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Cuba joins fight over Aussie plain packaging rules

| May 6, 2013

Cuba has become the latest country to launch a legal attack on Australia’s landmark plain packaging rules for tobacco at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The laws came into effect last December and mean cigarettes can only be sold in brown packages with graphic health warnings. The WTO says Cuba has requested consultations with Australia on the legislation, which covers all tobacco products, not just cigarettes. Under the 159-nation WTO’s rules, requesting consultations is the first step in an often complex trade dispute settlement process which can last for several years.

The laws have already been challenged at the WTO by Cuba’s fellow cigar-producing nations Honduras and the Dominican Republic. In addition, the Ukraine has filed a suit at the Geneva-based body, which oversees its member nations’ respect for the rules of global commerce, according to the Australian news company ABC.

All the plaintiff countries maintain that Australia’s packaging law breaches international trade rules and intellectual property rights.

In the event that the WTO’s disputes settlement body finds in their favor, it would have the power to authorize retaliatory trade measures against Australia if the country failed to fall into line. The dispute with Australia marks the first-ever challenge by Cuba against a fellow member since it joined the global body in April 1995, four months after the WTO was founded in its current form.

The plain packaging laws have won wide praise from health organizations which are trying to curb smoking. But the government has faced a string of court challenges from tobacco firms.

Besides trade and intellectual property concerns, tobacco companies say there is no proof that plain packaging reduces smoking and have warned that the law sets a precedent that could spread to products such as alcohol.

A nickel a butt adds up

| May 3, 2013

Redemption programs have dramatically reduced the amount of bottles and cans that go into the waste stream. Now a restaurant owner in Portland, Maine, U.S.A. wants to do the same with cigarette butts, according to a story reported on WLBZ.

Mike Roylos says he’s tired of dealing with butts outside the Spartan Grill. “They’re everywhere. I sweep. They come back. Customers track them in on their shoes,” laments Roylos.

When the city’s new smoking ordinance failed to stop the butt barrage, Roylos decided to take matters into his own hands. He came up with the “No Butts Now” campaign.

He supplies a basket of baggies for the public to collect cigarette butts in Monument Square. Using donations from grateful customers, Roylos will buy the butts back for five cents a piece.

Sure, it’s a little gross..but a nickel’s a nickel. Billy O’Rourke lives a few blocks away at the Oxford Street Shelter and he went right to work as soon as he heard about the campaign. .

“It’s an opportunity for us homeless guys to be a productive part of society and make a few extra dollars,” said O’Rourke.

They may be tiny, but those butts add up.

UK plain packaging plan goes up in smoke

| May 2, 2013

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has scrapped plans to force all cigarettes to be sold in plain packs, according to a story published today in The Sun.

Health ministers had been considering the move for a year. Proponents had insisted making packages bland would put smokers off — and stop kids from picking up the habit.

Cameron initially backed the plan, but has been persuaded it would damage the packaging industry. There were also concerns it could cost £3 billion in lost tax revenue and tie up the Commons in bitter arguments.

Cameron has now ordered the proposed law to be pulled from next week’s Queen’s Speech.

A Whitehall source said: “Plain packaging may or may not be a good idea, but it’s nothing to do with the government’s key purpose. The PM is determined to strip down everything we do so we can concentrate all our efforts on voters’ essentials. That means growth, immigration and welfare reform.”

Officials in Australia, the first to enforce uniform packaging, have admitted there was still no evidence that they cut smoking.

Japan Tobacco tops competition, forecast beats estimates

| April 25, 2013

Japan Tobacco, the world’s best-performing cigarette maker this year, forecast a record profit that beat analyst estimates and raised its projected annual dividend by 35 percent on rising overseas sales and a weaker yen, according to Bloomberg News.

Net income will probably be ¥415 billion ($4.2 billion) for the year ending March 2014, the Tokyo-based company said today in a statement. The outlook is higher than the ¥412 billion average of 18 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Japan Tobacco, which aims to make its Mevius the No. 1 global premium brand, is benefiting as a weaker yen boosts the value of overseas revenue, which accounted for about 48 percent of the company’s total in the last fiscal year. Asia’s biggest listed cigarette maker also said it would raise its payout ratio to 50 percent by fiscal 2015, one year earlier than previously planned, to support shareholders.

BAT sales up 5 pct, driven by global brands

| April 25, 2013

British American Tobacco reported revenue growth of 5 percent at constant rates of exchange in the first quarter ended March 31, adding that global drive brand cigarette volumes grew by 1 percent.

The report stated:

  • Revenue growth of 1 percent at current rates of exchange.
  • Cigarette volumes from subsidiaries fell 3.7 percent to 160 billion, with a decrease of 3.4 percent for total tobacco volumes.
  • Board confident of another year of earnings growth in line with long term strategic goals.
  • Pricing environment remains strong despite difficult trading conditions in many parts of the world, notably southern Europe.
  • If current exchange rates persist for the rest of the year, the currency headwind that adversely impacted the quarter will reverse.
  • Group has sufficient financing and facilities available for the foreseeable future.
  • There have been no material events, transactions or changes in the financial position of the Group since the year end.
  • -Shares closed Wednesday at 3548 pence valuing the company at £68.25 billion.

Altria plans e-cig sales, Marlboro demand falls

| April 25, 2013

Altria Group, the largest seller of tobacco in the U.S., plans to introduce an e-cigarette this year, chasing smaller rivals as demand for traditional smokes declines.

The e-cigarette will be sold in an undisclosed market starting in the second half of 2013, Richmond, Virginia-based Altria said today in a statement. The company declined to provide additional information until a conference call with analysts today, according to a story in Bloomburg News.

CEO Martin Barrington is trying to catch up to smaller rivals such as closely held NJOY and Lorillard Inc., which says its Blu e-cigs brand controls more than 40 percent of the U.S. market. Reynolds American Inc. said this week it plans to expand its Vuse e-cigarette this year.

First-quarter cigarette shipments fell at Altria, Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Reynolds and Greensboro, North Carolina-based Lorillard. Altria’s U.S. volume tumbled 5.2 percent, with top-selling Marlboro slipping 5.5 percent.

Lorillard CEO Murray Kessler told analysts yesterday the company estimates that e-cigarette sales displaced consumption of about 600 million cigarettes in the first quarter. That translates to an annual rate of about 2.4 billion cigarettes, accounting for about 1 percent of the U.S. market, according to Kenneth Shea, a Bloomberg Industries analyst in Skillman, New Jersey.