Tag Archives: Tobacco Regulation

Weak Tobacco Laws in Russia Increase Risk to Women and Children

Gregory Feifer, of Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty recently published an article on tobacco use in Russia.

He pointed out how the current laws, and heavy regulation and taxes on tobacco products in the West have pressured many smokers to give up their unhealthy habit.

This has had an effect on big tobacco profits in the US causing the industry to seek out new markets to make up losses from the North America and European market.

The Wild West Meets Russia

In Russia, Gregory states this powerful industry is growing stronger every day because, “there are no laws against smoking in public establishments,” taxes are lower, and the attitude of the public is one in which smoking and being of independent character are one in the same. If you remember those old Marboro Man commercials, Russia is reminiscent of those days in the West.

Those who are familiar with the original Marlboro Man, David McClean who appeared in many Marlboro ads starting in the early 60’s died of lung cancer at the age of 73 after it spread to his brain and spine. His widow and son filed a wrongful death lawsuit again Philip Morris, Inc. His tobacco campaign was one of the most well recognized and successful ad campaigns in US history.

Marlboro Man David McCleanNow, big tobacco companies are using the same tactics and preying on the Russian public since they have lost a large share of business. They don’t even have to be creative in their efforts because the Russian tobacco laws and regulation are not in place to protect their citizens from the use of the same old ploys that worked so well in the U.S. and Europe for decades.

As laws here have become stricter large tobacco interests have stepped up their efforts to flood the Russian market and replay their old sales formulas.

Russian Smoking Statistics for Women and Young Smokers

It seems to be working as rates for smokers have risen each year in Russia, especially through targeting women and adolescent smokers.

The laws that have been put in place in Europe and the West, along with the extra taxes on tobacco products, and the new public emphasis on health have made a positive impact. They do help protect citizens from increased use of tobacco.

Russia, according to Gregory Feifer, needs to move forward more quickly to put laws in place to protect the public before these predatory companies become more powerfully entrenched. Soon Russia will be facing a serious epidemic if they aren’t already.

Lighting Up While Driving Can Be Costly

This week’s tobacco news was filled with history making reports about congress signing off on regulation of tobacco by the FDA.

Many opinions are floating around. Some are in favor of it, while others are against the bill. Then there are those who like the idea but have concerns over the vast loopholes in the legislation.

Another story this week caught our attention. It is not as newsworthy, but on the other hand this story illustrates how the danger of second-hand smoke is making an impact.

In Toronto, Canada a recent law went into effect that regulates driving while under the influence of Tobacco. In the US, Louisiana and Arizona have similar laws, and many states are considering similar rules.

Driver Fined For “Lighting Up” in Car with Kids

The Star.com – June 11, 2009

smoking-while-drivingA women from Vaughan, Toronto, Canada was driving while smoking with three children in the car, all were under the age of eleven. She was stopped and cited under a recent law that took effect the first of the year.

The report did not say what she was fined, but offenders can be fined up to $250 for smoking in vehicles with children under the age of sixteen present.

There have been a handful of other charges, but it seems people are catching on to the effects of second-hand smoke and the dangers to children. Kids are really vulnerable because they absorb more toxins than adults. Their respiratory rates and metabolisms are higher due to their air intake to body weight ratio.

The Ontario Medical Association provided statistics on smoking in cars that is beyond alarming. The concentration from second-hand smoke in a vehicle can be up to twenty-seven percent higher than that of a smoker’s living environment, and up to twenty times higher that the smoke that floated in smoky bars prior to public smoking bans.

Raveena Aulakh, The Star Staff reporter

EU Unsure About Regulating Radioactive Polonium in Tobacco

Traces of polonium present in tobacco recently raised questions at the European Commission, while traces of radioactive and other substances – such as radon, polonium and cadmium – contained in tobacco leaves open questions as to whether they should be regulated at EU level.

Following media reports about the dangers of polonium contained in cigarettes, the Commission is studying whether or not the substance should be included in the list of regulated ingredients, a spokesperson for the EU executive told EurActiv.

Radioactive Polonium in CigarettesUp until now the EU has regulated additional substances found in tobacco products such as nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide, but did not take into account the tobacco leaf itself, running counter to World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations.

Asked whether such highly dangerous radioactive and poisonous substance could be regulated at all, the Commission official responded that this was a difficult question to answer.

Tobacco firms knew about the presence of polonium in cigarettes and the dangers it involved, but the results of the research were not published for fear of “waking a sleeping giant”, according to Monique Muggli of Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, quoted in the September edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

Polonium 210 is a highly radioactive substance which has been found to cause lung cancer in 90% of cases. It is this very same substance which poisoned former KGB agent Alexander V. Litvinenko.

Regarding the relationship between polonium 210 and the radioactivity of cigarettes, Muggli said: “The companies wanted to hide from that issue publicly. They continue to minimize the recognition of radioactivity in their products in smoking and health litigation,” quoted in The Independent, a British daily.

So far, the Commission’s tobacco legislation has set limits on nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide yields to be applied in all member states. In line with this, the EU executive is putting pressure on the industry to add more visual warnings about the danger of smoking on cigarette packets themselves.

Source: The EurActiv network

Related Links

EU official documents

Press articles

New Report on Global Tobacco Control Efforts

NEW YORK — WHO today released new data concerning tobacco control.

The data show that while progress has been made, not a single country fully implements all key tobacco control measures, and outlined an approach that governments can adopt to prevent tens of millions of premature deaths by the middle of this century.

In a new report which presents the first comprehensive analysis of global tobacco use and control efforts, WHO finds that only 5% of the world’s population live in countries that fully protect their population with any one of the key measures that reduce smoking rates.

The report also reveals that governments around the world collect 500 times more money in tobacco taxes each year than they spend on anti-tobacco efforts.

It finds that tobacco taxes, the single most effective strategy, could be significantly increased in nearly all countries, providing a source of sustainable funding to implement and enforce the recommended approach, a package of six policies called MPOWER (see below).

“While efforts to combat tobacco are gaining momentum, virtually every country needs to do more.

These six strategies are within the reach of every country, rich or poor and, when combined as a package, they offer us the best chance of reversing this growing epidemic,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. Dr Chan launched the WHO Report of the Global Tobacco Epidemic at a news conference with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Philanthropies helped fund the report.

“The report released today is revolutionary,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “For the first time, we have both a rigorous approach to stop the tobacco epidemic and solid data to hold us all accountable. No country fully implements all of the MPOWER policies and 80% of countries don’t fully implement even one policy. While tobacco control measures are sometimes controversial, they save lives and governments need to step up and do the right thing.”The six MPOWER strategies are:

  1. Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
  2. Protect people from tobacco smoke
  3. Offer help to quit tobacco use
  4. Warn about the dangers of tobacco
  5. Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship
  6. Raise taxes on tobacco

The report also documents the epidemic’s shift to the developing world, where 80% of the more than eight million annual tobacco-related deaths projected by 2030 are expected to occur.

This shift, the report says, results from a global tobacco industry strategy to target young people and adults in the developing world, ensuring that millions of people become fatally addicted every year. The targeting of young women in particular is highlighted as one of the “most ominous potential developments of the epidemic’s growth”.

The global analysis, compiled by WHO with information provided by 179 Member States, gives governments and other groups a baseline from which to monitor efforts to stop the epidemic in the years ahead. The MPOWER package provides countries with a roadmap to help them meet their commitments to the widely embraced global tobacco treaty known as the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which came into force in 2005.

WHO WHO is also working with global partners to scale up the help that can be offered to countries to implement the strategies.

Dr Douglas Bettcher, Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative, said the six MPOWER strategies would create a powerful response to the tobacco epidemic. “This package will create an enabling environment to help current tobacco users quit, protect people from second-hand smoke and prevent young people from taking up the habit,” he said.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Only 5% of the global population is protected by comprehensive national smoke-free legislation and 40% of countries still allow smoking in hospitals and schools;
  • Only 5% of the world’s population lives in countries with comprehensive national bans on tobacco advertising and promotion;
  • Just 15 countries, representing 6% of the global population, mandate pictorial warnings on tobacco packaging;
  • Services to treat tobacco dependence are fully available in only nine countries, covering 5% of the world’s people;
  • Tobacco tax revenues are more than 4000 times greater than spending on tobacco control in middle-income countries and more than 9000 times greater in lower-income countries. High- income countries collect about 340 times more money in tobacco taxes than they spend on tobacco control.

Source: Press Release

R. J. Reynolds Backs Campaign Against Tobacco Tax Hike

Cigarette tax proposal would change tax from 7 cents per pack to 30-50 cents if the plan passes.

However,  the country’s second-largest cigarette company is an anonymous backer of a campaign opposing a bill to raise South Carolina’s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax.

The message began showing up in mailboxes last week — 10,000 postcards sent to Republican activists by the S.C. Association of Taxpayers.

The postcards express concern about a proposed plan to raise the state’s cigarette tax, now 7 cents per pack, to between 30 and 50 cents per pack.

Some legislators have suggested the new tax revenue could go toward providing employers tax credits to buy employee health insurance.

Featuring a graph showing a “$190 million unfunded taxpayer mandate,” the postcards ask voters to “stop this HillaryCare styled welfare plan.”

Several state Senate staffers said the chart on the postcards is the same chart that R.J. Reynolds lobbyists showed some state senators in recent weeks. The postcard also warns that the “hospital industry and insurance company special interests want Legislators to raise your taxes!”

“We just have issues with what they’re talking about,” said Don Weaver, president of the S.C. Association of Taxpayers. “A lot of people don’t realize what this program will do.”

The association is a private group that often takes corporate donations, Weaver said. The group is best known for giving out its annual “Friend of the Taxpayer” award.

Supporters of the insurance plan, known as the “Covering Carolina Collaborative,” say the postcards distort the plan to expand health insurance options in the state and its cost.

“We got some donations,” Weaver said, when asked if R.J. Reynolds paid for the postcards. “We get a lot of corporate donations, let’s put it that way.”

R.J. Reynolds declined to comment for this article.

Tax MapIn past years, R.J. Reynolds was at the forefront of the cigarette-tax debate, hosting events and urging those opposed to increasing the tax to call lawmakers. R.J. Reynolds’ views are different from that of the top-selling cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, which supports a small tax increase.

Supporters of raising the tax to provide health insurance, including the S.C. Hospital Association, said the postcards misrepresent the proposal.

Patti Smoak, spokeswoman for the S.C. Hospital Association, said the options offered in the Covering Carolina Collaborative would depend on the state’s ability to pay for them.

Although the hospital group is not advocating a cigarette tax hike, it is logical that smokers help pay health care costs caused by smoking, Smoak said.

It is unclear when the Senate will vote on the tax, which has not been increased since 1977.

Source: John O’Connor The (Columbia) State

Tobacco Harm Reduction Catches On

Yesterday I mentioned the controversy over legislation that would give the FDA authority to regulate tobacco products, authority the FDA itself (or at least its current head) does not want.

One reason for the agency’s leeriness is the possibility that FDA regulation could actually increase the harm associated with tobacco use.

One way that could happen, as I’ve noted before, is through censorship of truthful comparative risk claims – in particular, efforts to promote smokeless tobacco as a harm-reducing alternative to cigarettes.

Last week there were a couple of positive developments in this area. Britain’s Royal College of Physicians endorsed the concept of tobacco harm reduction, saying snus (Swedish-style oral snuff) and other nicotine-delivering products should be available to smokers who want to cut their risks but are not prepared to give up their drug habit.

In a commentary published by The Lancet (which has long supported “less harmful nicotine delivery systems”), two doctors who worked on the RCP report, John Britton and Richard Edwards, note that the health risks associated with snus are roughly 90 percent lower than the health risks associated with cigarettes.

They question the E.U.’s ban on smokeless tobacco (which does not apply in Sweden) and the policy of treating nicotine replacement products as quitting aids instead of long-term replacements for cigarettes:

snus.jpgWe believe that the absence of effective harm reduction options for smokers is perverse, unjust, and acts against the rights and best interests of smokers and the public health.

Addicted smokers have a right to choose from a range of safer nicotine products, as well as accurate and unbiased information to guide that choice.

Britton told The Independent:

Smokers smoke because they are addicted to nicotine, but it isn’t nicotine in cigarette smoke that kills….We need to liberalise the medicinal market and introduce a decent cigarette substitute. We may end up with millions of people addicted to nicotine inhalers, but so what? Millions are addicted to caffeine.

Although there is more to the cigarette habit than nicotine (one reason the success rates for “nicotine replacement therapies” are so low), smokers certainly should be free to switch to other, less dangerous sources of nicotine if that’s what they want.

The distinction that Britton draws between addiction and the harm associated with it is a vitally important one that discussions of drug policy tend to overlook. There is no rational reason we need to pretend that nicotine gum, patches, and inhalers are medicines that treat the disease of nicotine addiction, as opposed to safer ways of getting the same drug.

Another encouraging sign regarding snus: Last week The New York Times ran a story about snus products in the U.S. that clearly reported the truth: Although not 100 percent risk-free, snus is indisputably less dangerous than cigarettes.

The Times quoted Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends at the American Cancer Society, who questioned the evidence that “smokers are able to switch to smokeless tobacco and remain switched.” But even Glynn conceded that “if every smoker in the United States were to switch to smokeless tobacco, ‘in the next decade we would see fewer cancers and less heart disease.'”

That acknowledgment is significant, since American anti-smoking groups (like American public health agencies) generally have been hostile toward harm reduction via smokeless tobacco, muddying or denying the product’s clear health advantages. By contrast, Britain’s Action on Smoking and Health has supported tobacco harm reduction for years.

Why was last week’s story more scientifically accurate that the usual Times take on smokeless tobacco? Probably because it ran in the business section instead of the health section.

Source: Jacob Sullum, Reason Magazine

[Thanks to Brad Rodu and Bill Piper for the tip about the RCP report.]