An Irish legal practice involved in a threatened tobacco-company action over proposed standardized tobacco packaging legislation is coming under pressure from Health Minister Leo Varadkar to sever its connection with the tobacco industry.
Arthur Cox was said to be already facing questions from the Health Service Executive, one of its many public clients, over its involvement in a threatened court action by JTI Ireland against the government’s plan to impose standardized packaging.
The firm, which is among Ireland’s most powerful solicitors’ practices, is legal adviser to JTI Ireland, which has threatened to sue Varadkar and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly if they fail to halt standardized packaging legislation by today.
Varadkar issued a statement to the Times when asked whether he had confidence in Arthur Cox as corporate legal adviser to the HSE at a time when it was representing JTI Ireland in a threatened legal action to block a public health policy.
“There is no conflict of interest as the legislation is being prepared by the Departments of Health and Children and not by the HSE,” said Varadkar.
“But I do think it would reflect well on Arthur Cox if they didn’t represent tobacco companies.”
US-based Swisher International has formed a new ‘sister’ company, E-Alternative Solutions (EAS), to focus on developing, marketing and distributing electronic cigarettes and electronic vaping products, according to a CSPNet (Convenience Store/Petroleum) story.
John Miller, Swisher senior vice president of sales and marketing who will serve also as the CEO of EAS, said EAS had the ambition to become a market leader in the evolving e-alternative category – “just as Swisher has in the tobacco market for over 150 years”.
Meanwhile, Jacopo D’Alessandris, who has been appointed president of EAS, said the “e-cigarette and vapor space” had been growing rapidly but was still in its infancy. “Breakthrough technology and innovative marketing, coupled with Swisher’s expertise in the tobacco space, will be the key ingredients I will focus on to build EAS’ success,” he said.
Initially, EAS will offer two proprietary liquid vapor product lines. It is testing the products in select markets and selling them online. The liquids, which are used in electronic vapor devices, are manufactured in the US.
Lorillard’s board of directors has declared a seven percent increase in the quarterly dividend on its common stock from $0.615 per share to $0.66 per share.
The dividend is payable on March 10 to stockholders of record as of March 2.
The company said this was the seventh dividend increase since Lorillard became an independent publicly traded company in June 2008.
“We are very pleased to continue our policy of periodically increasing our dividend in line with our earnings growth,” said executive vice president and CFO David H. Taylor.
“This dividend increase is consistent with our targeted dividend payout ratio of 70-75 percent of earnings as well as the terms of our merger agreement with Reynolds American permitting the continuation of our historical dividend practices.”
A leading Irish oncologist and senator has called for a 99 percent tax on the profits of tobacco companies if they pursue threats of legal action against the state, according to a story in the Irish Examiner.
Commenting on news that JTI Ireland had threatened to sue the state over the introduction of standardized packaging, Senator John Crown said the government should fight back.
“We should retaliate … the government should consider some kind of measured response; that if this goes to court they should consider truly punitive taxes on tobacco company profits,” said Professor Crown.
“Perhaps something like a 99 percent tax on the profits of tobacco companies, or perhaps something like putting a €1,000 a pack tax on a pack of cigarettes – if the industry tries these kind of antics with us.”
Speaking after the cabinet had discussed on Tuesday the introduction of standardized packaging, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, James Reilly, who put forward the plans for standardized packaging during his time as Minister for Health, said he would not give in to pressure.
“I need to be temperate in my language,” he was quoted as saying. “I’ll merely say this – the Irish government will always put the health of its citizens first, and it does so in this case too, without fear or favour from any external force – be that a multinational tobacco industry or other.”
In calling recently for more attention to be paid to the smoking ‘epidemic’, the president of the Jordan National Anti-smoking Society, Mohammad Shreim, ruled out a struggle against smokers. “…we want them to quit because we love them,” he was quoted as saying in a story carried by The Jordan Times.
Smoking was an ‘epidemic’ that was not yet listed among the health priorities of the local and regional community, said Shreim. The habit was not receiving enough attention as a major threat to health and quality of life.
“There is a dire need for a comprehensive set of cultural, educational and legislative measures that further educate the public on the dangers of smoking and enforce the Public Health Law,” he said.
Increasing the prices of tobacco products alone would not curb smoking among adults if such measures were not accompanied by an “effective” set of regulations.
But he called for engaging smokers in the fight against tobacco. “It is not a struggle against smokers… we want them to quit because we love them,” Shreim said; adding that membership of the society was open to smokers and non-smokers alike.
Germany’s Federal Supreme Court has overturned a ruling that gave a landlady authority to evict a pensioner whose smoking was said to be offensive to neighbors, according to a BBC Online story.
The Supreme Court ruled that a Düsseldorf court that had backed the landlady’s complaint must now re-investigate the matter.
Friedhelm Adolfs, 76, had appealed against the lower court’s 2013 ruling.
He argued that his flat was not completely sealed and he could not help it if smoke seeped under the door to public areas.
The landlady had said that the pensioner, who has lived in the flat for 40 years, must go because the smoke from his flat was offensive to neighbours.
But the Supreme Court judge said she doubted the Düsseldorf court’s finding that the pensioner’s smoke was bad enough to have ‘disturbed domestic peace’ in the building.
German ZDF television said Adolfs had become a hero for many smokers in Germany. He was now known as Germany’s second most-famous smoker after former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.