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Uganda’s proposed tobacco control bill under fire from Kampala traders

| May 29, 2014

The Kampala City Traders’ Association (Kacita) has thrown its weight behind those opposing some aspects of Uganda’s proposed Tobacco Control Bill, according to a story in The Observer.

Kacita’s chairman, Everest Kayondo, described the law as “draconian and [one that] would cost Uganda business opportunities.”

If the bill were passed in its current form, he said, it would cost billions of shillings in taxes, and hundreds of farming jobs in northwestern Uganda.

The traders have taken issue with provisions of the bill that ban the sale of tobacco products within half a kilometer of public institutions such as schools, hospitals and public offices, and that ban the display of tobacco packs in retail outlets.

“If people have invested their money, they need to sell and make a profit,” said Kayondo.

Recently, Elly Karuhanga, the chairman of British American Tobacco Uganda (BATU), advised MPs to consider the economic benefits of the tobacco trade.

The Uganda Revenue Authority ranked BATU the sixth-largest taxpayer in the country in 2010–2011, the latest year for which rankings are available.

Unions reject Bergen op Zoom package said to be “among the best”

| May 29, 2014

Trade unions have threatened to organize protests at Philip Morris’ cigarette factory at Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands, if the tobacco company does not offer a better social plan for employees who seem set to lose their jobs.

Philip Morris Holland (PMH) said in early April that it intended to end cigarette production at Bergen op Zoom by October with the loss of about 1,230 jobs.

In a note posted on Philip Morris International’s website, PMH’s board was said to have started consultations with employee representatives. “Depending on the outcome of the consultation process, and pending approval of the PMH Supervisory Board, the proposal could affect approximately 1,230 out of the current 1,371 employees at PMH,” the note said.

The deadline given by the unions for receipt of a better offer expired on Tuesday, according to an ANP story.

They are said to be looking for higher compensation for “the enormous pension damage” that will be incurred by those involved.

Commenting on Tuesday to the-then imminent expiry of the trade unions’ ultimatum to PMH, the company said it unfortunately had to state that the trade unions’ demands, as put forward in their ultimatum, were unacceptable and demonstrably impossible to comply with.

“PMH has worked intensely over the past weeks to propose a social plan that is among the best—if not, the best—collective redundancy compensation programs ever offered to employees in the Netherlands under comparable circumstances,” the company said in its Tuesday statement. “The plan is based on the old cantonal formula (more favorable to employees) with a correction factor of 1.4, that is some 40 percent higher than the average correction factor agreed in other social plans using the old formula. It also includes a number of clauses that are designed to support the potentially affected employees in their effort to transition to new employment; these clauses also are far superior to established best practices in the country. The unions’ intransigent demand that PMH apply a correction factor of 1.9, as well as other vexatious conditions, is unprecedented, not substantiated by any well-founded arguments, and sets a target that is demonstrably unreasonable and impossible to comply with.

“PMH is also convinced that the ultimatum received is premature, as the company has already significantly increased its starting proposal and is willing to continue to discuss, based on objective and established benchmarks and best practices—benchmarks that the unions have so far categorically refused to present.

“Taking all this into account, PMH can only conclude that the trade unions’ position is to escalate unnecessarily and prematurely the ongoing negotiation into a conflictive one, which will waste precious time and resources that would be otherwise put to the service of the potentially affected employees.

“PMH fully respects its employees’ right to conduct industrial actions. However, industrial actions as such will not lead to an improved proposal, rather to more delays and insecurity for its employees. The company’s efforts remain directed towards a constructive dialogue, which still is the most effective and rapid way to achieve a social plan that is fair and viable for all parties involved.”

TMA regulations conference

| May 28, 2014

The U.S. Tobacco Merchants Association will hold a one-day conference on June 16 at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Virginia, about the Food and Drug Administration’s deeming regulations.

The event will include legal, laboratory and other presentations, in addition to breakout sessions by product sector.

For more information, visit www.tma.org or phone TMA at +1 609 275 4900.

Huge e-cigarette potential in China

| May 28, 2014

About 500 representatives of the global e-cigarette industry are due meet at Shenzhen, China, in August to unveil new technologies and discuss how to improve safety and health standards, according to a piece by Yanzhong Huang published by Forbes Asia.

Although the huge majority of e-cigarettes are manufactured in China, they are not popular on the local market.

However, Yanzhong said that global trends suggested that e-cigarette use would grow and would supplant regular cigarette smoking. This would happen also in China.

“If only 1 percent of China’s smoking population turned to e-cigarettes, it would mean a market of about 3.5 million e-cigarette users,” Yanzhong said.

In April, he added, China had banned party and government officials from smoking in public places or during official activities.

The tremendous challenges that China faced in enforcing the ban might encourage officials to turn to e-cigarettes as an alternative, which in turn could create a powerful example for “ordinary people” to follow.

Malaysia cracks down on illicit sales

| May 28, 2014

Malaysia’s Customs Department officers have seized 131 million smuggled cigarettes since the launch of a nationwide operation in January, according to a story in the New Straits Times.

The seized products were said to be worth MYR73.64 million in value and unpaid duties.

Customs Director-general Datuk Seri Khazali Ahmad said his officers had checked 2,618 premises, as of May 15, and found 999 to have been selling illicit cigarettes.

He said 227 traders had been charged: 129 with selling and the rest with possessing smuggled cigarettes.
“The longest jail term was six months,” he added.

Khazali said the department had established new and efficient strategies for its latest crackdown, known as Op Outlet.

He said one of the strategies had been to establish in every state “strike teams” that focused on raiding premises identified as selling illicit cigarettes.

The premises were identified by firstly carrying out test purchases at those outlets suspected of selling illicit cigarettes.

Cigarette prices to rise in Cambodia

| May 28, 2014

Cigarette prices in Cambodia are expected to increase from about $0.58 to about $0.64 a pack from July when taxes are due to rise, according to a story in The Phnom Penh Post.

Taxes currently account for 20 percent of the retail price of a pack of cigarettes, but that is set to rise to 30 percent.

An announcement about the increase was made on Friday during an Asean (Association of Southeast Asia Nations) Tobacco Taxation and Illicit Trade workshop held at the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific Regional Office in Manila.

Heng Sothy, deputy chief of the Audit Bureau within the Department of Taxation, was quoted as saying that the department had decided to increase the tax to promote people’s health.

But one anti-tobacco group said the increase would not be enough to encourage smokers to quit or to stop others taking up the habit.

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