Monthly Archives: May 2011

India: New pictorial warnings proposed

May 31, 2011

The Ministry of Health in India has announced new pictorial health warnings for smoked and smokeless products. Four new pictorial warnings will be displayed on smoked products, including cigarettes and bidis. Three of the four warnings feature the image of a man and diseased lungs. The four warnings for smokeless products feature images of faces and cancerous lessions and tumours, with the warning “Tobacco Kills.” The proposed warnings can be viewed here. The new warnings are to come into force on 1st December, 2011.

Australia: Support for plain packaging

May 30, 2011

HEALTH campaigners say most Australians support plain packaging for cigarettes, despite efforts by the powerful tobacco industry to mobilise public and political opposition against the Gillard government plan.

With public consultation on the landmark bill due to close next week, a Newspoll survey has revealed 59 per cent of respondents support the proposal, while 24 per cent remain opposed.

With 17 per cent of respondents undecided, Cancer Council Victoria will launch a national campaign today in a bid to discredit claims by cigarette manufacturers that plain packaging will lead to a surge in counterfeit tobacco. British America Tobacco will return fire in a fresh round of advertisements with the tagline ”when everything’s the same, how do you spot the fake?”

The row erupted as the International Chamber of Commerce slammed the plain packaging push. Secretary-general Jean-Guy Carrier has written to Trade Minister Craig Emerson arguing that the plan will set a dangerous precedent and could clash with international laws protecting trademarks and intellectual property. An ICC statement said restricting product branding meant customers were not able to make informed choices. ”Plain packaging makes it easier for… counterfeiters, exposing consumers to products with unknown and potentially dangerous ingredients.”

Cancer Council chief executive Todd Harper accused the tobacco industry of deliberately misleading the public. ”These are the same people that told us that nicotine was not addictive. This is such an important issue for the future of their industry that we can expect more hysterical and unfounded claims.” The proposed legislation would still allow for the brand name to appear in small print on cigarette packs.

British American Tobacco spokeswoman Louise Warburton claimed public support for plain packaging had slumped by 13 per cent since April. ”We don’t think the public would support millions of dollars being spent on legal fees by the government and possibly billions of dollars being spent on compensation to the tobacco industry if plain packaging goes ahead,” she said. Anne Jones, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, said the global tobacco industry was aggressively fighting Australia’s proposed plain packaging laws because the legislation would have a domino effect.

Ms Jones said a global tobacco treaty signed in 2005 required signatories to do all they could to reduce tobacco harm. ”When Australia gets plain packaging you’ve got 170 other countries out there watching and wanting to catch up or go ahead of what we’re doing. The industry’s very fearful of that because they’re a global industry,” she said.

US Congressman Donald Manzullo has warned Mr Emerson plain packaging could breach international trade laws.

Quit’s Fiona Sharkie urged federal MPs to ignore attempts by international lobbyists to derail the reforms.


Source: The Age (May 29, 2011)

Plain packs: International industry lobby

May 27, 2011

A former ambassador to the World Trade Organisation has been lobbying Malaysia to oppose the Federal Government’s plain cigarette packaging laws.

ABC1’s Lateline can reveal former US ambassador Peter Allgeier met with a Malaysian government minister as part of his efforts to derail the plain packaging legislation.

It has also been revealed that a powerful US congressman has joined the fight against Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s latest controversial plan to cut Australia’s smoking rate, which is due to come into effect this year.

If the law is enforced, advertising will be replaced with dull olive green packages and large health warnings.

Mr Allgeier is the private face of the tobacco industry’s campaign against plain packaging.

For eight years he served as the Bush administration’s deputy trade representative, but now works at the Washington-based consultancy firm C&M International.

C&M International has a history of working with the tobacco industry. In 2000 they offered their services to British American Tobacco when the framework convention on tobacco control was being negotiated in the US.

C&M’s legal firm also has a long-term relationship with the largest American tobacco company, Philip Morris.

An email sent to a Malaysian official and obtained by Lateline shows Mr Allgeier has been lobbying Malaysia to put pressure on Australia over plain packaging, and refers to a meeting he had with Malaysia’s trade minister.

“There are several opportunities forthcoming for Malaysia and other like-minded governments to persuade Australia not to proceed,” he said.

“One option is to raise concerns in response to Australia’s notification to the WTO TBT Committee, which meets on June 15-16. A second option is to address this issue at the next WTO TRIPs Council meeting on June 7-8.

“A third option is to respond to Australia’s request for comment on its draft legislation, which is open for comment until June 6.”

Tobacco-Free Kids Campaign president Matthew Myers, who has been working with Republicans and Democrats in Washington to reduce tobacco use, has hit out at the revelations.

“It’s infuriating that the multi-national tobacco companies are trying to use their global political muscle to intimidate countries from protecting their citizens,” said Mr Myers, who has been an anti-smoking campaigner for 30 years.

“Peter Allgeier has a long history of working in ways to intimidate other countries to back down from tobacco control measures.

“He led the office of the United States trade representatives negotiations with Taiwan and Korea in the 1980s, including efforts to get those countries to back down on important marketing restrictions to kids.

“So this is nothing new and the firm he works for actually solicited the business of British and American Tobacco (BAT) when the framework convention on tobacco control was being negotiated, to try to get them to retain them to defeat tobacco control measures by using trade tactics.”


Mr Allgeiger turned down Lateline’s request for an interview. He would not say how many tobacco companies he is representing, nor how many countries he is lobbying.

When David Crow from British American Tobacco Australia was asked by Lateline if his company was paying corporate relations firms to lobby countries to put pressure on Australia to change plain packaging laws, he said: “We’re talking to loads of stakeholders right across the network and I’m sure it will include the World Trade Organisation, because the Australian Government also has to abide by its treaties on its global nature.”

“I think we’re approaching them personally from BAT to talk to relevant organisations and stakeholders – everybody, including the retail organisations,” he added.

The campaign against plain packaging also includes senior US congressmen.

In Mr Allgeier’s email he states: “Members of the US congress also have written to the Australian Government outlining concerns about the implications of plain packaging for the integrity of Australia’s trade commitments.”

One of those congressmen is Republican Donald Manzullo, who sits on the House of Representatives congress committee on foreign affairs.

He sent the Australian Government a letter criticising plain packaging, which states: “Not only does it violate Australia’s global trade obligations and undermine trademark protection, but it also has the negative effect of emboldening governments less committed to intellectual property right protection to dismiss global trade rules.”

Congressman Manzullo also argues it will have negative health consequences.

“Plain packaging legislation will likely lead to more counterfeit cigarettes, increase health risks of consumers, and contribute to the growth of illicit products,” he said.

“From both a regulatory and health angle, plain packaging creates unnecessary hazards.”

But Mr Myers from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says it is merely about “using global economic power”.

“The global economic power of a tobacco industry that always puts profit over health in an effort to intimidate the Australian Government. I hope they won’t fall for it,” he said.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the move shows tobacco companies believe plain packaging will reduce smoking.

“Big tobacco companies have made absolutely clear that they will challenge this. We know they will fight tooth and nail. You’re seeing that played out now across the nation,” she said.

“I think what big tobacco companies are doing with all this very noisy huffing and puffing is making clear to most of the community that this measure will work.”


Source: ABC News (May 27, 2011)

India: Cigarette industry to escape with milder pictorial warning

May 27, 2011

In what could be a reprieve to the $4-billion beedi and cigarette industry, the government may allow it to get away with a milder version of pictorial warning on the harmful effects of smoking. However, the smokeless chewing tobacco industry, popularly known as the gutka industry, would have to brace itself for having to depict harsher and strong pictures.

Based on the fresh findings of a government-commssioned study, the health ministry is in the process of finalising two different sets of warnings-one strong and the other milder pictorial form- to be made mandatory for the smokeless tobacco and the smoking tobacco industries respectively.

The ministry which was earlier batting for making the pictorial warning on cigarette and beedi industry harsher has changed its mind in the backdrop of new emerging figures which suggest that of the 35% of adult population of India using tobacco, 21% adults are using only smokeless tobacco that is chewing tobacco. Another 9% actually smoke while the balance use both.

Union minister of health Ghulam nabi Azad said “Of the total oral and mouth cancer incidence for which tobacco is held responsible, around 80% of cancer can be attributed to chewing tobacco while cigarette and beedi can be held responsible for the remaining 20%. There is a great difference in the magnitude of causal relationship which is why we decided to make a distinction between the pictorial warnings of the two types”. The concerned study, pegged as one of the largest surveys in the world was conducted by Indian Institute of Population Studies, WHO and CDC Atlanta and was funded by the government of India.

“Currently the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity is in the process of recommending the pictorial warning. The notification will follow it,” a health ministry official told FE.

In recounting the major achievements of UPA government, Azad included the passing of The Clinical Establishment (Registration and regulation) Act, through which the government intends to compile accurate statistics (at the central level) of the number of hospitals, beds, doctors among other health related resources spread across the country within a span of one year. However, this law needs to get an approval from the individual states to kick off. “We are in talks with the state governments on the issue,” a health ministry official told FE. After a central database with the aforementioned is prepared, the hospitals in the country would be categorized into different classes and new health policy initiatives would be introduced on the basis of the list.


Source: The Financial Express (May 26, 2011)

Bangladesh: Bidi warnings

May 25, 2011

The High Court has asked the government why it did not ask the bidi manufactures to print pictorial warning against harmful effects of smoking on the packets of bidi, local leaf or paper-wrapped cigarettes.

The bench of justices Farid Ahmed and Mohammad Shawkat Hossain on Tuesday gave the health and law secretaries and director general of health directorate four weeks to reply to the rule.

The order came following a petition by Anti-tobacco Campaign member Arifur Rahman Bhuiyan.

Lawyer for the petitioner Al-amin Kabir told the news agency that only cautionary labels could not have an impact on the illiterate people, who mainly smoke bidis.

‘Each pack of bidis available in the market must have photographs of the harmful sides of smoking,’ Kabir said, according to Section 11 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that Bangladesh has signed.

Source: New Age (May 25, 2011)

Australia: Plain packaging & political support

May 25, 2011

A DAY after quelling backbench unrest about comments by Malcolm Turnbull, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, faces a revolt over his refusal to back plain packaging for cigarettes.

A group of senior MPs, led by the former whip and cancer survivor Alex Somlyay, are planning to tell colleagues today that they will be voting for the plain packaging legislation, whether Coalition policy allows it or not.

Mr Somlyay has the backing of two West Australian MPs: Mal Washer, a GP, and Ken Wyatt, the first indigenous member of the lower house and a strong advocate for Aboriginal health.

A source said they planned to tell the Coalition party room they were prepared to cross the floor to support the government measure, which Mr Abbott and his leadership team refuse to embrace and which is fiercely resisted by the tobacco companies.

Mr Abbott, a former health minister who beefed up the health warnings on cigarette packets, says he is not convinced the plain green packets with graphic health warnings will help reduce smoking. Other Liberals argue tobacco is a legal product and the companies have intellectual rights over their brands.

Mr Somlyay and his colleagues will argue that the companies’ preparedness to spend millions of dollars on a legal challenge and public campaign shows they believe the measures will harm sales.

”Losing branding rights is a small price to pay for a substance that kills 19,000 people a year and costs us over $20 million,” said an MP who plans to support the group.

The group hopes to enlist the support of other Liberal doctors, including Andrew Southcott and Alan Eggleston.

The Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, has accused Mr Abbott of baulking at supporting the packaging because the Liberal Party still accepts donations from tobacco companies.

During the weekend and yesterday, Mr Abbott brushed off demands by some backbenchers that he sack Mr Turnbull from the frontbench because of his critique last week of the Coalition’s climate change policy.

Sources close to Mr Abbott say he argued that sacking Mr Turnbull would only spark a brawl just when the Coalition was high in the polls and the government was struggling. Despite widespread dismay over Mr Turnbull’s comments, no one in the party has complained to him directly.

Mr Turnbull’s comments were not mentioned in the shadow cabinet meeting yesterday. Nor was there discussion of reports about a falling out between Mr Abbott and his shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, after Mr Hockey was set on by his colleagues for proposing changes to the taxing of trusts.

Yesterday, the Coalition sought to swing the climate change focus back on the government’s plan to put a price on carbon. But with the release of a report by the government’s climate commission again underscoring the need for action, the differences of opinion were on display.

The opposition spokesman on climate action, Greg Hunt, issued a statement saying: ”The Coalition recognises the world is warming and that humans are having an impact on that warming”. But other Coalition members, including Nick Minchin, Barnaby Joyce and Dennis Jensen, questioned this.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald (May 24, 2011)