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Green light for plain packaging in Ireland

| February 27, 2015

Irish lawmakers have passed legislation mandating plain packaging for tobacco products. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Ireland’s president after a technical vote in the upper house next week.

Scheduled to take effect in May 2017, the new law will ban all tobacco branding, including logos and colors, and require tobacco products to have a uniform packaging with graphic health warnings.

“We are creating legislation which will be historic and will be of real importance to the area of public health,” the Minister for Children, James Reilly, told parliament. “We are on the verge of being the first country in the EU to pass a law on plain packaging.”

JTI Ireland said it would take legal action if the legislation is enacted. “We have made our views known to the government many times so they should come as no surprise,” a JTI Ireland representative said after the vote. “If this proceeds we will go to court to protect our rights.”

Reilly signaled the government would proceed regardless. “We in this house will not be intimidated by such action,” he said. “We will pass such laws as we believe to be correct,”

Ireland is the second country to require plain packaging. Australia introduced similar legislation in 2012. Britain is also considering plain packaging.

FCTC passion and cohesion dissipated after 10 years

| February 27, 2015

The World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is 10 years old today and apparently it is starting to show its age.

According to a piece by Derek Yach, executive director of the Vitality Institute and former executive director of WHO NCDs, the FCTC is an ambitious approach to tackling the world’s ‘most preventable health problem’. It was built on solid evidence of what worked best and supported strongly by the IMF, the World Bank, UNICEF, leading pharmaceutical companies and international health NGOs.

But Yach said that progress had been mixed and the early passion and cohesion of the coalition had dissipated.

‘The earliest work of the FCTC involved demonizing the tobacco industry and cutting off contact with them,’ he said. ‘That was a successful and simple strategy at the time. But now we face new realities. Major multinationals are edging towards greater investments in innovative harm reduction products…

‘Multinationals seek predictability and respectability. The FCTC gave them the first and harm reduction may give them the second. There is no example of a legal consumer goods sector being regulated out of existence. There are many examples though of how entire industrial sectors can shift from being damaging to the environment or health to being less damaging through the use of innovative technologies, smart regulations, consumer pressure and constant media voice.’

The full text of Yach’s piece, which is one of a series of articles written by health experts to mark the 10th anniversary of the FCTC, is on the Framework Convention Alliance website at:

Bigger health warnings not practical for India’s OTPs

| February 27, 2015

The producers of tobacco products other than cigarettes are asking the Indian government to exclude them from the current requirement that, by April 1, tobacco packs include health warnings covering 85 percent of their two main surfaces, according to a story in the latest issue of the BBM Bommidala Group newsletter.

The new warnings would be made up of pictorial warnings taking up 60 percent of the surface areas and written warnings taking up 25 percent.

The producers of smokeless tobacco were said to have claimed that whereas such warnings might be appropriate in the case of box-type packaging; they were not practical in the case of sachets.

Smokeless tobacco products were required to be included in packs with one transparent side so that the contents were visible, which meant that it would not be possible to print warnings on that side.

Consequently, the manufacturers are asking the government to leave other tobacco products under the former regulations whereby health warnings were required to cover 40 percent of one side.

Tobacco manufacturers were informed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in October that they would be required to apply the warnings.

BAT would challenge planned UK plain packs laws

| February 27, 2015

British American Tobacco said yesterday that it would take action against the UK government if it enacted a plan to put cigarettes in standardized packs, according to a story by Martinne Geller for Reuters.

“If the regulations, as published this week, are passed, we anticipate taking legal action,” Jerome Abelman, BAT’s director of corporate and regulatory affairs, was quoted as saying.

“It’s no different than if a newsagent’s stand was taken by the government. This is our property and we don’t think the government is on legal grounds to take the property.”

The UK Department of Health thinks otherwise and intends to defend the policy robustly against any legal challenge. “We would not be proceeding with the policy if we did not believe it to be defensible in the courts,” a department spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Australia, the only country so far to introduce standardized tobacco packs, successfully defended its policy in domestic courts, though it still faces various international trade challenges.

The UK parliament is expected to vote on standardized packs regulations on March 30.

Cubatabaco wins latest round in US trademark tussle

| February 27, 2015

The US Supreme Court handed a victory to Cubatabaco on Monday by refusing to intervene in a legal case against a US-based rival firm over the Cohiba trademark that both use for their cigars, according to a story in the Latin American Herald Tribune.

The high court refused to hear an appeal by US firm General Cigar seeking to overturn a ruling issued last June by a federal appeals court that found in favor of Cubatabaco.

The decision allows the Cuban firm once again to request that the patent on the Cohiba brand registered by the Delaware-based General Cigar be cancelled, a move the firm must direct to the US Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

The dispute dates back to 2009 when Cubatabaco won a lawsuit against General Cigar for using and marketing the Cohiba brand name for the latter’s products in the US.

The US firm, which in 1992 began selling Dominican tobacco products under the Cuban Cohiba trademark, appealed the ruling.

The full story is at:

Altria declares regular quarterly dividend

| February 27, 2015

The Altria Group’s board of directors on Wednesday declared a regular quarterly dividend of $0.52 per common share, payable on April 10 to shareholders of record as of March 16.

The ex-dividend date is March 12.

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