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Study recommends raising tobacco purchase age

| March 16, 2015

A study presented to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 12 supports the theory that raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 from 18 will substantially reduce the number of 15- to 17-year-olds who start smoking and decrease the number of early deaths and low birth weights due to smoking.

Conducted by an Institute of Medicine committee, the study—titled “Public health implications of raising the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products”—reviewed existing information about tobacco use initiation as well as developmental biology and psychology.

Results of the study indicated that, if the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products were increased to 19, smoking prevalence would decrease by an estimated 3 percent by the time today’s teenage users become adults. Additionally, the study found that a 12 percent decrease would occur if the minimum age of legal access were raised to 21, and a decrease of 16 percent would take place should the minimum age be raised to 25.

The committee that conducted the study was chaired by Richard Bonnie, a law professor at the University of Virginia, and researchers used the SimSmoke and CisNet cigarette smoking models to gather information. Researchers also concluded that increasing the minimum age of legal access to 21 would result in 45,000 fewer deaths from lung cancer, 249,000 fewer premature deaths, 438,000 fewer babies born with a low birth weight, 286,000 fewer pre-term births, and 4.2 million fewer years of life lost among those born between 2000 and 2019.

Report calls for regulation of vapor products

| March 16, 2015

The Canadian House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health has released a report asking the federal government to establish new legislative framework for the regulation of vapor products.

The report, titled “Vaping: Towards A regulatory framework for e-cigarettes,” includes provisions to regulate e-liquid content; prohibit e-liquid flavorings that are “specifically designed to appeal to youth”; require child-resistant packaging for e-cigarettes and refill containers; ban the use of vapor products in public places where use of traditional cigarettes is already banned; restrict advertising and promotion of vapor products; and prohibit the sale of vapor products to anyone under the age of 18.

Health Canada indicated that it would respond to the proposed regulation in “due course,” but no specific timeframe regarding its implementation was given.

Daily smokers fall to 12.8 percent in South Australia

| March 16, 2015

The South Australian Health Omnibus Survey of 2,700 people has found that 15.7 percent of respondents identified themselves as smokers during 2014, down from 19.4 percent during 2013, according to a story in the Adelaide Advertiser relayed by the TMA.

Last year, the smoking prevalence among men stood at 18.6 percent while that among women stood at 12.9 percent.

Meanwhile, the proportion of daily smokers decreased from 16.2 percent during 2013 to 12.8 percent last year.

And smoking prevalence among people aged 15-29 declined from 19.5 percent to 14.8 percent.

University of Adelaide Associate Professor John Glover said that almost all smokers started smoking before the age of 18; so it was a good sign that more teens were avoiding the habit.

And Cancer Council SA chief executive Professor Brenda Wilson said that targets set by the state government as part of South Australia’s Tobacco Control Strategy, which were introduced during 2011, were clearly working.

“[One of its aims] was to reduce smoking rates in young people to below 16 percent by 2016,” she said.

But while welcoming the results of the survey, Wilson warned South Australians against “becoming complacent in the fight against smoking and the damage it causes”.

Outdoor smoking not a health issue

| March 16, 2015

A councilor with the City Council of Banks, Oregon, has made the point that banning tobacco smoking in public parks is about preference not public health, according to a story by Samantha Swindler for The Oregonian.

When a ban was last discussed in September, councilor Mark Gregg was one of its most vocal opponents.

But by the time that the council had revisited the issue this month he had softened his stance.

He said he could support a ban if that’s what residents wanted, but he wanted references to outdoor smoking as a ‘public health risk’ stricken from the ordinance.

“If our citizens want it, I’m fine with it. I just want to remove saying this is [about] public health,” he said.

Hungary moves to save tobacco farm jobs

| March 16, 2015

The Hungarian Agriculture Ministry said on Friday that it would allocate HUF5 billion (US$17.2 million) in subsidies to tobacco growers during the next two years, according to a Hungary Around the Clock story relayed by the TMA.

The subsidies are part of an effort being made to sustain nearly 20,000 jobs in the sector, especially in the counties of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg and Bács-Kiskun.

The ministry plans to disburse HUF3.5 billion (US$12 million) this year and HUF1.5 billion (US$5.2 million) during 2016.

Direct EU subsidies for the production of tobacco have been phased out.

The EU Commission is on record as saying that it cannot pursue policies that encourage leaf tobacco production, while at the same time aiming to protect citizens from the hazardous effects of tobacco consumption.

Does illegal trade agreement have discharge clause?

| March 16, 2015

The EU Commission has been asked whether a 2010 agreement between British American Tobacco (BAT) and the EU includes a discharge clause releasing the company from ‘any civil claims arising out of past conduct relating to the illicit trade’.

The question, which in the normal way of things will be the subject of a written answer by the Commission, has been posed by Bart Staes, a Belgian politician and MEP for Flanders.

In a preamble to his question, Staes said that on July 15, 2010, BAT had signed an agreement with the EU to combat the illegal trade in tobacco.

‘A press release from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the UK suggests that the BAT agreement has a discharge clause that releases the company from past liability for smuggling, noting that “the manufacturers (BAT) are released from any civil claims arising out of past conduct relating to illicit trade”,’ Staes said.

‘On the OLAF website no information is provided on the existence of such a clause.’

Staes asked the Commission to confirm or deny that such a clause exists in the 2010 tobacco agreement concluded between BAT and the EU.

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