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Tobacco firms the most financially transparent

| August 18, 2015

A four-year investigation by Fairfax Media into the financial statements reported by multinational firms operating in Australia has found that tobacco companies issue the cleanest sets of numbers of any group of multinationals in the country, according to a story by Michael West for the Age newspaper, relayed by the TMA.

Philip Morris (Australia), British American Tobacco (Australasia Holdings) and Imperial Tobacco Australia were said to abide by accounting standards and to pay taxes every year to state and federal governments.

Collectively they appeared to have the cleanest sets of numbers released by any group of multinationals in the country, even providing ‘general purpose’ accounts audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers rather than the ‘special purpose’ accounts that required a lower standard of disclosure and were ‘furtively favoured by most multinationals’.

Multiple factors influencing teem smoking propensity

| August 18, 2015

A South Korean teenager whose parents are both smokers is more than four times as likely to smoke than is a teenager with non-smoking parents, according to a story in The Korea Herald citing a government report published yesterday.

The report, released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, surveyed 75,000 middle- and high-school students last year. It showed that 17.8 percent of Korean teens whose parents both smoked were smoking as of last year, while 4.3 percent of teenagers with non-smoking parents were smoking.

The study found too that Korean teen smokers were more influenced by their mothers than by their fathers. Thirteen point six percent of teenagers with smoking mothers but without smoking fathers were smoking last year, while 6.4 percent of those with smoking fathers but without smoking mothers were smoking.

Korean teens are significantly influenced also by their friends and siblings. While only 0.8 percent of Korean teens whose close friends don’t smoke were smoking last year, 13.5 percent of those whose friends do smoke were smoking. Also, 15.8 percent of teens whose siblings smoke followed suit, compared to 4.27 percent of those without smoking siblings.

The report showed that the smoking rate among teenagers who attend schools that focus on job training was significantly higher than among those who attend schools that concentrate on academic study. The smoking rate for students who attend vocational schools was 25.6 percent, while that of students at academic schools was 10.9 percent.

Other correlations were found in the socioeconomic status of the parents and in academic performance. While 11.8 percent of teens who declared a low household income level were smoking last year, 7.2 percent of those in high-income homes were smoking.

The proportion of smoking teens who said their school performance was low (15.2 percent) was four times higher than those who said they were doing well at school (3.8 percent).

Teen smoking was said to be associated with mental health and teen drinking.

Complaint filed over JTI’s planned plant in Taiwan

| August 18, 2015

A group of anti-tobacco activists in Taiwan filed a complaint on Monday accusing three cabinet agencies of dereliction of duty and legal violations after they gave the go-ahead or failed to object to the building of a factory by an international tobacco company, according to a Focus Taiwan News Channel report.

The complaint was filed with the Control Yuan, which is the government body that investigates civil servants and public agencies over accusations of improper behavior.

The John Tung Foundation CEO, Yau Sea-wain, the Consumers’ Foundation vice chairman, Yu Kai-hsiung, and two celebrity volunteers filed the accusations against the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Health Promotion Administration.

The activists called on the Control Yuan to stop the construction by Japan Tobacco International of a factory in the Tainan Technology Industrial Park in southern Taiwan.

Citing the Statute for Investment by Foreign Nationals, Yau said the regulations prohibited foreign interests from investing in sectors that were harmful to people’s health.

The MOEA, however, has classified the tobacco manufacturing sector as an industry in which foreign and expatriate investors are ‘restricted’ from investing, not ‘prohibited from investing.

Health authorities were accused of failing to alert the MOEA as it reviewed the JTI investment application in 2013 that Taiwan observes the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organization, Yau said.

Under the convention, tobacco is defined as a lethal product and therefore WHO member-governments are restrained from providing preferential treatment to the establishment of new tobacco companies or an expansion of the industry.

Imperial to issue interim statement

| August 18, 2015

Imperial Tobacco said yesterday that it would issue an interim management statement tomorrow.

Imperial’s financial year runs from the beginning of October to the end of September.

Tobacco carve-out from TPP agreement discussed

| August 17, 2015

Even though negotiators who are trying to finalize the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) seem to be in general agreement that tobacco products will have to be treated differently to other products, a case is being made in support of treating leaf tobacco in the same was as other agricultural commodities are treated, according to a story by Adam Behsudi for Politico.com, relayed by the TMA.

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is said to have written to US Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman saying Froman should ‘not set a new precedent for future US trade negotiations by negatively carving out a specific American agricultural commodity – in this case tobacco’ – from the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision.

The TPP, which has come under fire from a wide range of organizations in a number of countries, is being negotiated in secret by representatives of Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam.

Not much is known about the TPP negotiations because of the strict secrecy surrounding them and the little information that has emerged has been courtesy of Wikileaks. But it is understood that the ISDS mechanisms have comprised one of the most controversial issues and have been condemned by some politicians as being anything from a charter for big corporations to rip off taxpayers to an attack on democracy.

Behsudi quoted an unnamed source as saying “USTR was clear tobacco had to be treated differently and there was general agreement on that” at last month’s TPP talks in Hawaii.

But another source was quoted as saying the trade partners had made reference solely to manufactured tobacco products and not to leaf tobacco.

Behsudi quoted sources close to the talks as saying Froman reportedly discussed a proposed tobacco ‘carve-out’ with some countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, during last month’s TPP meeting in Hawaii.

Flavored products to disappear in Bermuda wrangle

| August 17, 2015

Bermuda’s forthcoming anti-tobacco measures have been described as draconian and possibly the strictest in the world, according to a story by Jonathan Bell for The Royal Gazette.

Smoke Shop proprietor Michael Heslop was quoted as saying that no other country was banning as many products as Bermuda was planning to ban. He said that, under the provisions of the Tobacco Control Bill 2015, he would have to remove 161 products from his shelves.

Heslop’s main concern seems to be that whereas other countries are banning only flavored cigarettes, Bermuda is poised to ban all flavored tobacco products and related materials, including shisha, tobacco wraps, tobacco rolling papers, blunts, cigarillos and bidis.

Jeanne Atherden, the Minister of Health, is on record as saying that the new requirements contained in the bill are in line with World Health Organization protocols.

The new regulations are expected to come into force in December.

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