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Growing resistance to trade agenda

| October 29, 2014

An Australian ministerial statement claiming ‘significant progress’ on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations but with no details or further meeting plans shows that the Australian government might be making shameful concessions in exchange for dubious market access deals, according to a Scoop story quoting Dr. Patricia Ranald, co-ordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET).

Ranald said a recently leaked draft text showed the US still wanted longer and stronger patents on medicines, more internet controls, and special rights for foreign investors to sue governments over changes to domestic laws.

“It is significant that, although Australia hosted the negotiations, the meeting was chaired by the US trade representative, exerting maximum pressure for concessions to the US agenda,” she said.

“There is growing resistance to this agenda, and to the secrecy of the negotiations, from Australian civil society, as shown not only by our network of 60 community groups, but by recent statements from organisations like MSF, (Doctors without Borders) and the Australian Medical Association.

“US proposals will result in extension of the current twenty-year patents on medicines, meaning even more delays in the availability of cheaper generic medicines. This will lead to increased costs to government subsidies through the PBS [Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme] in Australia, and pressure for higher prices at the chemist.”

Ranald said Trade Minister Robb had been desperately trying to discredit critics of the TPP, but these voices were too strong.

“The inclusion of Investor-State Disputes (ISDS) in the TPP would mean that US companies will be able to sue Australian governments if they allege that changes to domestic laws will ‘harm’ their investment,” she said.

“John Howard [Australian prime minister, 1996-2007] did not agree to this in the Australia-US free trade agreement, which is why the Philip Morris tobacco company had to find an obscure Hong Kong investment agreement with ISDS to sue our government over our plain packaging legislation.

“ISDS in the TPP would give US companies open slather to sue Australian governments…”

Clampdown on smokers in Malaysia

| October 29, 2014

One hundred and seventy nine people have been fined so far for smoking tobacco in air-conditioned premises, shops and shopping complexes, under a clampdown by Malaysia’s Health Ministry that started on September 30, according to a Bernama report.

The health director was reported to have said the operations included checks on 888 air-conditioned premises.

He said the operations were conducted ‘to protect the public from the dangers of passive smoking especially in air-conditioned premises’, and to provide a reminder to smokers not to smoke in prohibited areas.

The smokers were fined RM250 each and 17 owners of air-conditioned premises were each fined the same amount for failing to display no-smoking signs or for displaying signs that did not meet the necessary specifications.

Those who fail to pay their fines within the specified period will be charged in court and, if found guilty, could be fined up to RM10,000 or sentenced to jail for up to two years.

Shisha café pollution ‘alarming’

| October 29, 2014

The air in a café where shisha is being smoked is 40 times more polluted than the air outside in Qatar, according to a Gulf Times story quoting a study by the Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Smoking Cessation Clinic.

The head of the clinic, Dr. Ahmad al-Mulla, described the situation as ‘alarming’.

“It is very dangerous and we have put a proposal to the Supreme Council of Health to protect non-smoking people inside such a café,” said al-Mulla.“People should not be allowed to smoke inside cafés or at least they must place the smoking area outside the cafés.”

Al-Mulla was speaking on the sidelines of the second International Conference on Waterpipe Smoking organised by HMC.

Answering a question, al-Mulla said there were no separate statistics on the use of shisha in the country. But according to the available figures, 37 percent of people in the country smoked shisha or cigarettes. “We will soon launch another survey about the number of people smoking cigarette and shisha separately,” he added.

Al-Mulla called for the enactment of more laws against the use of shisha, especially in public places. “There must be effective measures to send out the message that shisha is not a safe option,” he said.

At the moment, there is a statutory warning on cigarette packs but no such warning against shisha use.

Management changes at 22nd Century

| October 28, 2014

Joseph Pandolfino has stepped down as chairman and CEO of 22nd Century Group. He will remain a member of the company’s board of directors. According to 22nd Century Group, Pandolfino’s entrepreneurial spirit and vision have enabled the company to create and assemble an important and impressive portfolio of technology, and there are continuing discussions to have him remain with the company in the role of chief technology officer.

“Under Joe Pandolfino’s leadership, 22nd Century has amassed an incredible stable of propriety plant technologies which offer exceptional opportunities for commercialization to build long term shareholder value,” said James Cornell, the newly elected chairman of the board. “On behalf of the board and the company’s shareholders, I want to thank Joe for his significant contributions to the company’s success.”

With the company’s inclusion into the U.S. Master Settlement Agreement, the soon-to-start sales of product in the U.S. and Europe, and a joint venture in Asia, the board of directors has decided to seek executive leadership with broad experience.

Accordingly, the board of directors named Henry Sicignano, III, the current company president, to be the new chief operating officer.

“Henry Sicignano is ideally suited to lead the company’s tobacco related business,” said Cornell. “His strong tobacco background growing the National America Spirit cigarette brand, coupled with his sound strategic and implementation skills, are excellent.”


Trade agreement in need of health check

| October 28, 2014

Health professionals say a comprehensive health impact assessment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement must be carried out to protect the health of New Zealanders, according to a story in Scoop.

The health professionals say leaked information suggests international big business, such as the tobacco and alcohol industries, could sue the New Zealand government if it puts health-based policies in place that threaten these industries’ profits.

And clauses designed to protect the intellectual property rights of the pharmaceutical industry would make medicines more expensive in New Zealand by preventing PHARMAC from purchasing cheaper generic drugs.

Members of ten health organizations are calling on Trade Minister Tim Groser to bring in health experts to give the proposed TPP an independent and comprehensive health check-up.

In an article in NZ Doctor published online the health experts say the health-check results should be made public for full discussion, well before New Zealand commits to the trade deal.

“The negotiations are all being carried out in secret, and the little that has leaked out is very worrying,” says Dr Joshua Freeman, a spokesperson for the health organizations.

Industry slams Indian health warnings

| October 28, 2014

The Tobacco Institute of India (TII) has reacted angrily to the national government’s decision to increase significantly the size of health warnings on tobacco packs, according to a story in the latest issue of the BBM Bommidala Group newsletter.

It is unhappy, also, because the tobacco industry was not consulted before the decision on the new warnings was made.

Under a recent gazette notification from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, from April 1 tobacco products will have to be sold in packs that include warnings occupying 85 percent of both the front and back faces – up from the current 40 percent. The graphic element of the warning will take up 60 percent of the surface and the written warning 25 percent. The graphic images will have to be rotated every 12 months.

“The proposed warnings are unreasonable, drastic, unwarranted and impractical to implement and enforce,” TII director, Syed M. Ahmed, said in a statement.

The existing health warnings were adequate to inform and caution consumers.

Even in countries such as the US, Japan and China the textural warnings were not disproportionately large, he added.

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