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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.

E-cigarettes under threat in EU

| May 9, 2013

The European Commission has said that the majority of e-cigarettes sold in the EU would most likely fall under pharmaceutical legislation if the commission’s proposed revisions to its Tobacco Products Directive were to be accepted. The commission has proposed that e-cigarettes would fall under the legal framework for medicinal products if they contained levels of nicotine above certain thresholds.

It is generally thought that, for cost or technical reasons, most e-cigarette companies would struggle to have their above-the-threshold products authorized under pharmaceutical laws, and that below-the-threshold products would be unacceptable to many consumers.

“The nicotine threshold has been identified by considering the nicotine content of nicotine replacement therapies that have already received a marketing authorization by Member States,” the commission said in a written answer to two questions raised by the Polish MEP, Filip Kaczmarek.

“For electronic cigarettes below the thresholds, the commission proposal foresees that they carry health warnings. They would also have to comply with the General Product Safety Directive as … is the case at the moment.”

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.

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.

Despite EU weakness, German smokers stay strong

| May 1, 2013

Alison Cooper, CEO of Imperial Tobacco, said cigarette and tobacco sales in Germany were “excellent,” despite the EU’s economic weakness, which hit the British multinational’s half-year profits.

“We are growing cigarette share, we are growing fine-cut share, and not just at the value end of the market. We have seen growth at the top-end in brands such as Davidoff and Gauloises,” Cooper told CNBC.

“We have seen excellent performance in that market,” she added.

However, Imperial Tobacco, the world’s fourth-largest cigarette company, said volumes were hit by difficult trading conditions in the broader EU, from where it makes two-thirds of its earnings.

Revenue in the six months leading to March 31 stood at £13.4 billion ($20.8 billion), down 4.2 percent on the previous year’s £14.0 billion. Operating profit was down 9.7 percent at £1.2 billion.

“The performance reflects the weak consumer environment across Europe, challenging competitive situation in the U.S. and the need to step up investment behind its key brands,” said Damian McNeela and Graham Jones, analysts at Panmure Gordon, in a research note released after the earnings announcement.

Cooper said revenues from key strategic brands, fine-cut tobaccos and snus (similar to American dipping tobacco) had increased, with improved volumes, and the company achieved revenue growth in the UK and Germany, plus Africa and a number of other emerging markets.

“Excise-driven market dynamics in Russia, and our transition to a new pricing strategy in the U.S. slowed our revenue and profit momentum in non-EU territories, masking the good growth we’re generating in Asia-Pacific and Africa and the Middle East,” Cooper said in a press release issued after the results.

Despite the weak economic environment, Cooper said consumers are not reducing their tobacco consumption.

She added that the EU market would remain tough for at least another 12-to-18 months.

Tax hike leaves retailers, puffers smoking mad

| April 25, 2013

An increase in in Canada’s Manitoba province’s tobacco tax has some smokers and tobacconists worried about the holes it’s expected to burn through their wallets and bottom lines.

On  April 16, the province announced an immediate $0.04 hike in the tax, to $0.29 per cigarette, as part of its 2013 budget, according to a story in the Brandon Sun.

Peter Patel, owner of Up In Smoke Tobacconist, said he was caught off guard when he first learned of the hike on the radio.

“People are mad,” said Patel, adding he spent all of last Wednesday updating his prices and cash registers.

“They should be informed beforehand.”

The increase amounts to an extra dollar per pack of 25 cigarettes and includes an extra $0.04 per gram on fine-cut and raw leaf tobacco. The province expects to bring in an extra $17.2 million from the tax, which will be redirected into health care.

Overall, Manitoba expects to collect $283 million from tobacco taxes this year. The increase makes Manitoba smokers the most heavily taxed in Canada.