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Harm reduction should form basis of progressive regulation, says BAT

| May 29, 2014

British American Tobacco is calling on the World Health Organization and governments around the world to adopt a policy of tobacco harm reduction as a more progressive approach to tobacco regulation, according to a note posted on the company’s website.

In support of its call, BAT quoted WHO estimates that suggest there are now one billion smokers across the globe and that by 2050 this number could increase to 2.2 billion.

“For governments seeking to reduce tobacco use, we believe it’s time for new, more progressive approaches to be considered,” said Kingsley Wheaton, director of corporate and regulatory affairs. “One such solution is to offer adult smokers a choice of substantially less risky products such as e-cigarettes.

“This approach is what many refer to as ‘tobacco harm reduction.’ However, for this to work, governments and the public health community need to embrace this concept and the products that support it.”

BAT seems to have spoken out at least partly because recent media reports have suggested that less risky nicotine products such as e-cigarettes could be classified as tobacco products by the WHO. Such a classification could prompt governments eventually to subject e-cigarettes to hefty excise duty, public smoking bans and severe marketing restrictions, all of which would hamper their growth and development.

“If e-cigarettes are classified as tobacco products, then the associated regulatory hurdles will mean smokers will find it harder to access less risky alternatives—this can only be a bad thing for public health,” said Wheaton.

“We hope the arguments being made by the scientific community, the industry and public health campaigners will demonstrate the need for policy makers to carefully consider the benefits of tobacco harm reduction and give it their full support.”

BAT said it invested about £170 million a year in research and development that was enabling it to develop an expanding range of alternative tobacco and nicotine products, and that had allowed it to launch its first e-cigarette, Vype.

“We believe we can and should be a part of this debate and possible solutions, given our knowledge of consumers and our global reach,” said Wheaton.

“Tobacco harm reduction provides a progressive public health policy direction. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate on making this policy a global reality.”

Plain packaging not a done deal in U.K.

| May 29, 2014

Ahead of the U.K. government’s consultation on standardized packaging regulations, the smokers’ group Forest is urging retailers and consumers to write to the prime minister, David Cameron, declaring their opposition to the policy.

Forest believes that such regulations could be included in the Queen’s Speech on June 4, which will outline the government’s agenda for the coming session of parliament.

A website, No Prime Minister (www.noprimeminister.org.uk), includes a letter that can be sent to Cameron.

“There is no credible evidence that children start smoking because of the packaging, or that ‘plain’ packaging will deter children from smoking,” the letter reads.

“A four-month government consultation in 2012 resulted in over 665,000 responses, with a substantial majority (427,888) opposed to the policy.

“Before pressing ahead with legislation, I urge you to wait until government has studied the impact of the tobacco display ban, which will not be fully implemented until 2015, and the introduction of larger health warnings which are being introduced in 2016 as part of the EU’s revised Tobacco Products Directive.”

According to the website, “Standardized packaging is the start of a slippery slope that will eventually lead to other potentially unhealthy products, including alcohol, sugary drinks and fast food, being sold in dull, uniform packaging.”

“The argument that plain packs will stop children smoking is based not on hard evidence but on conjecture,” said Simon Clark, the director of Forest, which runs the Hands Off Our Packs campaign and is responsible for the No Prime Minister website.

Urging retailers and consumers to write to the prime minister, Clark made the point that whereas a lot of people believed that standardized tobacco packaging was a done deal; it was not.

“There is still everything to play for so people must make their views known to government, and the prime minister in particular,” he said.

“If you feel strongly about this issue act now. It’s not too late to make a difference.”

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.

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