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BAT arms itself for UK standardized packaging battle

| April 2, 2015

British American Tobacco has appointed a legal team led by Andrew Lidbetter of London-based international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills to fight the UK government’s legislation requiring standardized packaging for cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco sold in England, according to a City AM story relayed by the TMA.

BAT has enlisted also Nigel Pleming QC and Geoffrey Hobbs QC, who work on intellectual property issues.

Tobacco companies have said that standardized packaging will infringe on their intellectual property rights and one well-placed observer has estimated that UK taxpayers could be hit with a bill for £12 billion if the government loses.

BAT failed when it challenged Australia’s standardized packaging legislation, which came into effect in December 2012.

But in March, the company said that that failure was due to a ‘unique requirement in the Australian constitution that meant it would only win the case if it could prove the Australian government had received a benefit by removing its brands’. ‘That requirement does not exist in the UK,’ BAT said.

Meanwhile, a senior lecturer in law at City University London has said that the tobacco industry’s argument that standardized packaging legislation violates their trademark rights is not convincing.

Writing in The Conversation, Enrico Bonadio said manufacturers would still be able to distinguish their products from those of competitors because they would be allowed to display the brand name on the packs, albeit in a standardized font.

Call for chairman’s sacking over cancer-link question

| April 2, 2015

A tobacco control group has called for the removal of the chairperson of India’s Committee on Subordinate Legislation, which recently called for more discussions over a proposal to increase the size of cigarette pack health warnings to 85 percent, according to a merinews story.

The Tamilnadu People’s Forum for Tobacco Control (TNPFTC) described as preposterous a statement by BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) MP Dilip Kumar Gandhi that there was a need for an Indian study to prove that tobacco causes cancer.

“Does this [smoking] cause cancer or does [it] not?,” the MP was reported by New Delhi Television to have said. “What are the impacts? We have never done our own survey.”

S. Cyril Alexander, state convener of the TNPFTC said in a press statement that the chairperson had completely ignored the health studies that had been done by the Health Ministry.

Malawi’s growers promised good prices at auction

| April 2, 2015

Malawi’s Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) has published auction-floor minimum and maximum buying prices for leaf tobacco.

According to a StarAfrica story, the minimum Burley price has been set at US$0.85 (MK379) per kg, while the maximum has been set at US$4.50 (MK2,007) per kg.

The minimum flue-cured tobacco price has been set at US$0.25 (MK129) per kg and the maximum at US$4.00 (MK1,784) per kg, while the minimum dark fire-cured price has been set at US$1.00 (MK446) and the maximum at US$3.40 (MK1,516) per kg.

TCC CEO, Bruce Munthali, said on Tuesday that tobacco production was estimated to have dropped this season by 10 million kg, or five percent, to 181 million kg from last year’s 191 million kg.

The fall in output was blamed mainly on unhelpful weather conditions.

“Despite natural calamities like heavy rains, floods and dry spells which affected the output of tobacco in the country, the quality of the leaf is still good,” Munthali said.

He said that tobacco growers could expect good prices for their tobacco because of strong competition among buyers.

The tobacco market is set to open on April 8.

Rosier appointed president of Solvay Acetow

| April 1, 2015

Solvay Acetow, a leading global producer of cellulose acetate tow for cigarette filters, has appointed Philippe Rosier as the company’s new president. Rosier succeeded Olivier Ferrary at the end of March.

Rosier began his career in the Solvay Group in 1988, serving as project manager at Acetow’s production plant in Primester, United States. In 1996 he became the strategy and business development director of Acetow, and from 1999 on, he served as general manager of various activities in plastics and energy within the Solvay Group. Rosier became president of the Global Business Unit Solvay Energy Services in 2012.

“Having known Solvay Acetow for many years, I am very pleased to take over the responsibility as president of this company that has been impressively dynamic and innovative within the past years,” said Rosier.

“What makes Solvay Acetow unique and strong are our highly-skilled and motivated employees. Solvay Acetow’s sales, technical and marketing team will further increase their efforts to deepen our customer satisfaction and intimacy by improving product and service quality as well as supply chain and manufacturing excellence.”

JT group goes to court over Ireland’s plain packs law

| April 1, 2015

The Japan Tobacco group has initiated a High Court action against the Irish government aimed at blocking the requirement that cigarettes should be sold in standardized packs, according to a story in The Irish Times.

Last month, Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins signed into law legislation under which cigarette manufacturers will be required, from May 2016, to produce cigarettes for the Irish market in standardized packaging. From May 2017 only cigarettes in standardized packaging will be allowed to be sold on the Irish market.

Ireland is the second country after Australia to bring in such legislation. In Australia, standardized packaging has been a requirement since December 2012.

The Irish arm of Japan Tobacco, JTI Ireland, is reportedly challenging the legislation on grounds of competence. The group is expected to argue that the state had no right to enact the legislation because it went further than the provisions of a European Union directive.

The Minister for Children Dr. James Reilly, who championed the legislation, indicated previously that the government was preparing for a legal challenge.

Asked about the action, Reilly said the government would defend it robustly in the firm belief that the law was in the best interests of the health and welfare of the public, especially children.

Price-hit cigarette sales recovering in South Korea

| April 1, 2015

Cigarette sales in South Korea, which plummeted in January after a tax-led price hike at the beginning of the year, slowed their downward trend in March, according to a story in The Korea Herald.

According to data compiled by a local convenience-store chain, cigarette sales during the third week of March were down by 15.1 percent on those of the same period of 2014.

In January, sales were down by 40.3 percent year-on-year and in February they were down by 22.4 percent year-on-year.

Cigarette prices increased on January 1 by 80 percent; or about WON2,000 per pack.

Just how much can be read into these figures is hard to say. A convenience store official was quoted as saying that it was usual for cigarette sales to fall in January and February after people made New Year resolutions to stop smoking.

And it was usual also for sales to start to revive in March as more people quit their resolutions to quit.

While the government has been claiming that the price rise was aimed at increasing health awareness and reducing South Korea’s relatively high smoking rates, some policy watchers say the move came as the government expected a tax-revenue shortfall because of a delay in the country’s economic recovery, which had coincided with an expansion in welfare payments.

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