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Ukraine re-examining plain packaging challenge

| May 29, 2015

Ukraine’s trade minister has met with a delegation of health groups following a remark by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk that he doubted the appropriateness of a legal challenge filed against Australia’s standardized packaging legislation, according to an Interfax story relayed by the TMA.
Ukraine’s 2012 challenge, along with those of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Indonesia have been lodged with the World Trade Organization.
During the meeting, the minister of Economic Development and Trade Aivaras Abromavicius and deputy minister Natalia Mykolska were told by representatives of anti-smoking and health groups that the continuation of the dispute at the WTO could affect the international image of Ukraine.
Members of the Ukrainian Center for Tobacco Control, the Media Law Institute, the Ukrainian World Congress, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use attended the meeting.
Abromavicius was said also to have met with Australia’s ambassador to Ukraine.
The countries challenging Australia’s standardized tobacco legislation argue that it comprises a barrier to trade and infringes tobacco firms’ intellectual property rights.

Imperial Canada challenges Nova Scotia menthol ban

| May 29, 2015

Imperial Tobacco Canada has filed a legal challenge against Nova Scotia’s menthol ban, which is set to take effect on May 31.
“By prohibiting the sale of menthol cigarettes, the government of Nova Scotia has stepped beyond its legislative authority, which leaves us with no other choice than to bring this matter in front of the courts,” said Caroline Ferland, vice president of corporate and regulatory affairs in a statement issued through Canada Newswire.
“The Nova Scotia government’s decision to default to knee-jerk regulation rather than fact-based regulation informed through meaningful public consultation will only exacerbate the already well-established illegal tobacco problem in the province.”
Imperial said that menthol products had been on the market for more than 80 years and that they were preferred by older people. Menthol had twice been exempted from tobacco flavor bans by the federal government because of a lack of evidence demonstrating it was attractive to youth.
‘In addition, banning menthol tobacco products will not eliminate them from the Nova Scotia market,’ Imperial said. ‘Instead of buying them from responsible retailers who comply with the law, the adult smokers who choose to smoke menthol products will turn to criminals to purchase their products.
‘There are currently more than 35 brands of menthol cigarettes available on the illegal tobacco market and the RCMP has identified more than 175 criminal organizations in Canada who profit directly from the sale of illegal tobacco.’
“It is not often that illegal tobacco dealers get a new business opportunity presented to them on a silver platter,” said Ferland.

Beijing smokers braced for new era of restrictions

| May 29, 2015

Indoor smoking and tobacco advertisements will be banned in public places in Beijing as part of new tobacco control regulations due to come into force on Monday, according to a story in the China Daily.
The restrictions, which were adopted in November by the Beijing People’s Congress, are among the toughest of their kind in China.
They forbid smoking in all indoor public places, including workplaces, and within some outdoor areas, including schools.
The authorities will be paying particular notice to the implementation of the regulations in schools, airports, metro and bus stations, restaurants and scenic spots.
Tobacco retailing certificates will not be issued to shops within 100 meters of kindergartens, primary and middle schools, and children’s activity centers. Shops in these areas that already have certificates will not able to continue to sell tobacco when their current certificates expire.
Beijing airport announced on Tuesday that all its smoking rooms would be closed and replaced with 11 outdoor smoking areas from June 1. In addition, outdoor smoking areas of 1.5 square meters and marked with yellow lines will be set up in more than 600 bus stations across the city. Smoking will be banned in all metro facilities, including cabins and stations.
Smoking will be banned in scenic areas with ‘key cultural relics’, but outdoor smoking areas will be made available in other scenic areas.
Tobacco advertising will be banned on radio and television, in films, as part of mobile communications and on the Internet. No tobacco advertisements will be allowed in public places, including on public transport and outdoor areas.

EU’s illegal trade falling but still substantial

| May 28, 2015

The scale of the EU’s illegal trade in cigarettes remains ‘sizeable’, with 56.6 billion illicit cigarettes consumed there last year – about 10.4 percent of total consumption, according to a press note posted on Philip Morris International’s website, citing the latest annual report by KPMG.

The report was prepared for British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and PMI.

‘This illegal market costs taxpayers and communities more than €11 billion a year in lost tax revenue,’ the note said. ‘If combined, the thousands of transactions made by criminals involved in the illegal tobacco trade would equate to them being the fifth largest cigarette supplier to EU consumers.’

The source and type of products available on the illicit tobacco market are said to have continued to evolve, though the upward trend of illegal trade levels in the EU has been reversed in recent years. For example, last year, more than eight out of 10 of the illicit cigarettes consumed in the EU originated outside the EU, which is a 10 percent increase compared to the situation during 2013. In contrast, flows within the EU continue to decline, driven by improved industry supply chain controls and narrowing price gaps between EU member states.

“Overall levels of illicit cigarette consumption in the EU remained essentially flat during 2014, however the illegal tobacco market remains sizeable and continues to evolve,” said Robin Cartwright, a partner at KPMG. “Our research shows that while this is a problem that touches every member state, caution is needed particularly in countries that share borders with non-EU countries where cigarettes are cheaper and where we continue to see high illicit cigarette consumption levels.”

‘Illicit whites,’ which are cigarettes that are generally produced legally in a country but are smuggled into other countries where they have limited or no legal distribution, are said to be proliferating across the EU. According to KPMG, while smuggling of well-known brands has become less common, the number of illicit whites has grown exponentially from virtually zero in 2006 to 37 percent of all illicit cigarettes last year.

‘The illegal cigarette market continues to deprive member states of much needed revenues, hurts legitimate businesses, and fosters crime in local communities,’ said the press note. ‘Eliminating the illegal tobacco industry requires governments, law enforcement agencies, manufacturers and retailers to work together to stop the criminals responsible for this illegal trade.’

BAT, Imperial, JTI and PMI remained committed to these efforts and together with law enforcement continued to invest in combating this problem, the press note said.

Additional findings in the KPMG report include:

* Illicit whites brand flows grew by eight percent to 21.1 billion cigarettes last year, with consumption of such products being most prevalent in Poland, Italy, Spain and Greece;

* Last year, 10.4 percent of all cigarettes consumed in the EU were illicit, compared to 10.5 percent in 2013 and 11.1 percent in 2012;

* Total illicit cigarette volumes declined by 3.3 percent last year to 56.6 billion cigarettes.

The 2014 KPMG study on the illegal cigarette trade in the EU, Switzerland and Norway is available on KPMG’s website:

Need for more co-operation in illegal trade battle

| May 28, 2015

In a note posted on its website today, British American Tobacco says that it is reiterating the need for greater understanding of the illegal tobacco trade and the criminals behind it, and the need for greater co-operation and collaboration in fighting this trade.

‘This call to action launches as part of a new campaign, developed by British American Tobacco, to raise awareness of the facts around the illegal tobacco trade to coincide with the WHO’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on Sunday 31 May,’ the note said. [The illegal tobacco trade is the WNTD’s focus this year.]

‘The nature and scale of the illegal tobacco trade and the approaches required to tackle it vary from country to country. However, if all of the different organisations involved in the illegal tobacco trade around the world were combined into one conglomerate, they would become the third largest international tobacco company by volume.’

Commenting on the campaign, which uses a fictional tobacco conglomerate, International Tobacco Smugglers Inc, Jerome Abelman, director of legal and external affairs at BAT, said the impact of the illegal tobacco trade might not be felt as immediately and directly as were the impacts of other crimes, but the consequences were very real. “By some estimates, illegal tobacco costs governments around the world $40-$50 billion each year in unpaid tobacco taxes – the equivalent to approximately one $110 million bank robbery every day of the year – and sales of illegal tobacco are reported to fund human trafficking, drug and arms trades as well as terrorist organisations,” he said.

“The amount of illegal tobacco is much more significant than is generally realised: an estimated 400-600 billion cigarettes, the equivalent of approximately 10-12 percent of world consumption. It is a transnational, multi-faceted issue and one that requires a collaborative approach to tackle it, from governments and law enforcement agencies with whom we work in partnership to retailers and customers who can arm themselves with the facts.”

BAT said that the nature of the illegal tobacco trade varied from country to country but the causes were similar. These included large excise increases that caused price differences between countries, and ineffective law enforcement measures.

“We are an important part of the solution and we invest over $75 million each year to fight the illegal tobacco trade,” said Abelman. “British American Tobacco has dedicated Anti-Illicit Trade teams across the globe that work with government agencies, including police and customs officials, with the aim of bringing criminals who are involved in the illegal tobacco trade to justice. We also support the FCTC [the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control] Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, but this treaty will only be effective if it is consistently applied and enforced by joined up governments.”

Practical guide to safe use of flavors in e-cigarettes

| May 28, 2015

What is being described as the first practical guide to ensure the safe use of flavors in electronic cigarettes has been published by Nicoventures, a nicotine company established by British American Tobacco (Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology DOI: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2015.05.018).

A BAT press note said today that while electronic cigarettes and other vapor products delivered nicotine without smoke toxicants, some in the public health community had expressed concerns over the potential health impacts of flavors used in electronic cigarettes. Consequently, the British Standards Institute (BSI) was developing product standards for electronic cigarettes that would provide guidance on manufacturing, testing and safety requirements.

These guidelines laid out the “what” (including the toxicological risk assessment of flavors), said Dr. Sandra Costigan, the principal toxicologist at Nicoventures, while the new guide provided the “how”.

The flavors typically used in electronic cigarettes are food grade, which means that they have been generally ingested rather than inhaled. “This means that the data available is oral and there are large data gaps,” said Costigan, who is a member of the BSI steering committee on electronic cigarettes. “Safe to eat is not the same as safe to inhale. “The data gaps need to be filled.

“In the meantime, what are the kinds of data sources, approaches and scientific rationale that will allow us to determine if we can use a flavor and at what level? This guide explains how to do that.”

The first step apparently is to ensure that any flavors are food grade and to screen out any potential carcinogens or respiratory allergens. “At this stage, in the absence of inhalation data we make quite a lot of use of what are called TTCs or Toxicological Thresholds of Concern,” said Costigan. “TTCs are used by agencies like the WHO and FDA and they basically help define how much of something can be used in the absence of other toxicity data. We use TTCs to determine how much of any particular flavor ingredient can be used.

“The next step is to assess the compounds produced as a result of heating these flavor molecules, as it is the ‘vapor’ – i.e. the aerosol produced on heating the e-liquid – that consumers are exposed to, not the e-liquid itself.  Here we are dealing with new compounds and potential thermal breakdown products, rather than ingredients, and so our approach to acceptable levels will be different.

“None of the draft standards and regulations tell us how to do such a risk assessment, and the scientific literature thus far has focused on problems, such as lack of inhalation data, rather than solutions. Ours is the first sensible and practical guide to help actually conduct such a risk assessment on the flavors, based on sound toxicological principles,” said Costigan.

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