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KT&G fined over ‘unfair’ business practices

| February 19, 2015

South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has fined KT&G WON2.5 billion ($2 million) for encouraging retailers not to sell the cigarettes of ‘foreign competitors’, according to a story in The Korea Times

At the same time, KT&G was ordered to correct its ‘unfair’ business practices. The FTC said the company had offered cigarettes at discounted prices to retailers that carried only its products.

And it had signed contracts with eight convenience store chains under which KT&G products had to account for up to 70 percent of the cigarettes on display.

The Times quoted an FTC official as saying that KT&G had clearly violated the nation’s anti-trust law by forcing retailers to deal with its products only.

“The company deprived its competitors of opportunities to market their brands to consumers,” the official said. “Its practice also stripped consumers of a chance to buy competing products.”

The official said the FTC would make sure KT&G stopped unfair business practices. “We will take steps to normalize the country’s monopolistic cigarette market and promote competition among cigarette makers to benefit consumers,” the official added.

KT&G said it had already taken steps to correct some of its ‘unfortunate’ practices. ‘We will organize a series of lectures to better inform our employees of the country’s fair trade rules,” the company said. ‘We will do everything else to abide by the anti-trust law.’

Hon Lik to speak at Global Forum on Nicotine

| February 19, 2015

Hon Lik, the inventor of the modern electronic cigarette, is due to speak at the second Global Forum on Nicotine, which is scheduled to be held at the Warsaw Marriott, Poland, on June 5 and 6.

Abstracts for the science and policy update session and proposals for satellite sessions are due by February 28.

And poster submissions have to be made by March 31.

The forum program is at http://gfn.net.co/2015-programme; and the list of speakers is at: http://gfn.net.co/2015-programme/2015-speakers.

If you can stand in the sand, you may drink

| February 19, 2015

Smoking and eating have been banned on beaches at Phuket Island, Thailand, according to a story in the Phuket Gazette.

The bans were apparently announced during a press conference called to clarify an earlier ban on beach chairs.

Governor Nisit Jansomwong had called the conference following tourists’ protests about police officers asking them to remove their beach chairs from the sands.

But the governor had some good news. “Despite smoking and eating being banned, people will still be able to drink on the beach,” he said.

Ireland threatened with plain-packs legal action

| February 18, 2015

JTI Ireland has told the Irish government to halt immediately standardized tobacco packaging legislation in the Dáil (lower house of parliament) or face a High Court claim for damages, according to a story in the Irish Times.

The company is said to have told ministers Dr. James Reilly (Children and Youth Affairs) and Dr. Leo Varadkar (Health) that it will take legal action if they fail to promise by Friday that no further steps will be taken to enact the draft law.

Reilly introduced the Public Health (Standardized Packaging of Tobacco) Bill last year when he was minister for health. He retained command of the file when he became Minister for Children and Varadkar took over the health portfolio.

The firm’s legal threat to the two ministers was said to have been copied to Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny.

In what the Times referred to as ‘sweeping assertions to a sovereign government’, JTI was said to have claimed the state had no right to enact the draft law and – in effect – instructed the ministers to halt its parliamentary passage while a British case in Europe’s highest court continued.

‘For these reasons, please undertake to us as soon as possible and, in any event, on or before 20 February 2015 that no steps will be taken to enact the Bill pending the outcome of the reference to the Courts of Justice of the EU by the High Court of England and Wales,’ the letter was quoted as saying.

‘If this undertaking is not forthcoming, JTI proposes to issue proceedings challenging the competence of Ireland to enact this legislation and, in the absence of an appropriate undertaking in relation to the legislation pending the outcome of these proceedings, will seek such relief as is appropriate from the High Court.’

In a statement to the Times, Reilly said there was no justification for delaying the legislation further. “As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, my responsibility is to progress measures that will protect children and stop them from taking up smoking in the first place,” he said. “It is not to protect the profits of tobacco companies.”

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/.

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