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China lifts leaf tobacco price controls

| January 5, 2015

China has announced that purchase prices for leaf tobacco are to be set by supply and demand rather than by the government, according to an Ecns.com (the official English-language website of the China News Service, CNS) story.

Quoting a government statement, CNS said that tobacco companies were now free to set purchase prices independently, ‘based on companies’ revenues and demands’.

“Tobacco companies have formed long-term common interests with tobacco farmers, and it will be more reasonable to allow them to set prices,” said Wang Shengmin, an official of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The lifting of tobacco-price controls was not expected to cause much change in the retail prices of cigarettes because, Wang said, tobacco accounted only for about 5-10 percent of the price of the final product.

The tobacco-price controls announcement was made by the NDRC and China Tobacco Co, and was said to mean that, now, no agricultural product was the subject of such controls.

However, while China has lifted strict controls on agricultural prices, the government has put in place minimum purchasing prices for key crops, such as rice and wheat, and has been willing to step in with purchases and storage for products such as corn and rapeseed to protect the interests of farmers.

Meanwhile, Li Guoxiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying that the government-dominated pricing system had led to high inventories and overcapacity in leaf tobacco output.

But while the new market mechanism is expected to help establish reasonable prices, observers noted that tobacco companies needed to build an auction mechanism or set up regular meetings with tobacco farmers so as to keep the average price of leaf tobacco stable and to protect the interests of farmers, most of whom lived in poor areas.

Although China produces annually about 2.5 million tonnes of tobacco with a total value of roughly Yuan100 billion ($16.1 billion), tobacco accounts for only a small portion of the country’s total agricultural output.

North Carolina’s tobacco smoking ban a non-issue

| January 5, 2015

Five years after North Carolina (NC) banned tobacco smoking in restaurants and bars, the ban has been embraced to the point where it has become a non-issue for most restaurant operators, employees and the public, according to a story by Richard Craver for the Winston-Salem Journal.

Although the ban was touted as a game changer for the tobacco-producing state, the complaints figures seem to tell a different story. In the first month after the ban began on January 2, 2010, 537 complaints were filed and 282 businesses cited as possibly having violated the new law, according to the NC Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch.

By mid-2011, the number of complaints and businesses cited had dropped to a weekly average of 20.

And in the past year there were several weeks when no complaints were filed state-wide; and when there were complaints, often there were just one or two.

About 24,000 establishments are covered by the smoking ban. Cigar bars, country clubs and fraternal organizations are exempt.

One restaurant owner said that the ban had been accepted because it had been introduced state-wide, while another made the point that now most people didn’t give it a second thought.

New York brings in age restrictions on nicotine sales

| January 5, 2015

The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has signed legislation aimed at preventing the sale of liquid nicotine to minors and requiring that nicotine containers include child safety caps, according to a story by Audrey Matott for the Catskill Daily Mail.

New York State legislation banned the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors in 2010 but did not prohibit the sale of liquid nicotine to minors or include packaging requirements.

Under the new bill the sale of liquid nicotine is prohibited to those under the age of 21 in New York City and under the age of 18 throughout the rest of the state.

The bill requires also that nicotine containers are sold only in child-proof packaging.

In addition, businesses selling liquid nicotine will have to display specific signage indicating that the sale of this product is prohibited to minors.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers encourages people who use electronic cigarettes to keep the liquid nicotine out of the reach of children and to use care when disposing of the containers.

Problem of radon becoming more widespread in US

| January 5, 2015

Radon gas, which is considered to be a carcinogen and the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the US, is said to be becoming a more widespread problem in the country.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has declared January to be National Radon Action Month and part of the publicity surrounding the campaign says that one in 15 homes are affected by elevated radon levels.

Unlike tobacco smoke, radon cannot be seen, has no scent and is colorless. It invades homes and buildings through foundation cracks and openings, and even directly through concrete. Radon gas is considered a carcinogen that comes from decayed radium and uranium in the soil.

It is said to be the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and causes people that do smoke greater risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer.

The EPA suggests levels of four picocuries (pCi/L) and above should be addressed. A level of four picocuries is said to be the equivalent of eight cigarettes a day or 250 chest x-rays a year.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that 3-14 percent of lung cancer cases are caused by radon, and suggests that people take action against levels higher than 2.7 picocuries.

Manufacturers, retailers, smokers hit hard in Korea

| January 2, 2015

South Korea’s tobacco manufacturers, retailers and consumers woke up to a number of headaches yesterday, according to stories in The Korea Herald and The Korea Times.

Cigarette prices were increased sharply yesterday while public-places tobacco smoking bans were expanded and fines for those caught ignoring the bans were raised.

Largely because of a WON2,000 (about US$1.80) tax increase, the price of the average pack of cigarettes rose overnight by about 80 percent to WON4,500 (about $4.10) a pack.

Public places tobacco smoking bans, which previously had applied to about 150,000 facilities that were 100 square meters in size or bigger, now apply to about 600,000 smaller facilities nationwide.

However, smoking will still be allowed in those facilities with smoking areas separated completely from where food and drinks are served.

If anyone is caught smoking in a prohibited place, she will be liable to a fine of WON100,000 (about $90), while the owner of the facility in which the offence took place will face the prospect of a bigger fine, which was variously said to be WON1.7 million (about $1,550) or WON5.0 million (about $4,550).

Some observers were pessimistic about the outlook during 2015 for small retailers, some of whom earn 60 percent of their revenue from the sale of cigarettes. They point out that while retailers will earn more from each cigarette sale, the volume downturn will more than cancel out this advantage.

Others believed that while there would be a significant downturn in cigarette sales at the start of the year, business would probably pick up later.

Meanwhile, the Herald pointed out what it described as some price discrepancies in the early part of January.

Products from British American Tobacco Korea and Japan Tobacco International Korea were set to maintain their old prices until January 5. These two companies had registered their new prices with the Finance Ministry only on Monday, and new prices took effect six days after such registration.

Critics reportedly accused BAT Korea and JTI Korea of unfairly dodging the new regulations by delaying their registrations.

But BAT Korea and JTI Korea reportedly said they were playing a losing game because, while the prices of their products remained the same until January 5, they were subject to the higher taxes from January 1.

Smoking ‘big problem’ in Ireland despite downturn

| January 2, 2015
Smoking ‘big problem’ in Ireland despite downturn

Ireland’s Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar TD, has indicated that the incidence of smoking in Ireland might have dropped below 20 percent, according to a story by Michael Staines for the Evening Herald.

Varadkar was said to have ‘hailed figures showing that the number of smokers in Ireland may have fallen below 20 percent for the first time’, but there was no indication of the source of the figures.

However, Varadkar was speaking at an event to launch a new phase of the Health Service Executive’s QUIT campaign, which is said to have encouraged 500,000 quit attempts since it was started in 2011.

Varadkar said that smokers who used the free QUIT services were twice as likely to quit as were those who didn’t use the services.

Dr. Stephanie O’Keefe, National Director for Health and Wellbeing, who admitted that Ireland still had a “big problem” with smoking, said the QUIT team offered constant support throughout the initial quitting period with smokers generally speaking to the same advisor every time they called.

“Really the campaign is about providing any kind of support that might get people through the really rough patch at the start of the quitting period,” she said.

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