Monthly Archives: April 2012

Canada: New warnings in stores

April 11, 2012

New cigarette packages with graphic warning labels – including an image of a dying smoker – are hitting store shelves.

Under federal rules introduced in September, health warning messages must cover 75 per cent of the covers of all cigarette and cigarillo packages – both front and back.

The new images are meant to be informative and disturbing, and encourage smokers to give up their habit.

One of the 16 new labels shows an emaciated Barb Tarbox, the 42-year-old anti-smoking activist who died of lung cancer. Another shows a tongue covered in white cancerous sores.

“I don’t even look at them. I just buy the cigarettes,” said Phil Morrison, a longtime smoker in Halifax.

“I’ve been smoking for about 30 years,” said Ali Roshani. “I’m not going to stop it now.”

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer, suggests Canada follow Australia’s lead.

“They have now implemented plain packaging where there’s just no ability for the tobacco industry to advertise at all,” he said.

Graphic images on tobacco products first appeared in Canada in 2000. At the time, they covered half the package.

Retailers started selling the packages with the new health warnings last month. They must stop selling their old inventory by June 19.

Source: CBC News (April 10, 2012)

China: Larger text warnings

April 10, 2012

Cigarette packages will now be displaying larger health warnings, part of government efforts to discourage smoking.

A casual visit by China Daily reporters to two tobacco stores in Beijing discovered both new and old packs on sale.

“Some tobacco producers changed to packs with larger warning marks, others were still supplying the old packs last month,” said a tobacco dealer who refused to be named.

The new packaging standard replaced English warnings with Chinese ones, and requires the Chinese characters to be no smaller than 4 millimeters on cigarette cases and no smaller than 6.5 mm on cigarette cartons.

However, tobacco control activist Wu Yiqun did not find the new rule having any positive effects on tobacco control.

“Using the current warning, it won’t work even if you enlarge the words 100 times,” Wu said.

The warning reads: “Smoking is harmful to your health. Quit smoking reduces health risk”.

“The warning does not include any information indicating to which degree smoking damages people’s health. It should be ‘smoking causes lung cancer’, or ‘smoking causes congenital deformity’, as such information makes people think,” Wu said.

Wu also urged adding pictures of diseased tissue to cigarette cases, which she called “the most economic and effective way of tobacco control”.

Sun Shixing, a smoker, said he doesn’t look at the warnings at all.

“I know smoking harms my health, but so many people smoke while remaining healthy. On the other hand, since we are consuming so much poisonous stuff, like excessive pesticides, quitting smoking won’t evidently change the condition of my health,” Sun said.

Forty-two countries worldwide stipulate that pictures should be printed on cigarette cases. Meanwhile, more than 75 percent of Chinese people have no idea about the top three diseases caused by smoking – lung cancer, coronary heart disease and respiratory sickness, according to an earlier report.

“Adding scary pictures would certainly hit the market for expensive tobacco, which has been regarded as a luxury gift, for you cannot give a carton of cigarettes with a cankered lung on it,” Wu said.

In 2011, China’s tobacco industry paid more than 752 billion yuan ($119 billion) in taxes and handed over more than 600 billion yuan to State coffers.

“That is why it is so difficult to promote picture warnings,” Wu said. “Our government should reduce its dependence on tobacco taxes, and count the increasing medical burden brought about by smokers.”

China has some 350 million smokers, more than one-third of the world’s total. Every year about 1.2 million Chinese die from tobacco-related diseases, Deputy Minister of Health Huang Jiefu said last month.

At a chronic disease seminar held in Shanghai on Saturday, Health Minister Chen Zhu revealed that the ministry is planning to include smoking cessation counseling into the basic service system, and will provide coverage to drugs that reduce dependence on smoking.

Source: China Daily (April 2, 2012)

US: Legal Challenge – Editorial

April 10, 2012

The tobacco industry has never been bashful about fighting back against attempts to regulate the promotion of its deadly, addictive products. The latest is an effort to derail new regulations requiring large health warnings on cigarette packages by making baseless First Amendment claims. It is the subject of an important case being heard on Tuesday by a federal appeals court in Washington.

There is evidence that the current surgeon general warnings on the side of cigarette packs are ineffective and virtually invisible. So Congress passed a law in 2009 requiring that large graphical and text warnings about smoking’s harm cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs beginning in September 2012.

The Food and Drug Administration then chose nine dramatic imagesto replace the current text-only warnings, including a cadaver on a slab and another of a man with smoke coming out of a tracheotomy hole.

Before the court now are two related rulings by a Federal District Court judge, Richard Leon, blocking implementation of the new labeling plan. Judge Leon concluded that the government’s prominent use of emotionally charged images “calculated to provoke the viewer to quit” smoking crossed a line. They went from conveying uncontroversial factual information, he said, to compelling tobacco firms to advance the government’s “obvious antismoking agenda” in violation of their free speech rights.

Reversing Judge Leon should be an easy call. The Supreme Court has long upheld restrictions on commercial speech that protect consumers. The imagery ordered up by the government does not amount to impressible ideological advocacy or “compelled speech.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reached that conclusion in a nearly identical case last monday.

A health warning does not have to be ineffective to be constitutional. The real message, of course, is backed by abundant evidence: smoking kills.

Source: The New York Times (April 9, 2012)

Australia: Plain-pack legal challenge

April 2, 2012

British American Tobacco Plc (BATS) said an Australian law prohibiting the display of tobacco companies’ logos, labels and trademarks “sterilizes” their intellectual property rights and must be declared unconstitutional.

“The Commonwealth has assumed control over a substantial aspect of the plaintiff’s property, business, goodwill and reputation,” the cigarette maker said in a March 26 filing to the High Court of Australia.

BAT, Philip Morris International Inc. (PM) (PM) and Imperial Tobacco Group Plc (IMT) are challenging the validity of the Australian law and will present their arguments against it in Canberra beginning April 17. Australia is the first country in the world to ban logos on cigarette packaging, with the law slated to go into effect in December.

The Australian Constitution, like its U.S. counterpart, was drafted recognizing the right of the state to acquire private property for public purposes only if “full indemnification” is provided to the former owner, rather than with the view based on the feudal notion that all property ultimately belonged to the sovereign, Imperial Tobacco’s Australian unit said in its submission to the court.

The tobacco companies have said they will seek billions of dollars of damages from the Australian government should they lose the right to their trademarks.

‘Aggressive Litigation’

The companies’ “aggressive litigation against Australia for implementing plain packaging is just another example of how big tobacco continues to try to intimidate countries,” John Stewart, a senior organizer with the lobby group Corporate Accountability International, said in an e-mail.

“Plain packaging is a cost-effective way to protect the health of children,” Stewart said.

BAT makes Dunhill, Pall Mall and Australia’s best-selling cigarette brand, Winfield. Philip Morris is the maker of Marlboro cigarettes.

At the hearing scheduled for April, the companies will ask the High Court to declare that the plain-packaging legislation results in acquisition of property without proper compensation and that the law is unconstitutional, according to the filing posted on the court’s website yesterday.

The Australian government announced the plan to ban branding on cigarette packs in April last year, along with a 25 percent increase in tobacco taxes and an A$85 million ($88 million) advertising campaign to combat smoking.

Brown Packs

Cigarettes will have to be sold in dark brown packages, with no company logos and the same font for all brands, according to a government statement.

The law passed through the Australian Senate on Nov. 10.

Smoking kills 15,000 Australians each year and costs the nation about A$31 billion annually in health and workplace expenses, according to the government. With 15.1 percent of the population at least 14 years old smoking daily, it is the country’s top drug and preventable illness issue, the government said.

“We won’t be bullied by tobacco companies threatening litigation and we are prepared to fight them if they do,” then- Health Minister Nicola Roxon said after the passage of the law.

Written Submissions

The government is to give its written submissions to the High Court by April 5.

Philip Morris is also pursuing the case in international arbitration. The Australian proposal violates a treaty with Hong Kong and may cause billions of dollars in damages, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes said.

Cigarette packs in Australia already contain graphic warnings including pictures of diseased lungs that cover half the back of a package.

The case is British American Tobacco Australia Ltd. v the Commonwealth of Australia. S389/2011. High Court of Australia (Canberra).

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek (March 29, 2012)

 

US: Pictorial warnings constitutional

April 2, 2012

A U.S. law requiring large graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging and advertising does not violate the free speech rights of tobacco companies, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.

Cigarette makers had sued to stop the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s new labeling and advertising requirements on grounds the rules violated their First Amendment right to communicate with adult tobacco consumers.

But the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld the bulk of the FDA’s new regulatory framework, including the requirement that tobacco companies include large warning images on cigarette packs.

The decision comes on the heels of a Washington, D.C., judge’s ruling in a different, but related, case that rejected the FDA requirements and seems to set up a clash over the constitutionality of the FDA rules.

Floyd Abrams, a lawyer for Lorillard, noted the difference in tone in the two rulings and said the 6th Circuit case, the Washington case, or both, would likely end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The difference in the two cases is that the FDA had not introduced the specific images when the companies filed the 6th Circuit suit. While the Washington suit focused on the images, the appeals court addressed the larger issue of the FDA’s regulatory power.

“There can be no doubt that the government has a significant interest in preventing juvenile smoking and in warning the general public about the harms associated with the use of tobacco products,” Judge Eric Clay wrote for the three-judge 6th Circuit panel.

Congress passed the law in 2009 and ordered the FDA to adopt specific warning-label regulations. The labels must be in color, must cover the top 50 percent of a cigarette pack’s front and back panels, and must cover the top 20 percent of print advertisements.

After tobacco companies, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co and Lorillard Inc’s Lorillard Tobacco Co, sued to block the law, the FDA unveiled nine images to go on cigarette packs, including graphic pictures of dead bodies, diseased lungs and rotting teeth. The companies accused the government of forcing them to disseminate an anti-smoking message in order to stigmatize and embarrass already-informed consumers.

The appeals court panel’s two-judge majority disagreed with the companies on the label requirement, finding that the fact that the specific images might trigger disgust does not make the requirement unconstitutional. The majority did note that it was only addressing the constitutionality of the statute on its face, and not the specific images that the FDA introduced after the suit was filed.

 

DISSENT ON IMAGES

Judge Clay, who wrote the main opinion upholding most of the FDA regulations, dissented, however, on the graphic label ruling. He called the rule “simply unprecedented.” While the government can require a product manufacturer to provide truthful information, “it is less clearly permissible for the government to simply frighten consumers or to otherwise attempt to flagrantly manipulate the emotions of consumers as it seeks to do here,” Clay wrote.

On February 29, D.C. district judge Richard Leon ruled that the FDA’s images violated the tobacco companies’ free-speech rights. He found that the warning labels were too big and that the government has numerous other tools at its disposal to deter smoking, such as raising cigarette taxes or including simple factual information on the labels rather than gruesome images.

The Obama administration appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on March 5.

Lorillard lawyer Abrams says Monday’s appeals court decision does not necessarily conflict with the Leon’s decision.

“The court made clear it was focusing on the statute as written, as opposed to the implementation of it,” Abrams said.

The Department of Justice did not immediately provide comment.

The 6th Circuit also upheld other FDA regulations, including restrictions on the marketing of “light” cigarettes, on the distribution of free tobacco samples, and event sponsorship. The court struck down a rule barring the use of color and graphics in tobacco advertising.

“We are pleased the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the continued use of colors and imagery in our advertisements,” said R.J. Reynolds spokesman Bryan Hatchell.

Source: Reuters (March 19, 2012)

Oman: Pictorial warnings soon

April 2, 2012

Graphic images warning about the health dangers associated with tobacco use will be mandatory on all cigarette packs and tobacco products sold in the Sultanate with effect from August 9, 2012. According to a senior Health Ministry official, the new measure will be enforced across the Gulf region in line with a unified approach adopted by the GCC states in regulating tobacco use.

“Any cigarette and tobacco consignment entering Oman with effect from August 9, 2012 must have the mandated pictorial warnings, without which their sale in the Sultanate will be deemed illegal. “A ministerial decree ratifying this new legislation is shortly awaited from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry,” Dr Jawad A al Lawati, Director of the Health Ministry’s Department of Non-Communicable Diseases Surveillance & Control, told the Observer.

Dr Al Lawati, who is widely credited with spearheading Oman’s campaign against rampant tobacco use, voiced the Health Ministry’s determination to see the new legislation enforced in the Sultanate, in the face of what he described as “dilatory tactics” by the powerful tobacco industry. “We are gearing to make pictorial warnings obligatory on tobacco packaging with effect from August 9, subject of course to foul play on the part of the tobacco industry. Tobacco companies have known for a long time that the measure has been in the pipeline.

“The Gulf states approved the measure last year, but the industry continues to play games. They keep raising objections and making complaints, claiming they have stocks on their hands, and so on. Of course, these are tactics intended to delay and thwart the implementation of such legislation,” the official said. Last August, the Gulf Standardisation Organisation (GSO) representing all six members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) approved recommendations for the inclusion of graphic images on cigarette packs and tobacco products to vividly illustrate the hazards associated with tobacco use.

Among the pictorial warnings selected by the Organisation are images depicting tobacco’s link with cancer, cardiovascular diseases, deformities in foetuses, early death and so on. According to Dr Al Lawati, the stark images will cover the bottom half of the cigarette pack or tobacco packaging, with the Arabic warning featured on the front face and the English warning on the back. Any breach of this legislation will attract penalties that will be spelt out in the Ministerial Decree, he said.

The Sultanate, he said, is already more than five years late in the implementation of this particular provision of the international Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which Oman had signed up to in 2005. Negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), the treaty provides an internationally co-ordinated response to combating the tobacco epidemic. It sets out specific steps for governments addressing tobacco use, including the adoption of tax and price measures to reduce tobacco consumption; banning tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; establishing smoke-free work and public spaces; placing prominent health warnings on tobacco packages; and combating illicit trade in tobacco products.

Importantly, graphic warnings will also become mandatory for a variety of tobacco products, such as shisha tobacco (used in water pipes), snuffing and chewing tobacco, mixed pipe tobacco, cigars and cigaritos. Also covered by the measure is ‘moassel tobacco’, which is finely cut tobacco derived from a mix of plants of the Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rustica species and/or any mix of both to which is added sugarcane syrup (black honey) or black honey, molasses and glycerin.

Source: Oman Daily Observer (March 17, 2012)