Monthly Archives: November 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)

Camel Lures Aspiring Hipsters to Cigarettes with Williamsburg-Themed Packaging

Nov 12, 2010

You’re just another rebellion-minded young kid with ambitions to be like one of those people you associate yourself with. That’s correct, you want to be a hipster. And where do these hipsters live? Well, you know they live in Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, where the PBR flows like water and irony is the lingua franca. But if an uncool cigarette company put Williamsburg-themed art on its packs, would you smoke them? Camel thinks you will!

The RJ Reynolds company – still best known for dispatching a sunglasses-clad version of its animal namesake onto the battlefields of the war to get kids addicted to nicotine – has rolled out a line of its smokes that feature skylines of other “hipster cities” such as Austin and Seattle, The Brooklyn Paper reports.

Camel is betting on the fact that an association with what they call “the most famous hipster neighborhood” will get more people hooked, or at least sell more to the already-addicted.

Brooklyn Paper has the promotional material. It’s painfully earnest!

“It’s about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building …” said the promotional material, possibly written by a team of marketers who have never been to Williamsburg. “It’s where a tree grows.” (Groan.)

The marketing campaign promises its customers will earn “serious street cred” for trying the Williamsburg brand, and noted that Camel met with some “modern-day pioneers” with “lighthearted angst and rebellion” in the neighborhood to try the brand out.

Oh, the Williamsburg kids, with their lighthearted angst and everything! Don’t you just want to be them? To join them in their Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle? It’s just an overpriced pack of Camels away.

Not surprisingly, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Williamsburg Councilman Steve Levin are both against this ad campaign.

“As a former smoker, I know there is no way to responsibly use cigarettes,” Markowitz told Brooklyn Paper. “So when we say that Williamsburg and Brooklyn are smokin’, we mean smokin’ hot – not smokin’ cigarettes!”


Source: The New York Observer (November 11, 2010)

Plain Packaging & Legal Issues

Nov 9, 2010

The new Labor minority government is committed to introducing plain packaging of cigarettes. The tobacco companies or those who advocate on its behalf have claimed that such moves would either breach the Australian Constitution or international legal obligations relating to protection of trade marks. Neither assertion is correct.

Since that conference in 1994, the worldwide and Australian regulatory environment relating to promotion of cigarettes has become significantly more restrictive. The regulatory moves that have been made, lead to the next step of introducing plain packaging. As its own documentation reveals, the tobacco industry had no case against the legality of plain packaging in 1994 and its legal position is even weaker in 2010. There are no constitutional or international legal impediments to the implementation of the proposals.


Source: Lawyers Weekly

New US warnings: Proposed images

Nov 10, 2010

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (Tobacco Control Act) in the United States requires the FDA to finalize picture health warnings by June 2011. The new health warnings will consists of nine full color health warnings that cover the top half of the “front” and “back” of cigarette packages.

The FDA has released a series of images for each of the nine health warnings and is seeking public comment through January 9 2011. Visit to view the proposed images.


Source: US Food and Drug Administration (November 2010)

New Canadian warnings delayed

Nov 10, 2010

The federal government is abandoning its responsibility to protect the health of Canadians by failing to introduce stronger warnings on cigarette packages, says a new editorial published in the country’s leading medical journal.

After spending several years and millions of taxpayer dollars studying, creating and focus-group testing updated warning labels for tobacco products, the federal government announced at a closed-door meeting with provinces and territories in September it was stepping away from the plan.

An editorial published Monday by the Canadian Medical Association Journal harshly criticizes the about-face as a “senseless” and “ill-conceived” policy change, and even questions whether it’s a result of the government bowing to pressure from the tobacco industry.

“The federal government is abdicating its responsibility to Canadians in fighting tobacco,” Paul Hébert, CMAJ editor-in-chief, said in an interview.

Most Canadians are familiar with the health warnings that are featured on cigarette packages and other tobacco products. The warnings are designed to inform people about the harmful effects of smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease and mouth cancer, as well as about the dangers of secondhand smoke. One of the most well-known warnings features a set of blackened, diseased teeth, with the words: “Cigarettes cause mouth diseases.” Canada was the first country in the world to adopt such strong labelling measures when the warnings were introduced in 2000.

But many consumers have become desensitized to the warning labels, which is why they need to be updated and made stronger, Dr. Hébert said.

“[The federal government] started well,” he said. “They didn’t finish well.”

Health Canada had been reviewing the warnings for tobacco products for several years and was considering new labels that would have been larger and, in many cases, much more graphic than the originals.

One of the most powerful new labels that received a strong reaction in Health Canada focus groups was the image of Barb Tarbox, one of Canada’s best-known anti-tobacco advocates, emaciated and dying from smoking-related illnesses. Another features a person’s lips ravaged by mouth cancer.

Public health experts and anti-smoking groups saw the proposed new warning labels as an important step forward in the continued battle to get people to quit.

But at a meeting of provincial and territorial health ministers in September, Health Canada said it wouldn’t be going forward with the proposed changes and that it was focusing instead on the growing problem of contraband tobacco.

The CMAJ editorial questions why Health Canada couldn’t introduce new health warnings while also trying to deal with the contraband tobacco issue, and accuses the government of wasting time and taxpayer dollars. The abrupt shift also raises questions about the government’s motives, according to the editorial.

“In the absence of a logical explanation, Canadians should be forgiven for questioning the government’s motives,” states the editorial. “Many have speculated that the government has caved in to the tobacco industry.”

Health Canada spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said in an e-mail Monday the department could not accommodate an interview request and offered no further explanation of the government’s decision against updating tobacco warning labels. “Health Canada continues to examine the renewal of health warning messages on tobacco packaging but is not ready to move forward at this time,” Ms. Lemire wrote.

The statement added that Health Canada reviews new research about tobacco and various diseases and must determine the effectiveness of new warnings before they are introduced.

Geoffrey Fong, professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo and principal investigator of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project, agreed the policy shift is difficult to understand, particularly considering the importance of tobacco warning labels.

“There’s no reason for [the government] not to go full speed ahead,” said Dr. Fong, who is also a senior investigator at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. “What company has ever conducted the same advertising campaign for 10 years without change?”

Although new warning labels might not deter some longtime smokers, Dr. Fong said research shows that at any given time, a substantial portion of people who smoke are trying to quit. Continually being exposed to negative messages about smoking and its consequences can help those people think twice about lighting up, and may deter others from taking up the habit, he said.


Source: The Globe and Mail (November 8, 2010)