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Revenue drop fires VAT rethink

| May 14, 2013

In an unusual move that has attracted some criticism, India’s Uttar Pradesh state government has slashed the VAT on cigarettes and cigars from 50 percent to 25 percent.

According to a report in the latest issue of the BBM Bommidala Group newsletter, the decision to reduce VAT was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet, which is hoping to halt the loss in revenue that followed an increase in VAT last year.

The level of VAT levied on cigarettes and cigars was increased in 2012 from 12.5 percent to 50 percent.

Smoking on the up in Gulf states

| May 13, 2013

The six member countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) are home to about four million smokers, a number that is increasing by 150,000 a year, according to a story by Habib Toumi for the Gulf News.

Smokers within the GCC, which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, consume about 50 billion cigarettes annually.

And, according to Arabi Atta Allah and Majdi Ashoor, who were described as experts with the Qatar Supreme Health Council, this consumption level meant that the GCC incurred annual health care costs of $500 million.

“According to one study, up to 50 percent of the GCC students aged between 14 and 18 smoke regularly,” they said as they gave a lecture in the Qatari capital, Doha. “Around 25 percent started puffing at cigarettes when they were between 10 and 15 years old.”

“In the Arab world, the number of smokers has been steadily increasing, reaching 70 percent among males and 25 percent among females.”

International travel broadens the options

| May 13, 2013

The smoking room in the domestic departure area of Thailand’s Phuket International Airport is to be closed at the end of this month, but the smoking room in the international departure area will remain open, according to a story in the Phuket News.

And this is a pattern that will be repeated throughout the country as all smoking rooms within domestic airport facilities will be closed while those in international airport facilities will be retained.

Pratueng Sornkham, director of Airports of Thailand, Phuket, said the closures followed the enforcement of a new Ministry of Health no-smoking law.

In the future, domestic flight passengers travelling through Phuket would be able to leave the terminal if they wanted to smoke.

But once they had checked in and gone through security into the departures area, they would no longer be able to indulge their habit.

Turkey to toughen tobacco laws

| May 13, 2013

The Turkish government wants to toughen the country’s laws on smoking and alcohol consumption, according to a Trend news agency story quoting a Sabah newspaper report.

The report said that a new bill would be put before parliament, though it did not indicate when that would happen.

Under the bill, smoking, already banned in enclosed public places, would be forbidden in open public spaces.

The bill would ban smoking by public transport drivers, presumably only while operating their vehicles.

And it would increase the penalties for violating smoking bans.

Potential help for unborn in Vitamin C

| May 13, 2013

Vitamin C might help prevent lung problems in babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy, according to a small new study reported by HealthDay.

Pregnant women are advised not to smoke because it can harm their babies’ lungs and lead to problems such as wheezing and asthma. But if a pregnant woman can’t quit smoking, taking vitamin C might help protect her baby’s lungs.

“The study included 159 women who were less than 22 weeks pregnant and unable to quit smoking,” the story reported. “They were randomly assigned to take either one 500-milligram capsule of vitamin C or a placebo each day for the remainder of their pregnancy.

“Forty-eight hours after birth, babies born to women who took vitamin C had significantly better lung function than those whose mothers took the placebo. During their first year, wheezing was reported in 21 percent of infants whose mothers took vitamin C and in 40 percent of infants whose mothers took the placebo. The rate among infants born to non-smokers was 27 percent.”

The preliminary study, which showed an association between vitamin C use and better lung function in infants but did not prove a cause-and-effect link, was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting in Washington, DC.

“Vitamin C is a simple, safe and inexpensive treatment that may decrease the impact of smoking during pregnancy on childhood respiratory health,” said lead author Dr. Cynthia McEvoy, an associate professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University Children’s Hospital.

Meanwhile, study co-author, Dr. Eliot Spindel, a senior scientist at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University, said that getting women to quit smoking during pregnancy had to be priority one. “… but this finding provides a way to potentially help the infants born of the roughly 50 percent of pregnant smokers who won’t or can’t quit smoking no matter what is tried,” he added.

Tobacco industry has little to fear from EU TPD proposals

| May 9, 2013

The European Commission believes that its proposed revisions to the Tobacco Products Directive would, if adopted, have limited adverse impact on the tobacco industry – and some positive impacts.

“The adoption of the proposal for a revised Tobacco Products Directive was preceded by a thorough impact assessment, including an assessment of the economic impacts on the tobacco industry, their upstream suppliers (e.g. growers, ingredients suppliers, paper industry) and downstream distributors (wholesale, retail),” the commission stated in a written answer to questions posed by the Czech MEP, Ivo Strejček.

“It is estimated that the proposal will result in a reduction in the consumption of tobacco products of no more than 2 percent within a five year period following the transposition of the Directive. The adverse impact on the industry would therefore remain limited. Jobs lost in the production of cigarettes would be offset by the creation of jobs in other sectors, reflecting ex-smokers’ expenditure on such sectors.

“In addition, the proposal is expected to lead to some benefits for the industry through reduced production costs as a result of harmonization (one … production line instead of different production lines to comply with different national rules) and through the expected reduction in illicit trade (as a result of the proposed measures on tracking and tracing of products). Even the most specialized tobacco retailers do not generate more than 50 percent of their revenues from tobacco products, thus the impact is not expected to be disproportionate.”

The commission said that to avoid imposing an unnecessary burden on small- to medium-sized enterprises, pipe tobacco, cigars and cigarillos were exempted from the stricter labelling and ingredients rules that the revisions proposed for other tobacco products. The proposal, it added, was neutral in respect of the different types of tobacco, Virginia, Burley and oriental. This meant that smaller farms involved in Burley and oriental tobacco production would not be affected.