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Number of Saudi smokers expected to climb steeply

| May 22, 2015

The number of smokers in Saudi Arabia is expected to climb from six million now to 10 million in 2020, according to a Saudi Gazette story quoting the Al-Riyadh daily and citing a recent World Health Organization study.

About 40 percent of adult men, 10 percent of adult women and 15 percent of teenagers smoke, and together they get through about 12 billion cigarettes annually.

About 23,000 people in Saudi Arabia die of smoking-related causes every year and the number of people who have cancer caused by smoking is said to be about 10,000, with 80 percent of lung cancer patients identifying as smokers.

Meanwhile, Mubarak Al-Harthy, executive director of the Charitable Society for Former Drug Abusers, said a study the society had conducted had shown that 30 percent of school students between 13 and 15 years of age smoked cigarettes.

But it is not all bad news. Al-Harthy said many smokers believed it was difficult to quit the habit, but this was not true. With strong determination and will, a smoker could easily quit this habit, he said.

“Of course there are withdrawal symptoms but they can be treated and dealt with at specialized clinics for smokers who are trying to quit,” he added.

“The clinics, run by the Ministry of Health, can help smokers kick the habit and lead a healthy and long life.”

E-cigarette study shows risks of e-cigarette studies

| May 21, 2015

A new study has challenged a previous suggestion that some electronic cigarettes could deliver levels of formaldehyde greater than those of traditional tobacco cigarettes.

In January, a report published as a research letter in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that a 3rd generation electronic cigarette (one with variable power settings) operated at its maximum power setting and with a long puff duration generated levels of formaldehyde that, if inhaled in this way throughout the day, would several times exceed formaldehyde levels that smokers ingest from traditional tobacco cigarettes, according to a press note from the journal Addiction.

This apparent new electronic-cigarette health hazard was reported worldwide.

But a new study published online today in the scientific journal Addiction took a closer look at the NEJM findings in the context of real-world conditions and came to a different conclusion. ‘It concluded that 3rd generation e-cigarettes can indeed produce high levels of aldehydes – but only under extreme conditions which human smokers can be expected to avoid because of the immediate unpleasant sensory effects,’ the press note said.

‘The Addiction study, led by cardiologist Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, found that it was possible to get e-cigarettes to produce high levels of aldehydes, but only in what is known colloquially as “dry puff” conditions.  As Farsalinos explains: “Our results verify previous observations that it is possible for e-cigarettes to generate high levels of aldehydes; however, this is observed only under dry puff conditions, which deliver a strong unpleasant taste that vapers detect and avoid, by reducing power levels and puff duration or by increasing inter-puff interval. Minimal amounts of aldehydes are released in normal vaping conditions, even if high power levels are used. In those normal-use conditions, aldehyde emissions are far lower than in tobacco cigarette smoke.”’

Professor Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK, was quoted as saying that the findings of the Addiction study emphasized the importance of making clear the conditions in which tests were undertaken and avoiding sweeping assertions that could mislead the public.

“Vapers are not exposed to dangerous levels of aldehydes,” he said.

“My reading of the evidence is that e-cigarettes are at least 95 percent safer than smoking. Smokers should be encouraged to switch to vaping.”

Lebanon inaugurates new state-owned tobacco plant

| May 21, 2015

Lebanon’s Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil on Tuesday inaugurated a $17-million tobacco factory that could help increase Regie Company revenues by $40 million a year, according to a story in The Daily Star.

When the factory, which is located in Hadath, starts production in June, it will boost the state-owned company’s cigarette-production capacity from 12,000 boxes to 35,000 boxes a month.

According to the Regie’s director-general, Nassif Meskawi, the new factory has a license to manufacture leading international tobacco brands.

In inaugurating the new facility, Khalil was said to have heaped praise on the Regie. “Regrettably, there was a long-standing view in the state and the system that the Lebanese economy has no room for productive sectors such as industry and agriculture,” the minister said; before adding that his relatively short experience had confirmed that industry should play a prominent role in Lebanon.

Iggesund’s US expansion points to global ambitions

| May 21, 2015

Iggesund Paperboard is expanding its distribution in the US by making its flagship product, Invercote, available coast to coast.

‘Increasing interest in Invercote’s unique properties from brand owners on the West Coast, and some key new business acquisitions made expanding west a natural next step,’ the company said in a press note.

‘ Iggesund Paperboard has established an inventory position and sheeting capabilities in Pomona, CA [California] with the objective of making Invercote readily available for quick turn market demand. The primary goal is to be able to serve the commercial print and packaging cluster in California and beyond.

‘Iggesund will focus its sales & marketing efforts on premium packaging and graphical print applications, building on the foundation of offset and digital print business recently established through a network of merchant distributors.’

Meanwhile, Rickard Österlindh, president Iggesund Americas said that the company had been in the US for more than 30 years but its distribution footprint had been concentrated on the east coast. “Now is the time to increase our presence on the West Coast, where we know there is a density of brand owners who will appreciate the quality level we offer with Invercote,” he said.

Enhanced distribution from coast to coast in the US is said to be just one step in Iggesund’s ‘overarching effort to become a unified global entity by strengthening its service platform outside Europe’.

Rickard Österlindh; looking west.

Rickard Österlindh; looking west.

Altria shareholders vote down farm labor issues

| May 21, 2015

At the Altria Group’s Annual Meeting of Shareholders yesterday, shareholders voted to defeat three stockholder proposals that had urged the company to take action on farm labor issues and tobacco use among the poor, according to a story by John Reid Blackwell for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The company’s board of directors had opposed the proposals.

During the meeting, Michael Crosby, a Catholic priest from Wisconsin and director of the Wisconsin Iowa Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment, said the company should take a stronger stand against the exploitation of undocumented migrant laborers.

The shareholder proposal he presented would have required the company to adopt a policy ensuring that its tobacco suppliers did not employ workers who had had to pay ‘recruitment fees’ to contract labor brokers to cross the US border.

Martin J. Barrington, Altria’s chairman, president and CEO, said the company opposed the use of forced or exploited labor, and that its supplier code of conduct reflected that. He said Altria had been involved in outreach and training programs for farmers to prevent exploitative practices.

Shareholders also voted down a proposal put forward by the AFL-CIO (The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) that would have required the company to publish a report on steps it has taken to address ‘green tobacco sickness’, which sometimes occurs when farm workers absorb nicotine through the skin after handling tobacco.

Altria says its contract with tobacco growers requires them to provide workers with personal protective equipment to avoid green tobacco sickness.

A third shareholder proposal was put forward by CHE Trinity Health, a Catholic health care organization, asking the company to prepare educational and tobacco-cessation materials for smokers who ‘live below the poverty line or have little formal education’. That proposal was defeated, too.

Following the meeting, Altria’s board of directors declared a regular quarterly dividend of $0.52 per share, payable on July 10 to shareholders of record as of June 15. The ex-dividend date is June 11.

Blackwell’s story is at:

Altria’s meeting press note is at:

Leaf oversupply situation might be extended

| May 20, 2015

Global leaf tobacco inventories are high and might ‘have the effect of extending the duration of the oversupply conditions’, according to George C. Freeman, III, chairman, president, and CEO of Universal Corporation.

Commenting on Universal’s fourth quarter and full-year results, Freeman said he was pleased with the results the company had achieved, given fiscal year 2015′s oversupplied market conditions.

‘We ended the year with strong fourth quarter results, which helped to bring our segment operating earnings for the fiscal year in line with our expectations,’ he said. ‘We also realized higher margins, maintained our solid financial position, and returned over $90 million to our shareholders in dividends and share repurchases this fiscal year. Our performance demonstrates our ability to execute well on our objective of delivering a compliant product in an efficient manner to our customers, under challenging circumstances.

‘We are well-positioned as we enter fiscal year 2016 with substantial cash balances and manageable uncommitted inventory levels.

‘Markets in Africa and Brazil have opened at a similar pace compared to last year, and crop qualities are mixed, with production volumes expected to be lower in most origins.

‘Although we are not seeing significant delays in customer orders, we expect shipping instructions to be weighted towards the second half of our fiscal year.

‘In addition, while our own leaf inventories are well-managed, global tobacco leaf inventory volumes are high. This may have the effect of extending the duration of the oversupply conditions, despite reduced new crop production and a more positive outlook for demand from some customers based on recent recoveries in certain of their retail markets.

‘Looking beyond near-term market conditions, we are optimistic about the future as we believe there are several trends in our business that could provide opportunities for us to increase our market share and to offer additional services to our customers…’

Universal announced that net income for the fiscal year ended March 31, was $114.6 million, or $4.06 per diluted share, down from last year’s net income of $149.0 million, or $5.25 per diluted share. Excluding one-off items in both years, net income for the fiscal year increased by $1.2 million, or $0.07 per diluted share.

Segment operating income, which excludes one-off items, was $167.2 million for fiscal year 2015, down $8.0 million from that of the previous year. The reduction was said to be been primarily attributable to fiscal 2015′s lower sales volumes, partially mitigated by a reduction in selling, general, and administrative costs.

Revenues of $2.3 billion for fiscal year 2015 were down by 11 percent compared with those of the previous year, driven mainly by the lower volumes and ‘modestly lower green leaf costs’.

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