department is treating the products like an experimental drug, dragging out and muddying the approval process, even though millions of Canadians consume nicotine legally from an unquestionably more harmful source: tobacco.

The University of Waterloo’s David Hammond, a former advisor to the World Health Organization on tobacco control, said his Ontario-government funded trial was now all but dead because of the federal response.

“The lack of clarity and response from Health Canada has been very frustrating; at a certain point they simply stopped responding to our emails,” said Prof. Hammond. “There is an urgent need to conduct a proper scientific trial … In the absence of a proper trial, Canadian smokers will continue to serve as guinea pigs in a far less controlled experiment.”

The full story is at: http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/02/16/ottawa-delaying-studies-to-determine-if-e-cigarettes-are-a-safe-alternative-for-smokers-researchers-say/.

Sales up at Swedish Match

| February 18, 2015

Swedish Match’s sales for the year to the end of December, at SEK13,305 million, were up by six percent on those of 2013, SEK12,610 million.

And sales during the fourth quarter of 2014, at SEK3,536 million, were up by 11 percent on those of the fourth quarter of 2013.

Calculated in local currencies, sales for the full year and fourth quarter increased by four percent and seven percent respectively.

Operating profit from product areas (excluding net profit from SM’s share in the Scandinavian Tobacco Group [STG] and larger one off items) for the full year was up by two per cent to SEK3,446 million, while fourth-quarter operating profit from product areas increased by eight percent to SEK900 million. In local currencies, operating profit from product areas for the full year increased by one percent and for the fourth quarter increased by four percent.

Operating profit (including net profit from SM’s share in STG and larger one off items) was down by two percent to SEK3,780 million for the full year 2014, but increased by six percent to SEK992 during the fourth quarter. Basic earnings per share fell during the full year by three percent to SEK13.23 but increased during the fourth quarter by three percent to SEK3.55.

“I am pleased with our fourth quarter performance, and especially with our improving position in the growing value priced snus segment in Sweden which contributed to a more stable market share development in that market, said CEO Lars Dahlgren . “We continue to focus our efforts on building our snus business long term, striving toward our vision of a world without cigarettes.”

TPPA to remain smoke-room story in New Zealand

| February 17, 2015

The New Zealand Trade Minister, Tim Groser, has reaffirmed his government’s stance of not releasing controversial negotiating documents relating to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, according to a story by Jamie Morton for the New Zealand Herald.

This is despite a letter published in The Lancet in which 27 health leaders in Australasia, the US, Canada, Malaysia and Chile had called for public disclosure of the full draft text of the agreement.

The TPPA, which has been negotiated behind closed doors during the past several years, is purportedly aimed at creating a regional ‘free’ trade agreement involving 12 Asia-Pacific countries.

But Otago University senior clinical lecturer, Dr. Erik Monasterio, one of the co-lead authors of the letter, claimed the agreement threatened governmental ability to deliver affordable health care and legislate to protect public health and reduce health inequities.

“The negotiations are not about the way most of us think of trade – you and me buying and selling things,” he was quoted as saying.

“Instead they are protecting the massive investment profits of multinational companies that are bigger than the whole New Zealand economy.”

Monasterio feared that under the TPPA governments could be sued for protecting health, but that governments could not sue back.

“This will stop important health initiatives on tobacco, alcohol, the obesity epidemic, climate change, antibiotic resistance, and other major future challenges,” he said.

Smoking prevalence down to 12.9 percent in Taipei

| February 17, 2015

Taipei’s smoking prevalence among adults aged 18 and above dropped from 18.9 percent in 2008 to 12.9 percent last year, the lowest level among Taiwan’s major cities and counties, according to a story in the Taipei Times quoting Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics.

The Taipei Department of Health is crediting its stringent ban on smoking in all indoor public spaces and some outdoor venues, along with the growing awareness of the health risks of tobacco use, for the drop of 130,000 in the number of city residents who smoke.

But the drop is said to be the result also of cessation programs. According to the Times’ story, while 20 percent of ‘men’ who relied solely on willpower to quit smoking succeeded, 32.5 percent of ‘Taipei residents’ who used the second-generation Smoking Cessation Program were successful.

The program was implemented in March 2012, but, since January 12, it has offered smoking cessation drugs that are fully covered by the National Health Insurance system in 3,049 hospitals, clinics and community pharmacies nationwide.

Smokers using the service are required to pay only a medical registration fee ranging from NT$50 to NT$250 per visit, and 20 percent of the cost of medication, with a cap of NT$200 per prescription. Previously, they had to pay all of the costs beyond the maximum weekly subsidy of NT$250.

Punjab cracks down on electronic cigarette vendors

| February 17, 2015

The charging of four vendors in the Punjab, India, for selling electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine has made the pages of the Hindustan Times and drawn a comment from Hussan Lal, described as ‘Commissioner FDA and Punjab Secretary Health and Family Welfare’.

As well as being charged with the sales offences, the four vendors have been charged also with ‘violating the directive issued by the state government to make the state tobacco free’.

They are said to have been charged under various sections of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, part of which bans electronic cigarettes.

Lal was quoted as saying that as many as 20 districts of the Punjab had ‘already been declared tobacco free’.

Meanwhile, Ajay Singla, state drug controller, Punjab, said electronic cigarettes contained nicotine in chemical form which was a “lethal and addictive chemical”.

Under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, nicotine was allowed to be manufactured only as nicotine gums or lozenges. “Every other product which contained nicotine is illegal,” he said.

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