Yearly Archives: 2010

Canada: Tobacco lobbying preceded label retreat

Dec 10, 2010

Health Canada’s abrupt decision in September to back down from expanding warning labels on cigarette packages came after tobacco company lobbyists waged a co-ordinated, sometimes secretive lobbying campaign, CBC News has learned. Health Canada’s abrupt decision in September to back down from expanding warning labels on cigarette packages came after tobacco company lobbyists waged a co-ordinated, sometimes secretive lobbying campaign, CBC News has learned.

An analysis by CBC News of lobby registry filings and other documents reveals tobacco executives and their paid lobbyists communicated dozens of times with key government ministries and their policy advisers, including the Prime Minister’s Office.

The big three tobacco companies, Imperial Tobacco Canada, JTI-Macdonald Corp. and Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc., lobbied a combined total of 53 times in just over two years, according to the registry. When other industry associations and smaller tobacco companies are factored in, the number of “communications” jumps to 82. One communication on Sept. 9, between JTI-Macdonald and the Prime Minister’s Office, took place just five days before the decision to cancel the program became public.

The expanded warning label program was set to increase the size of the warnings on cigarette packages, contain a variety of different graphic images and include a 1-800 Quit Line on all tobacco products.

But in September, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said plans to update warnings on cigarette packages had been halted, and the government’s new focus would be on fighting the sale of contraband cigarettes. The decision to drop the program at the last minute has confused observers who had been told by senior officials at the Ministry of Health that the updated warning labels would be rolled out on May 31 – World No Tobacco Day.

The CBC News investigation also reveals that in several cases, lobbyists hired by tobacco companies have close ties to the Conservatives. In addition, Perrin Beatty, a former Conservative health minister who in the early 1990s made Canada a world leader on cigarette warning labels, registered as a lobbyist for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Beatty told CBC News he never personally lobbied on the file, but his organization spoke with officials in Ottawa to oppose the plan to increase the size of warning labels to 75 per cent from 50 per cent. The Chamber of Commerce was one of many organizations lobbying against the measure this summer, lobby registry documents show.

“I think it would be a shock to Canadians if lobbying was actually behind the decision to delay these warnings,” said Dave Hammond, a University of Waterloo professor who consulted on the tobacco warning labels for Health Canada. “It’s all about preventing youth from picking up smoking.”

Between July 2008 and September 2010, tobacco companies and their lobby firms met 15 different federal departments, including seven times with the Ministry of Health and four times with the Prime Minister’s Office on several different topics.

The lobby registry does not provide specific details about what was discussed. However, the majority of lobbying activity relates to the issue of contraband cigarettes, which critics argue was part of a campaign on the part of the tobacco industry to change the focus away from the idea of expanding warnings on cigarette packages.

“They use contraband as a blunt weapon to try and beat down anything else that might be effective,” Hammond said.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined a CBC News request for an interview. In a statement, the office said: “Our government meets regularly with companies, NGOs, and industry associations on a broad range of topics. For the past two years the vast majority of these meetings, including those with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, have focused on the economy.”

Conservative connections

CBC News has learned that Canada’s three major tobacco companies employed lobbyists with strong Tory ties. Duncan Rayner was the director of operations for the Conservative Party of Canada and played a central role in drafting the agreement that led to the merging of Canada’s two conservative parties. Rayner, who now works for the firm Temple Scott, lobbied on behalf of Imperial Tobacco. Lobby registry records show he communicated as many as 19 times on several different topics, including contraband tobacco. He also lobbied several government departments, including the office of the minister of health. Citing client confidentiality, Rayner declined to discuss his lobbying efforts.

Ezra Levant, another former Tory insider, also registered as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry. In 2002, he stepped aside as a federal candidate for the Conservative Party in a Calgary riding so Stephen Harper could run there. Levant registered as a lobbyist for Rothmans, Benson & Hedges for a year, in 2009. According to the lobby registry, Levant communicated on two occasions, in March 2010, on the topic of international trade. He also registered to deal with the issue of an anti-smoking hotline. “I de-registered … I am no longer a lobbyist, I no longer have any interest in the file,” he told CBC News. “I no longer follow the matter.”

Perrin Beatty, as president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, registered on behalf of the chamber, which lobbied against increased warnings on cigarette packages. Beatty told CBC News that one of his staff lobbied Ottawa  on this topic and not himself personally. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce was also part of a national coalition against contraband tobacco whose other members include the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council.

Records show that in 2009 and 2010, Beatty’s organization lobbied the government a total of 27 times on the topic of intellectual property, including five occasions with government ministers and four with the Prime Minister’s Office.  At some point during this process, Beatty told CBC News, the chamber was informed that the plan to update the warnings would likely be put on hold. “The response [we] received was that it was unlikely it was proceeding this year,” he said. Also registered to lobby on tobacco for Rothmans and the Canadian Convenience Store Association was Eric Duhaime, a former adviser to Stockwell Day from their time in the Canadian Alliance.

Rothmans also hired Crestview Public Affairs, a lobby company founded in 2004 by Mark Spiro, a Conservative insider and former campaign manager for Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak. Around the time the health minister told her provincial counterparts she was quashing the new labelling initiative, Crestview Public Affairs made a flurry of new registrations on tobacco-related topics. Spiro was not involved in the lobby efforts, but three of his staff registered on the tobacco file – one for Rothmans and two for the Canadian Convenience Store Association. Former staffer Kaylie Wells first registered in 2008 on the file but left the firm in 2009.

Secretive process

While a CBC News analysis of the lobby registry reveals the existence of a longstanding campaign, many of the details are still shrouded in secrecy. “[The tobacco industry] has a lot of clout and influence,” said Dr. Matthew Stanbrook, deputy editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. “So it’s not hard to speculate about whether they put pressure on the government to make some changes all of a sudden, but we don’t know any of the details about that that are public.” Some argue the lobby registry itself requires so little information that the public may never know about all the meetings that happen between lobbyists and government officials. “There’s no way of knowing conversations that take place over golf games or cocktail parties or people who float between one world and another,” said Cynthia Callard of Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada. “So it’s very difficult for outsiders to know exactly what’s going on.” For example, there are no records of what actually was said in the dozens of meetings that took place between government officials and the tobacco industry, only vague descriptions of the topics discussed, like “intellectual property” or “contraband cigarettes.” There is also no indication if the meetings resulted in any action or decisions on the part of the government or if any written material changed hands.

Despite dozens of phone calls to government officials who were lobbied and to the tobacco lobbyists themselves, no one would talk about the details of the lobbying.

“We’ve had promises going back 20 years to bring lobbying out of the shadows and require lobbyists to describe all the details of their activities,” said Duff Conacher with Democracy Watch. “And here we are 20 years later and lobbying in  the shadows and disclosing only vague information about your lobbying activities is still legal.”

The contraband argument

All of this means the public is still largely in the dark about what exactly persuaded the Harper government to back down on labelling and make contraband its priority. Jim Rondeau, the Manitoba minister of healthy living, was at the closed-door meetings where Health Canada announced it was backing down from updating warning labels. “The question was asked ‘Why’ multiple times,” Rondeau said. “The response was they were going to focus on contraband.” Beatty had been making that suggestion for months. He argued contraband should be Health Canada’s priority, not cigarette warning labels. “Every second cigarette that is smoked in Ontario, according to studies that have been done, is a contraband cigarette,” Beatty said in an interview. “The figure is about 40 percent in Quebec. This is a direct threat, not just to law enforcement, but it’s a threat to the health of Canadians as well.” Indeed, Beatty and others argue that larger warning labels might actually lead to an increase in contraband tobacco sales. “There is a significant share of the market that it is being fuelled by organized crime,” he said. “Do we want to make it easier for organized criminals by eliminating the ability of other people to offer brands in competition?”

In letters to three federal ministers, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce describes the contraband problem as “booming” and likely to make up as much as 50 percent of the market by this year. However, the sale of contraband tobacco may actually be on the decline in Canada, according to statistics from Health Canada. Its numbers show a decline in contraband cigarette consumption beginning in 2009. That same year, name brand tobacco sales in Canada rose 3.9 per cent. Moreover, in its third quarter report for 2010, Tobacco giant Philip Morris International, appeared to confirm those numbers, telling shareholders the sale of legal cigarettes in Canada was up 4.2 percent “mainly reflecting government enforcement measures to reduce contraband sales.”

Hammond, the professor, wonders why the government could not pursue both initiatives at the same time. “I think when people look around for an answer of why these things have been delayed, there’s no public health argument, reason from an evidence stand point, I think it’s logical to ask, what is the oppositional force to these things?” Hammond said. “Let’s make no mistake. This is still a very strong, powerful industry that remains very profitable in Canada.”

Callard, with Physicians for a Smoke Free Canada, said the worldwide tobacco industry has a history of working behind the scenes to make its point.  “By and large they threaten, they bully, they cajole, they seduce and they purchase support and they’ve done that for decades,” she said. “So it’s no surprise that they’ve been successful this time and it’s sadly no surprise why they’re successful.”


Source: CBC News (December 9, 2010)

India: New warnings delayed again

Dec 8, 2010

Cigarette manufacturers got a year’s breather after the Union Cabinet on Tuesday agreed to defer the move to implement new, scarier pictorial warnings on cigarette and bidi packs till December 2011.

The decision means cigarette packs will continue with the current pictorial warnings – a scorpion on bidi packs and a cancer-affected lung on cigarette packs – for another year. Also, the interregnum will give the industry time to pressure the government against implementing harsher images.

Sources said the Cabinet supported the Health Ministry’s proposal to defer implementation of the new warnings by a year – gory pictures of a cancer-affected mouth – in the backdrop of protests by the tobacco industry. Two major manufacturers had stopped production from December 1, resulting in losses worth crores of rupees every day in excise tax.

The Union Health Ministry decided to go to the Cabinet after a GoM headed by Pranab Mukherjee informally met Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad last month and disapproved the new picture.

The new warning was cleared by the Health Minister earlier this year after a survey revealed that existing warnings were not making the desired impact.

A GoM set up in 2008 had approved the current warnings with the condition that they be replaced with scarier images of a cancer-affected mouth from December 1, 2010.


Source: The Indian Express (December 8, 2010)

India: Tobacco majors stop work over warning pics

Dec 3, 2010

The Union health ministry has notified that all tobacco product packages in India will, with immediate effect, have to carry pictorial health warnings depicting a cancer-stricken mouth.

Putting to rest all doubt that government had changed its mind, Union health ministry confirmed to TOI on Thursday that as per original notification, the earlier warning of an infected lung and a scorpion sign will be replaced by gory image of a cancer-stricken mouth from December 1.

Uncertain over what pictorial health warnings had to appear from December 1 on all tobacco packs, two of India’s largest cigarette manufacturers, ITC and Godfrey Phillips India, stalled production at all units on Thursday.

An ITC spokesperson said, “Units making cigarettes are shut because of the ambiguity in pictorial warnings to be carried from December 1 onwards”. Tobacco Institute of India director Udayan Lall said “companies making cigarettes and bidis have been forced to close down production due to the uncertainty regarding the warning”. He said the companies had written a letter to the ministry seeking clarity on the issue. The ministry, however, confirmed the notification to carry photo of a cancer-stricken mouth is in force.

The cigarette companies were hoping that new warnings would get deferred in Cabinet meeting held last Wednesday. However, no such thing happened. This automatically means the notification is in place and tobacco packs have to carry new warnings . Stopping production is just a ploy by the companies to buy time. They are hoping that in next Cabinet meeting on Thursday, the matter will come up and the GoM will change the warnings, a ministry official said.


Source: The Times of India (December 3, 2010)

EU Proposes End to Branded Cigarettes

Dec 3, 2010

The European Union is proposing a full-scale ban on branded cigarettes, forcing tobacco companies across the continent to sell their products in generic, plain packaging.

Under the new rules, packs would carry nothing more than a health warning and the name of the brand, both in a standardized format with a specified typeface.

Since cigarette advertising was outlawed across Europe in 2003, packaging — known as “the silent salesman” — has been the only way for cigarette manufacturers to keep their brands in the spotlight.

Opponents of the move have until Dec. 15 to make their case heard, with a decision expected in February. Even if the EU decides in favor of plain packaging, it could take another five years before the law comes into effect — especially if the tobacco companies carry out their threat to make a legal challenge against the ruling.

Andrew Lansley, the U.K. secretary of state for public health, believes that plain packs would de-glamorize the habit and stop young people from taking up smoking. But the Tobacco Manufacturers Association said, “We do not believe any plans for plain packaging are based on sound public policy, nor any compelling evidence.”

The International Advertising Association has written to the EU to argue against the prohibition of on-pack cigarette branding. Erich Buxbaum, VP and area director for Europe, said, “All brands are registered trademarks. This could lead into a vast legal process — companies will sue the EC. They pay a lot of money every year for their trademarks.”

Imperial Tobacco, manufacturer of cigarette brands including Davidoff, JPS, Gitanes and Gauloises Blondes, called plain packs “unnecessary, unreasonable and unjustified.” In a statement the company said, “Governments that consider introducing plain packaging risk breaching a range of legal and treaty obligations relating to intellectual property rights, international trade and European Union law.”

Anne Edwards, director external communications, Philip Morris International, said, “To date every country that has considered plain packaging has rejected it due to lack of evidence and associated [intellectual property] issues. Even in Australia … the government’s own intellectual property body, IP Australia, recently advised … that plain packaging ‘may not be consistent with Australia’s intellectual property treaty obligations’ and ‘would make it easier for counterfeit goods to be produced and would make it difficult to readily identify these counterfeit goods.'”

The counterfeit issue was also raised by Mr. Buxbaum, who claimed that 10% of all trade in Europe is in counterfeit goods. Illicit cigarettes, he said, deny significant revenues to European governments, most of which claim 50% of the sale price in tax, and — according to the IAA letter — “come with no guarantee about the ingredients and product safety.”

However, Action on Smoking and Health, a campaigning public-health charity in the U.K., said it has heard all these arguments before.

Martin Dockrell, the organization’s director of research and policy, said, “The tobacco companies used the same arguments against the tobacco advertising ban. They still retain their rights over their logos — but it doesn’t mean they can use them however they like. They can’t use them on billboards and soon they won’t be able to use them on packaging.”

Mr. Dockrell said that unbranded packs would not lead to an increase in smuggling. He argued that branded and unbranded packs are equally easy for counterfeiters to replicate.

As well as the introduction of unbranded packaging, the EU is also considering a ban on in-store cigarette displays and on cigarette vending machines.

The IAA has chosen to concentrate its efforts on a protest against the packaging ban. Mr Buxbaum said, “I don’t want to become a spokesman for the tobacco industry. I am concentrating on the packaging issue because plain packaging would kill branding.” The IAA has no tobacco companies as members in Europe, although it does have a couple in the U.S.

Independent of the EU, the English parliament voted last year in favor of a ban on the display of tobacco products in shops in England. Larger shops will have to comply by 2011, while smaller shops will have until 2013. However, a change of government in May means that the new legislation is not guaranteed to go ahead.


Source: Advertising Age (December 1, 2010)

Bigger pictures in Pakistan

Nov 24, 2010

The Pakistan government will increase the size of the pictorial health warning on cigarette packets from 30 to 50 percent, a media report said Tuesday.

The size of the text message on cigarette packets will also be increased from the existing 10 percent, following the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The move is to educate smokers, mainly the youth, about the hazardous effects of smoking on their health, as they are being targeted by the tobacco industry, said The News International newspaper.

Officials said young people are especially exposed to print and electronic media and smoking is sometimes presented as a casual activity in TV programmes. About 1,200 boys and girls under 18 years of age take up smoking every day.

They added that tobacco laws are also being revised to check on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Tobacco kills about 100,000 people annually in Pakistan with 274 deaths daily. In addition, 5,000 people are hospitalised with tobacco-related diseases every day.


Source: (November 23, 2010)

BAT considers legal action on plain packaging

Nov 24, 2010

British American Tobacco (BAT) is ready to take the Government to court over proposals to force companies to sell cigarettes in plain packages.

The world’s second largest tobacco company said the idea, proposed by health secretary Andrew Lansley, would lead to a sharp rise in counterfeit packs being smuggled into the UK.

A spokesman warned the proposals would only tackle the “thin end of the wedge”, questioning whether alcohol, chocolate and crisp packaging could also be targeted.

Mr Lansley said he was considering switching all brand packs to a drab colour in the belief that brightly coloured boxes lured children into smoking. Colourful packaging designs, such as Marlborough’s red top and Lucky Strike’s bullseye, would become a thing of the past under the proposals, aimed at deterring young people from taking up smoking.

But BAT said the proposals would lead to “unintended consequences” such as an increase in counterfeit products being smuggled into the UK, leading to cheap products becoming more accessible for children.

He said: “We are a legal company selling a legal product. We’re going to take whatever action we can to protect our intellectual property. We won’t be ruling out taking things down the legal route if necessary.”

Simon Clark, director of anti-smoking ban group Forest, said: “There is no evidence that plain packaging will have any impact on smoking rates.”


Source: The Telegraph (November 22, 2010)

Uruguay court dismisses Philip Morris tobacco challenge

Nov 22, 2010

MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay’s Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a constitutional challenge brought by tobacco giant Philip Morris that disputes the tiny South American country’s anti-tobacco laws.

“The complaint of unconstitutionality is unanimously rejected,” the court said in its decision on Uruguay’s restrictions on smoking and tobacco products, the first of their kind in Latin America, introduced in March 2006.

Philip Morris earlier this year filed a complaint with the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank, seeking damages allegedly caused by the anti-tobacco measures.

It is “an essential duty of the state… to adopt all measures it considers necessary to maintain the collective health (of its citizens),” said the court.

Philip Morris’ complaint argued that the country’s tobacco laws — requiring large health warnings on packages, banning advertising and use of multiple products for one brand — violate a bilateral investment treaty and harms the company.

The cigarette powerhouse, spun off by its US parent in 2008 and relocated to Switzerland, alleged in its challenge that the ban infringed on individual rights and needed to be passed by national lawmakers instead of a government decree.

The court’s decision comes a day after Montevideo received support from more than 170 countries in its policy of putting public health before commercial interests.

The countries signed a World Health Organization (WHO) tobacco control accord expressing “concern for actions by the tobacco industry which seek to subvert and undermine government policies to control tobacco consumption.”

They declared their “firm wish to prioritize the application of health measures destined to control tobacco consumption,” at a meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) on tobacco control in Uruguay.

Uruguay on Monday also received the support of billionaire New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who through Philanthropies offered the country legal assistance and an expert panel of advisers in its fight against Philip Morris.

According to official data, the smoking population in Uruguay has dropped from 32 percent in 2006 to 25 percent this year. One study showed the number of heart attacks has fallen by 17 percent in the same period.


Source: AFP – hosted by Google News (November 20, 2010)

Plain packaging: UK

Nov 22, 2010

The government is considering forcing tobacco companies to package their cigarettes in plain brown wrappers in a bid to de-glamorise smoking and stop young people taking up the habit.

The health secretary, Andrew Lansley, is investigating the viability of introducing what would be one of the most radical public health measures ever implemented in the UK.

Senior doctors welcomed the potential ban on colours and logos on packets and said it could prove as effective as the 2007 public smoking ban. However, ministers are likely to face a legal challenge if they go ahead.

“We have to try new approaches and take decisions to benefit the population. That’s why I want to look at the idea of plain packaging,” said Lansley. “The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging. It’s wrong thatchildren are being attracted to smoke by glitzy designs on packets.”

Lansley stressed that the need to prevent children from starting to smoke in the first place was his main motivation for taking seriously a policy which the tobacco industry fears would be hugely damaging. “We would prefer it if people did not smoke, and adults will still be able to buy cigarettes [even if plain packs come in], but children should be protected from the start,” he said.

The health secretary indicated that some further restrictions on smoking are likely. They could be unveiled in his white paper on public health, which is due within days. “The levels of poor health and deaths from smoking are still far too high, and the cost to the NHS and the economy is vast. That money could be used to educate our children and treat cancer,” said Lansley.

His readiness to countenance such draconian action against cigarette manufacturers drew praise and delight from leading medical organisations. “We are very pleased that the health secretary supports the plain packaging of cigarettes. There is clear evidence that young people find packaging appealing,” said a spokesman for the British Medical Association. “And we know that the tobacco industry spends huge amounts on this clever marketing to enhance their brands and increase sales.”

Professor John Britton, chairman of the tobacco advisory group at the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), which represents hospital doctors, said: “The RCP is glad that the government is considering the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes.”

“Putting tobacco in plain packs would be a historic step for public health and an amazing centrepiece for Andrew Lansley’s promised public health strategy,” said Martin Dockrell, spokesman for Action on Smoking and Health (Ash). “Marketing men have become increasingly pushy with pack design, making it a 21st-century billboard, identifying this brand as ‘cool’ and that brand as ‘feminine’.” According to Ash, two-thirds of smokers start before the age of 18 and in England one in seven 15-year-olds is a regular smoker.

Australia is set to become the first country in the world to introduce plain packs in 2012, although tobacco manufacturers have mounted legal action to try to stop the measure. The European Union is considering a ban.

Lansley’s move is a surprise. The Conservatives opposed plain packets when Gordon Brown’s Labour administration undertook a consultation on the idea. But this fresh examination may help to allay fears among medical chiefs at the direction of the coalition’s public health policies after, for example, Lansley criticised Jamie Oliver’s campaign to improve school lunches in England.

The BMA, RCP and Ash all called on the government to press ahead with implementing the planned ban on shops selling cigarettes openly, irrespective of whether it introduces plain packets. Under legislation passed under Labour, the point of sale ban is due to be phased in from next year, but the coalition has still not decided whether to honour their predecessors’ commitment.

“We need to protect children from any kind of tobacco advertising, and as the legislation to ban point-of-sale display has already been passed, it should be implemented as soon as possible, not postponed or repealed,” said Britton.The tobacco industry tonight said it rejected the whole idea of plain packets. It said there was no evidence to back the policy and claimed that it would lead to increased tobacco smuggling. “Whilst there are currently no specific government proposals for plain tobacco packaging, the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association is strongly opposed to the principle and would expect a genuine consultation and regulatory impact assessment if the government decides to pursue this further,” said the TMA’s chief executive, Christopher Ogden.

“The TMA does not believe any plans for plain packaging are based on sound public policy, nor any compelling evidence. Moves to prevent tobacco companies from exercising their intellectual property rights would place the government in breach of legal obligations relating to intellectual property, international trade and European law,” Ogden added.

“Plain packs are also likely to lead to yet further increases in the smuggling of tobacco products, and plain packs would make it so much easier for a counterfeiter to copy than existing branded packs, making it even more difficult for a consumer to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit products.”


Source: The Guardian (November 20, 2010)

Scotland: Plain packaging

Nov 15, 2010

Plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes have led to calls for Westminster to transfer the power to control tobacco to Holyrood.

The SNP is closely following moves by Australia to bring in plain packaging for cigarettes, which the party is keen to emulate in Scotland.

However, any attempt to force tobacco companies to sacrifice individual branding in favour of plain wrapping and bigger health warnings would face a major hurdle, as it is still a matter reserved to Westminster.

Critics and the tobacco lobby have warned that standardised packaging could be counterproductive, leading not only to a price war resulting in increased smoking rates thanks to cheap cigarettes but also a rise in counterfeiting.

Last night, an SNP spokesman said the party supported the idea of using plain packaging as a further attempt to reduce smoking rates in Scotland.

He said: “The SNP is favourably disposed to this idea, and if Westminster will not do it then the powers should be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

“The SNP Government has already acted to end cigarette displays in shops and increase the age of purchasing tobacco to 18, and it is important that we have the powers to do more in the interests of public health in Scotland.”

In April, Australian lawmakers confirmed the country would become the first nation to ban brand images and colours on cigarette packages.

Promotional text would be limited to product names in standard colour, position, type style and size.

The World Health Organization praised the action, but tobacco firms claimed there is no evidence the measures would reduce consumption.

Overall smoking rates in Scotland have fallen from 31% in 1999 to 24% in 2009, but are still as high as 45% in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

As well as banning displays in shops and cigarette vending machines, MSPs have also raised the smoking age.

However, Dr Enrico Bonadio, a law lecturer at the University of Abertay, warned that plain packaging could provoke a price war, driving down costs and increasing smoking rates.

“If the UK adopts plain packaging, a price war is a probability,” he said. “If there was a price war and the price goes down, the number of smokers would go up in Scotland. By reducing price, you stimulate consumption. It would be a boomerang effect.

“With no logos, it would also be easier for counterfeiting by companies and criminals. That’s an argument used by opponents of plain packaging. It could be a problem. We need to consider the knock-on effects if plain packaging is brought in.”

Dr Crawford Moodie, of the Institute of Social Marketing at Stirling University, who gave a presentation to the European Commission on plain packaging, said the plan in Australia for dark brown packaging has been shown to increase the numbers quitting smoking.

“Even if there was a price war,” he said, “plain packaging is still a major deterrent.

“Scotland has always been a champion for the UK and if it was in our capacity to introduce plain packaging or larger pictorial warnings, I think Scotland would likely introduce that.”

Anti-smoking group ASH Scotland last month published 33 recommendations, including plain packaging. A spokeswoman said: “We would like Scotland’s political parties to have a manifesto commitment to a tobacco-control strategy for Scotland … as part of that strategy we would like to see the Scottish Government call for Westminster to introduce standardised, unbranded packaging of tobacco products.”

The UK Department of Health reiterated its view, given in a June 2010 parliamentary answer, that more evidence is needed on the impact of plain packaging.

Christopher Ogden, chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, said: “The TMA is strongly opposed to the principle of plain packaging. Moves to prevent tobacco companies from exercising their intellectual property rights would place the Government in breach of legal obligations relating to … international trade and European law.

“Plain packs are also likely to lead to further increases in the smuggling of tobacco products and plain packs would make it so much easier for a counterfeiter to copy than existing branded packs – making it even more difficult for a consumer to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit products.”


Source: The Herald (November 15, 2010)

Pack as advertising: Canada

Nov 15, 2010

Even as Health Canada shies away from new and more graphic cigarette warning labels, an Ottawa research director says current packaging is illegal.

Advertising and promotion on packages contravene the Tobacco Act, said Neil Collishaw, of Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada.

“Health Canada has decided what they put on the packaging doesn’t count as advertising,” he said.

The Tobacco Act bans any promotion and advertising of tobacco products except as specifically authorized. The only exceptions are for publications addressed to an adult or signs in places where youth are not legally allowed.

Slogans – like “this is your Peter Jackson, created to fit your taste,” or Rothman’s “Unlimited by Design, Defined by Taste” – abound on cigarette packs, Collishaw said.

Belmont cigarettes (“Taste Matters”) recently released limited edition packs in four different designs – a “particularly egregious” promotion, he said

Collishaw has asked Health Canada how the Tobacco Act permits advertising on cigarette packages.

“We’ve never received a good answer.”

Nor has QMI Agency. A Health Canada spokesman took two business days to e-mail this reply: “The Tobacco Act imposes restrictions on promotion done through packaging.”

Rob Cunningham, a lawyer and senior policy adviser analyst for the Canadian Cancer Society, disagreed with Collishaw’s interpretation of the law. He favours plain packaging, but said it was not intended or discussed when the Act was created in 1997.

Plain packaging is inevitable, he said, but it will more likely result from lobbying efforts in light of Australia’s decision to mandate plain packs starting in 2012.

He also condemned Health Canada for shelving proposed new warnings while on Wednesday, the United States health department released 36 new and graphic images. Nine will appear on U.S. cigarette packs in the next two years.

“I haven’t heard a clear reason as to why Health Canada is not moving ahead,” Cunningham said.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said only that Health Canada “is not ready to move forward at this time.”

She did not address Collishaw’s allegations.

The decision also angered Ottawa youth.

As many as 70 high school and university students were on Parliament Hill on Friday to protest the decision to spike the new warnings.

Kale Brown, a youth co-ordinator with student anti-tobacco organization Expose, said young people need something “catchy and shocking” so they’ll heed the dangers of smoking.

“Something 10 years old isn’t as effective,” he said.


Source: Toronto Sun (November 15, 2010)