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Irish minister says other states looking at plain packs

| March 5, 2015
Not exactly eye candy

Not exactly eye candy

The Irish government has said that it is prepared for a legal challenge from tobacco companies following the enactment of its standardized tobacco packaging bill, which has now passed all stages of the Oireachtas [national parliament], according to a story in the Irish Times. Ireland has become the second country, after Australia, to pass such legislation.

In welcoming the passage of the bill, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. James Reilly, said it would protect people from the harmful effects of tobacco and provide a lead for other EU countries; as the smoking ban did a decade ago. Reports in the Irish press last month had it that John Player and JT Ireland had threatened to take legal action against standardized tobacco packaging legislation and, asked about such threats, Reilly said the government was prepared.

“The Attorney General has her team together and we fully expect, once the legislation is enacted and commenced, that they will probably file a lawsuit,” he said. “They will do it more in the hope than certainty. They do it more to intimidate us and to intimidate other countries who are prepared to follow suit.” Reilly said the impact of the legislation could not be underestimated, either in Ireland or abroad.

“We know the UK will have a free vote on this, hopefully before they rise for the next general election,” he said. “We know that France wants to follow suit and a number of other EU countries are looking at implementing the same measures as us. “This is about protecting people from the harmful effect of tobacco – 700,000 Europeans die from tobacco-related disease each year.”

Meanwhile, an RTE News story quoted a Japan Tobacco International spokesperson as saying that standardized packaging was a disproportionate, unjustified and unlawful measure. There was no credible evidence to suggest it would result in public health benefits, the spokesperson added.

Smokers, restaurateurs challenge Korea smoke ban

| March 5, 2015

A group of smokers and restaurant owners have filed a petition with South Korea’s Constitutional Court seeking a review of the constitutionality of a law banning smoking in all restaurants, according to a story in The Korea Times.

Since the start of this year, anyone who smokes inside a restaurant is liable to fines of up to WON100,000 ($90), and its owner is liable to a fine of up to WON1.7 million ($1,500).

The group, comprising members of I Love Smoking, which represents the interests of smokers and some restaurant owners, held a press conference in front of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday where they claimed that the ban infringed their rights.

The group’s leader, Lee Yeon-ik, said many restaurant owners were considering closing down their business altogether because most of their customers had been smokers and customer numbers had plummeted after the ban.

Lee complained that the ban was discriminatory against small- and medium-sized restaurants because smoking was allowed at ‘room salons’. “Rich people can smoke all they want in such places because they can afford to pay that much money,” he said. “Instead, smokers with not a lot of money are being squeezed.”

But perhaps the smoking ban doesn’t matter. According to a separate story in the Times, a survey involving 1,026 people who were smokers last year indicated that 32.3 percent had quit their habit.

The survey by the Korea Press Foundation indicated too that 35.7 percent of smokers had cut down.

And these figures seem to be broadly in line with Ministry of Strategy and Finance figures showing that 170 million packs of cigarettes were sold last month, down by 56 percent from the number sold in December, 390 million.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare raised cigarette prices from WON2,500 ($2.27) to WON4,500 per pack from the start of 2015, and 28.4 percent of those who had quit this year put their quitting down to the price hike. For 50.2 percent the reason comprised health concerns.

For those who reduced their smoking levels, 58.5 percent did so because of the price hike while 25.4 percent cited health reasons.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health expects the number of smokers to decease further once lawmakers pass a bill that will require tobacco manufacturers to print graphic warnings on packs.

Smaller crop could help Zimbabwe’s growers

| March 5, 2015
When less is more

When less is more

Zimbabwe is this year likely to produce between 183 million and 194 million kg of flue-cured tobacco, down from 216 million kg last year, according to a story in The Herald quoting figures from the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB). The 10-15 percent decline in the crop was said by the TIMB’s chief executive Dr. Andrew Matibiri to have been caused by unfavourable weather conditions this season.

Meanwhile, the TIMB chairperson, Monica Chinamasa, said that the decline in production this year, while worrying, could work in favour of farmers because demand for the country’s tobacco had remained stable at about 230 million kg. “Last year there was demand for 230 million kg and we managed to sell all our tobacco,” she said.

“This year the demand has remained constant, which means that there is likely to be competition in terms of buying tobacco, which should push up prices.”

Hoffmann names new executives

| March 4, 2015

Hoffmann, a Swiss supplier of tobacco packaging, has named two new executives: Tomas Pivko and Jorg Helas. Pivko, who became a member of the executive management for Hoffmann Neopac AG on Jan. 1, will succeed Kurt Luthi as head of sales for tins at Hoffmann.

Luthi retired at the end of 2014 after serving for many years as director of sales and marketing. Pivko has worked for the company as sales manager since 2011, acquiring new international customers and maintaining key accounts. Before he joined Hoffmann, Pivko spent 12 years in the packaging industry, serving in the roles of key account manager, sales manager and product manager.

“I’m excited about the new challenge and approaching it with passion and focus,” said Pivko. “Thanks for your confidence in me and the entire Hoffmann sales team—and I look forward to continuing the great collaboration.”

Helas, who also joined the company in 2011, will succeed Artur Wichowski as Hoffmann’s new head of development in Thun, Switzerland, under the leadership of Andreas Geiger. Prior to his work at Hoffmann, Helas spent several years working as a project manager in the packaging industry.

“I’m pleased to have already launched a new tin this year, which is unique in terms of form and function,” he said.

 

Jorg Helas

Jorg Helas

Tomas Pivko

Tomas Pivko

 

Concerns raised over secretive TPPA negotiations

| March 4, 2015

Raising concerns about the potential impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TTPA) on public health and access to medicines is essential for creating awareness among policymakers about the implications of trade policy decisions, according to a story in the Medical Journal of Australia.

The authors, Anne Marie T Thow, Deborah H Gleeson and Sharon Friel, said that the Australian Medical Association and the Public Health Association of Australia had already raised such concerns.

Now, doctors could help protect public health by highlighting the effects of proposed provisions on patients, opposing health-damaging provisions, arguing for the agreement to be worded in ways that protect public health and seeking greater transparency in the TPPA negotiations.

Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam are involved in the TPPA negotiations.

The authors said that while the Australian government had stated it would not enter into an agreement that compromised public health, independent assessment of the implications for public health was severely limited by lack of transparency in the negotiations.

It pointed out that the agreement would not be made public until after it is signed.

Nevertheless, leaked documents had shown that an investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism was being negotiated for the TPPA. This enabled foreign investors – including companies that manufactured, marketed and distributed health-damaging products – to seek compensation from governments for policies that negatively affected them. A similar mechanism in another treaty had enabled Philip Morris Asia to sue the Australian government over plain tobacco packaging.

Later, the authors mentioned the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly that was currently using an ISDS mechanism to sue the Canadian government for invalidating patents for two drugs that were allegedly found not to deliver the promised benefits.

The story is at: https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2015/202/4/what-doctors-should-know-about-trans-pacific-partnership-agreement.

Public places bans alone do little to reduce smoking

| March 4, 2015

Banning smoking in enclosed public places has no significant impact on smoking at home, according to a story by Marc Weisblott for Concordia University, citing research recently published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

“What distinguishes people who restrict smoking at home is the presence of a non-smoker,” says Sylvia Kairouz, an associate professor in Concordia’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology. “The social network seems to be more of a factor than the law.”

With advance knowledge of a smoking ban in Quebec, Canada, which took effect in May 2006, researchers were able to collect data from a representative cross-section of the population a month ahead of time. They then followed up a year and a half later.

Kairouz believes that there needs to be an integrated approach to encourage people to quit smoking; one that includes “ecological measures along with taxation, prevention and information”.

“But one of the most important components is to have public health services available for people who are trying to quit,” she said.

The research carried out by Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, was supported by an operating grant from the Canadian Tobacco Control Research Initiative and a contribution from the Ministère de santé et services sociaux.

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