June 2010 - CigarettesReviews.com | CigarettesReviews.com

Monthly Archives: June 2010

Smokers stock up on cigarettes before tobacco tax takes effect

SALT LAKE CITY – Smoke shops and other businesses in Utah that sell tobacco products are seeing people buying in bulk. Consumers are trying to get their hands on cigarettes and cigars before a state tobacco tax increase goes into effect Thursday. Smokey’s smoke shop in Salt Lake City says that business has increased 30 to 40 percent from the past week. Because come Thursday, a $40 carton of cigarettes will be 60 to $70.

“Instead of buying a pack they’re buying a carton, instead of buying one carton they’re buying 4 or 5,” says Bill Humeniuk from Smokey’s.

Tobacco tax goes from 35 percent to 86 percent, making the current cost of a pack of cigarettes a dollar more after the tax.

U.S. Bid for Tobacco Damages Rejected by High Court

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Justice Department’s bid for as much as $280 billion in tobacco company profits, refusing to hear an Obama administration appeal. Altria Group Inc. and Reynolds American Inc., the largest cigarette makers, surged on the news.

The rebuff all but ensures that the racketeering suit first pressed by former President Bill Clinton’s administration won’t result in financial penalties against Altria’s Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. It’s the second time the high court has refused to hear government arguments in the case.

Altria climbed 64 cents, or 3.3 percent, to $20.34 at 4:15 p.m. on the New York Stock Exchange. It rose as much as 6 percent, the biggest gain since November 2008. Reynolds American Inc. increased $2.08, or 4.1 percent, to $53.45 while Lorillard Inc. advanced $1.77, or 2.5 percent, to $73.54.

The court also rejected a group of industry appeals aimed at overturning a trial judge’s finding that the cigarette makers defrauded the public about the dangers of smoking for more than 50 years.

“It’s a breather for the industry,” said Tom Russo, who oversees more than $3 billion, including almost 7 million Altria shares as of March 31, at Gardner Russo & Gardner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “It would have been just another skirmish they would have had to address.”

FDA Regulation

The industry came under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration last year. Among its legal risks, Russo said, are cases requiring it to pay for medical monitoring of smokers. It’s also fighting claims of sick and dead smokers in Florida after the state Supreme Court threw out a statewide class-action suit in 2006.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler’s ruling could open companies to continuing judicial oversight and impose more stringent limits on their business practices than the 2009 law that let the FDA regulate tobacco.

The government appeal, filed by U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, argued that judges have authority to order the return of “ill-gotten gains” under the 1970 U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.

“Congress vested district courts with full equitable authority to award complete relief for violations of RICO, including orders to disgorge ill-gotten gains,” argued Kagan, now President Barack Obama’s nominee to the high court. Her confirmation hearings began today.

Public Education

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said today in an e-mailed statement, “It is now critical that the trial court move forward with strongly enforcing the remedies that it did order.”

A federal appeals court in Washington said in 2005 that RICO allows only “forward-looking remedies” and doesn’t let the government recoup ill-gotten gains.

The Supreme Court rejected the government’s first bid for review of that ruling in 2005, while leaving open the possibility of a second Justice Department appeal after Kessler issued a final judgment in the case.

Philip Morris, maker of Marlboros and the largest U.S. tobacco company, called the 1999 lawsuit “an unprecedented effort to use litigation to obtain extensive regulatory authority over the tobacco industry that, until recently, it had been unable to secure through the legislative process.”

‘Light’ Cigarettes

Kessler’s order includes a ban on the use of “light” or “low tar” labels on cigarettes, a prohibition that has since been incorporated into the 2009 law. She ordered the companies to make statements about the health effects of smoking on cigarette packages and through a multimillion-dollar media campaign.

She also ordered the companies not to engage in future racketeering or deception. That aspect of her ruling would let the government or anti-smoking advocates return to court to seek additional sanctions on cigarette makers. Kessler didn’t award any damages.

Private litigants have attempted to use Kessler’s 1,653- page opinion as ammunition in their own lawsuits against tobacco companies.

The appeals court last year upheld Kessler’s finding that the companies had engaged in racketeering, as well as the restrictions she placed on their business practices.

Philip Morris contended that, because the case affects its free-speech rights, the appeals court should have given closer scrutiny to Kessler’s factual conclusions. The cigarette maker, based in Richmond, Virginia, also argued that the lower courts improperly extended the reach of RICO.

Speech Rights

Reynolds, the second-largest U.S. cigarette maker, pressed related arguments. The company said that the lawsuit punished the companies for exercising their constitutional speech rights in the public debate over smoking.

The No. 3 cigarette maker, Lorillard Inc., also sought high court review of Kessler’s findings.

Altria pressed an appeal separate from the one filed by its Philip Morris unit, arguing that Kessler lacked any basis for holding the parent company liable.

British American Tobacco Plc’s British American Tobacco (Investments) Ltd. contended that the lower courts improperly applied the U.S. racketeering law to overseas conduct.

The government’s appeal is United States v. Philip Morris, 09-978. The industry’s appeals include Philip Morris USA v. United States, 09-976; R.J. Reynolds Tobacco v. United States, 09-977; Altria Group v. United States, 09-979; and Lorillard v. United States, 09-1012.

By Greg Stohr, Bloomberg

Indian smoke shops ignored shutdown order

NEW YORK — Three major cigarette dealers who have long defied state authorities by selling millions of untaxed packs from a Long Island Indian reservation are ignoring a court order that was supposed to have shut them down, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Since September, several smoke shops on the Poospatuck Reservation have been barred from selling untaxed cigarettes to the general public after they were successfully sued by New York City.

But on Friday, U.S. District Judge Carol Amon ruled that at least three of the men behind those shops have secretly continued to sell tens of thousands of packs through front companies or relatives.

She found the dealers in contempt, saying the city’s legal team had presented compelling evidence that they were still doing business, including bank records and recorded phone calls.

They could face heavy fines.

Lawyers for the trio, Rodney Morrison, Wayne Harris and Jesse Watkins, didn’t immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages.

The contempt citation is civil, but two of the three also have criminal legal troubles.

Morrison, proprietor of a shop that once supplied millions of cartons of cigarettes to black market dealers from New York City, has been imprisoned since 2004.

He was acquitted of a murder charge, and a racketeering conviction was tossed out because of confusion over the legality of Indian reservation cigarette sales, but he is now serving a 10-year prison term in a gun case.

Amon said he has continued to run his business from prison with the help of a partner, Wayne Harris, who had also been banned by the judge from selling cigarettes.

Another smoke shop owner, Jesse Watkins, was indicted on federal charges in May after being caught in an FBI sting. Prosecutors said he purchased truckloads of cigarettes he believed had been stolen from a military base.

An Associated Press investigation last year found that four of the largest cigarette sellers on the Poospatuck reservation, including Watkins and Morrison, were former cocaine dealers who had come to control 15 percent of the state’s cigarette market by selling packs tax free.

That market share has now dwindled due to a series of legal assaults on their businesses.

New York’s Indian tribes say treaty rights exempt them from state cigarette taxes, and state authorities have hesitated to enforce collections for decades out of deference to their sovereignty claims.

Gov. David Paterson, however, has announced plans to impose a tax on reservation sales later this year.

By DAVID B. CARUSO, Timesunion

Cigarette tax to rise in South Carolina

Thursday, the state’s tax on cigarettes climbs to 57 cents a pack from its current 7 cents a pack.cigarettes smoking

Smokers can expect to cough up an additional $5 a carton.

Residents, retailers and health care advocates are split on the whether the increased tax, which will help pay for health care for the state’s poor, cancer research and smoking prevention and cessation programs, is a good thing.

“They should raise it to $10 per pack,” said Richard Lee, 58, as he manned the office at his auto repair shop, Richard’s Automotive, in West Columbia.

Lee points to a wall photo of himself and his brother who had a portion of a lung removed after years of smoking. Lee’s father and another brother died of lung cancer.

“Every bit they raise, it will keep people from smoking,” said Lee, who added he has never taken a puff in his life.

That’s what anti-smoking groups and lawmakers are banking on.

The increase is expected to prevent more than 23,000 S.C. children from becoming smokers and persuade 13,000 adult smokers to quit, according to the S.C. Tobacco Collaborative, an anti-tobacco group that includes the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association, which have worked to increase the tax for the past decade.

There are gains for nonsmokers, too, they claim.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every S.C. household pays nearly $600 a year to cover tobacco-related health care costs.

“There is a huge direct and indirect tax burden to everyone in South Carolina, whether they smoke or not,” said Louis Eubank, director of the collaborative. “So what you’re talking about is a lessening of that burden. Plus, people will be healthier.”

Not everyone agrees.

Just steps outside of Lee’s office, one of his mechanics, David Davis, offers a different take on the tax increase as he works on a BMW.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Davis. A smoker for the past 20 years, Davis said he smokes 11/2 packs a day, depending on how long his work day stretches.

“Some people are going to stop smoking (because of the tax increase), and, eventually, the state will get less money,” he said. “And that will put some businesses out of business.”

Those same two reasons — the regressive nature of the tax and its effect on cigarette retailers — persuaded Gov. Mark Sanford and some state lawmakers to reject a proposed increase.

But in May a majority of lawmakers, faced with a looming $1 billion budget deficit, overrode the governor’s veto, ending South Carolina’s 33-year reign as the state with the nation’s lowest cigarette tax. Starting Thursday, South Carolina’s cigarette tax will rank 42nd among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. New York leads the nation with its $4.35-a-pack tax.

Since 2002, 47 states, Washington, D.C., and several U.S. territories have increased their cigarette tax to bolster state budgets and wean tobacco-addicted residents.

The federal government has taken up the tobacco tax habit too, increasing the federal tax by 62 cents a pack to $1.01 in April.

The double punch of state and federal cigarette tax increases could threaten the livelihood of some S.C. convenience stores, particularly those in counties that border North Carolina and Georgia, said David Jordan, marketing director of R.L. Jordan Oil Co., which operates 41 Hot Spot convenience stores in South Carolina. Cigarettes make up about 25 percent of the company’s sales.

“There is no other product that generates money and jobs like cigarettes,” Jordan said.

“We don’t know how much business we’ll lose to North Carolina and Georgia, but we know it’s going to happen,” he said, adding both border states will have lower taxes than the Palmetto State starting Thursday.

Jordan said his company anticipated a drop of 5 percent to 7 percent in cigarette sales when the federal tax was increased. The drop turned out to be more than 10 percent.

“Some stores right on the border will have to adjust to the way they do business. They’ll have to live on a lot less (profit) margin,” he said. “Some probably will go out of business.”

The higher price has smokers, including Claude Williams of Columbia, fuming too.

“They’re getting something over on us. Man, this is exactly why I need to quit,” Williams said as he recently finished off the last of a lunch-break cigarette.

But as Williams thought about it, he realized he wasn’t that upset.

“Who am I kidding?” he said. “I’ve got to have my Newports.”

Taxing smokers

Federal and state tax hikes on smoking will make the habit more expensive. A by-the-numbers look at the how the increase in cigarette taxes will affect smokers:

$4.09: The cost of a pack of cigarettes in South Carolina before on March 31, 2009

$4.71: The cost of a pack of cigarettes in the state after a 62-cents-a-pack federal tax increase

$5.21: The projected cost of a pack of cigarettes in South Carolina after the state’s cigarette tax is raised by 50 cents a pack on July 1
Heraldonline, Jun. 28, 2010

Taylor Momsen slammed for smoking on stage

Taylor Momsen has been slammed by anti-smoking campaigners for lighting up illegally on stage on Sunday – officials have branded itTaylor Momsen “a dumb thing to do.”

The “Gossip Girl” star was performing with her band The Pretty Reckless in California when she took time out from their set to smoke.

The 16 year old is two years below the legal age to buy and smoke cigarettes in the state of California – and her onstage antics have sparked outrage.

Momsen has been blasted by officials at Britain’s Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) organization for succumbing to the “filthy, deadly addiction” – and for setting a bad example to her young fans.

A spokesperson for ASH tells WENN, “Clearly Momsen’s act is designed to shock and smoking illegally on stage is part of that act.

“It is to be hoped that her fans have the maturity to see that her smoking is neither cool nor glamorous but a filthy, deadly addiction and a dumb thing to do.”

Seneca seller wins stay of new U.S. law on tobacco

A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order Monday allowing a Seneca Nation mail-order cigarette retailer to supply cigarettes sellertobacco products across the country without having to meet the requirements of a new federal law that took effect at midnight.

District Judge Richard J. Arcara granted the motion as part of the retailer’s lawsuit against the U.S. government. The retailer, Red Earth, which does business as Seneca Smokeshop, has asked the court to declare the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act unconstitutional.

Seneca Smokeshop, a 10-year-old business, employs 17 people and sells cigarettes in 46 states. It is owned by Aaron J. Pierce, a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians.

Without the restraining order, the law would have immediately crippled the business, said Lisa A. Coppola, the retailer’s lawyer.

“It’s no small thing for him to lose his business entirely,” Coppola told Arcara during a hearing Monday afternoon in federal court.

The so-called PACT Act, signed into law in March, bans the U.S. Postal Service from shipping cigarettes and affects the mail-order cigarette business in other ways.

It requires those selling cigarettes on the Internet to pay all federal, state, local or tribal tobacco taxes, and to affix tax stamps before delivering any tobacco products to any customer.

Retailers also have to register with the state where they are based and make periodic reports to state tax collection officials. Sellers also must check the age and identities of customers when tobacco products are purchased and when they are delivered.

The restraining order will remain in effect for 14 days, unless the court rules earlier on the retailer’s motion to keep the federal government from enforcing the new law throughout duration of the lawsuit. The judge ordered both sides to return to court July 7 for a hearing on that request.

In seeking the restraining order, lawyers for Seneca Smokeshop did not address the Postal Service ban, but focused on how the retailer would have to contend with thousands of state and local taxing jurisdictions while selling cigarettes across the country.

“We’re not talking about only 46 states or a couple of taxing jurisdictions,” Coppola told Arcara.

“There are extraordinarily serious problems with the act that have nothing to do with the Postal Service,” Coppola said after learning of Arcara’s ruling.

Arcara found the smoke shop demonstrated it would have suffered irreparable injury without the restraining order. The judge also found the retailer demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim that the PACT Act violates various provisions of the Constitution, including the commerce clause, the 10th amendment, the due-process clause and the equal protection clause.

In his written order, Arcara said he acted “in the public interest because the public favors restraining enforcement of statutes that appear to violate provisions of the Constitution.”

Arcara noted the U.S. Attorney’s Office had failed to file a timely response to the retailer’s motion for a restraining order.

The retailer’s lawyer filed court papers Friday afternoon, both in Buffalo and Washington, D.C.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Richard D. Kaufman and Mary Fleming asked Arcara to hold off on ruling for at least a couple of days so they could better prepare a response.

“He’d only lose a couple of days of business,” Kaufman said about how such a delay would affect the retailer.

“How would you like to lose a couple days of pay, Mr. Kaufman?” Arcara replied.

Coppola, meanwhile, stressed the immediate danger the smoke shop faced as the effective date for the new law approached.

“If this law goes in effect at midnight, it essentially closes down our client,” Coppola said. “This product my client is selling is a legal product, and that should count for something.”

Arcara’s order is limited in scope, restraining the federal government from enforcing the federal law against specifically the Seneca Smokeshop and Pierce — but not mentioning other cigarette mail-order retailers.

During Monday’s hearing, Coppola said the smoke shop has been working to arrange delivery of cigarettes by a private carrier, at least in this state, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where most of its customers live.

Coppola said she had not spoken with Pierce about the ruling, so she did not know if the smoke shop will resume mailing the cigarettes while the restraining order is in effect or proceed with another form of delivery.

By signing the law, President Obama angered business people from the Senecas and other tribes that sell tobacco products.

But other organizations, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, rejoiced, calling the law a landmark step in preventing youngsters from obtaining cigarettes and in averting billions of dollars in tax evasion.

Along with the constitutional arguments, Pierce’s lawyers also claimed that the new law violates four different treaties, all signed between 1784 and 1842, granting sovereignity to the Senecas and other tribes.

“The act is overbroad, unduly burdensome and impermissibly vague,” Coppola said in court papers. “Among other things, it requires out-of-state retailers (even those without a physical presence in the state) to collect the sales and use taxes of states and localities in which they have no presence.”

By Patrick Lakamp and Dan Herbeck
Buffalonews: June 28, 2010

Big Tobacco veryquiet on smoking ban

Bill Johnson predicted calamity if the City Council extends the smoking ban to his little bar at the corner of Babcock and Callaghan. “I will close the doors. I’ll have no choice,” he said, leaning a little into the microphone.

He was one of the dozens — many of them tavern and pool hall workers — who tore into the proposed ordinance at a June 10 public hearing.

Johnson also is one of three principals behind the San Antonio Mixed Beverage Association, a nearly memberless organization that exists solely to fight the strengthening of San Antonio’s ban. Indeed, political organizer JoAnn Ramon’s handiwork, paid for by SAMBA, accounted for some of the turnout of opponents that night.

Wildly controversial PR consultant T.J. Connolly wasn’t in council chambers, but he’s also working for the association, handling its communications.

Lobbyist Ken Brown, who stood off to the side of the standing-room-only crowd, helped incorporate SAMBA as a nonprofit a year ago. The organization is one of his firm’s clients. Reynolds American, an arm of tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, is another.

So there’s a haze hanging over this scene.

It’s a strategy Big Tobacco commonly uses in its never-ending fight against “smoke-free” ordinances: Find common cause with tavern owners.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with coalition-building. Proponents are doing the same thing, and they, too, have their lobbyist and communications and political strategists.

But if tobacco companies stand behind the opposition — so far behind that they’re invisible — that’s a problem. Unless you’re a fan of hidden agendas.

Councilman Justin Rodriguez, who introduced the ordinance in April, suspects that tobacco is bankrolling SAMBA. “Who’s going to be impacted the most? Tobacco companies,” he said. “They don’t want their fingerprints on it. But, come on, it’s not rocket science.”

Johnson said there’s no tobacco money flowing through SAMBA, and that he, his wife-business partner and another bar owner are the sole principals behind the group.

When I asked how, as owners of small taverns, they could afford their own campaign, Johnson answered: “I drive a Corvette, my wife drives a Cadillac and we own a 2008 Tundra.”

Johnson isn’t new to these kinds of fights. He testified in the Legislature in 2007 and 2009 when lawmakers toyed with a statewide smoking ban.

Brown, too, is a veteran of the tobacco war. Reynolds American hired him in 2008 to fight a similar smoke-free proposal in Corpus Christi. One of his jobs was to coordinate with bar owners. That fight also featured an opposition group that materialized for the occasion: the Corpus Christi Bar Operators’ Association.

The ordinance passed anyway and went into effect last year. Nevertheless, Johnson said he hired Brown after hearing good reviews of his work from friends in Port Aransas and Corpus Christi.

Brown sees his job now as nearly the same one he performed in 2008: helping to stitch together a campaign to stop the proposed ban.

Apart from the bar owners, the opposition includes the San Antonio Restaurant Association — and presumably M. Edward Lopez, a lobbyist representing Fast Eddy’s pool halls in San Antonio and an arm of Philip Morris USA in Austin.

“We have regular conference calls with someone from the restaurants, someone from the bars, someone from — whoever wants to join our coalition, we’re happy to have them,” Brown said. “I just don’t think anybody would be surprised that businesses are trying to protect their business, just like the bars, just like the tobacco companies.”

Just don’t expect to see Big Tobacco when it’s time to step up to the microphone.

By Greg Jefferson
Mysanantonio, 26 Iuni 2010

Cigarette Mail Ban Hitting NY Tribe’s Businesses

SALAMANCA, N.Y. – A new law taking effect Tuesday will ban the shipment of cigarettes through the mail and no one will feel the effects more than western New York’s Seneca Indian Nation.

Seneca-owned businesses dominate the discount mail-order cigarette industry. Tribal leaders say the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act will gut the nation’s $100 million a year tobacco economy and eliminate 3,000 jobs held by workers in and outside the tribe.

Already, mail-order businesses in Salamanca were shutting their doors.

Supporters see the PACT Act as a way to limit teenagers’ access to cigarettes and stop smokers from dodging state taxes. But opponents say it’s an attack on tribal sovereignty and a ploy by big tobacco to regain market share being lost to native brands.

Meanwhile, New York smokers were facing a huge hike in the tobacco tax. The state tax on a pack of cigarettes will jump to the highest in the country.

Gov. David Paterson used an emergency spending bill to force legislators to approve the huge tobacco tax hike. The tax on a pack of cigarettes will skyrocket from $2.75 to $4.35, and the tax on cigars and chewing tobacco will climb from 46 percent of the retail price to 75 percent.

In a region where people can easily travel from New Jersey to New York to Connecticut, a higher tax here may encourage smokers to buy their cigarettes elsewhere. New York’s tobacco tax will be much higher than the $3 per pack in Connecticut and the $2.70 per pack in New Jersey.

“I think people will find other ways, go out of state and stuff to buy cigarettes,” said Parkchester Resident Tiffany Barnwell.

Or they could decide to kick the habit. The American Lung Association predicts the tax will encourage many smokers to quit.

“About 15 percent decrease in teen smoking will result as initiation of this tax, and a 5 percent adult smoking decrease from the tax itself,” said Scott Santarella, CEO of the American Lung Association New York.

For the hardcore smokers, even a breathtaking tax hike won’t stop them. “You can tax us. We’ll always keep smoking, because we’re smokers, you know what I’m saying?” said White Plains resident Drew Davis.

The new tax takes effect September 1.

Paterson said the hike, combined with a plan to collect sales tax on cigarettes sold by Native American tribes, will raise more than $400 million a year.

Wcbstv, Jun 28, 2010

Government banned from dealing with tobacco industry

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – GOVERNMENT officials and employees have been prohibited to interact with tobacco industry members under a joint circular issued by the Department of Health (DoH) and Civil Service Commission (CSC), pursuant to the government’s anti-smoking campaign.

Under Joint Memorandum Circular 2010-01, government workers are banned to interact with any tobacco corporation or company, except “when strictly necessary for the latter’s effective regulation, supervision, or control.”

Health Secretary Esperanza I. Cabral, in an interview, said the memorandum is based on the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control signed in 2003, which the Senate ratified in 2005.

Signatory states have committed to implement “public health policies with respect to tobacco control.”

“This [circular] is in keeping with our anti-smoking campaign,” Ms. Cabral said.

The memorandum prohibits, among others, the acceptance of gifts, donations and sponsorships, “which may affect the functions of [government] offices” from tobacco entities.

It also bans public officials and their family members from “accepting employment or recommend any one to any position in any private enterprise connected with the tobacco industry.”

It added: “Public officials or employees, regardless of status, shall avoid conflicts of interest with the tobacco industry at all times. When a conflict of interest arises, he/she shall resign from his position in the tobacco industry within 30 days from his/her assumption of office and/or divest himself/herself of his/her shareholdings or interest within 60 days from assumption.”

Ms. Cabral said the memorandum supplements a CSC memorandum issued last year that prohibited smoking inside government offices and within 10 meters from the entrance of the agencies.

“CSC will impose penalties for violators [of the memorandum],” she added.

CSC Chairman Francisco T. Duque III was not available for comment.

Officials from Philip Morris and Fortune Tobacco, Corp. declined to comment.

“I could not make a comment because I haven’t read the memo yet,” Carmen L. Herse, Philip Morris counsel, said by phone.

Fortune Tobacco said no authorized official was available to issue a comment.

By Prinz P. Magtulis

Smokers back extension of ban to play areas and cars carrying children

Three years after the smoking ban controversially came into force in England, a substantial proportion of smokers want to see restrictions extended to children’s play areas and smoking in cars. Just under half of smokers support a ban in play areas, while 61% support a ban in cars with children.

Surveys by YouGov, commissioned by the anti-smoking organisation Ash, suggest the ban is increasingly popular with the public as a whole. More than three out of four people want it to be extended into other areas of public life, a statistic that is likely to be seized upon by health campaigners.

Around 80% of people in England now back the ban in workplaces, including pubs and restaurants, compared with just over 70% when it was implemented three years ago this week (a ban was introduced in Scotland in 2006). Among the general population, 73% support a ban in children’s play areas while 77% want a ban in cars carrying children, according to exclusive findings of the survey shared with the Observer.

The findings are based on five separate surveys carried out by YouGov. The first was conducted in April 2007, almost three months before the legislation came into force, and the last was carried out in March 2010. The polling suggests some of the greatest changes have taken place in the attitudes of smokers.

Half of all smokers now support the smoke-free law, and nearly one in four strongly supports it. Opposition among smokers appears to be ebbing away with only one smoker in six strongly opposing the ban. The change appears to be underpinned by a deep-seated shift in smokers’ attitudes, according to Ash. It claims smokers are increasingly aware of the danger from secondhand smoke, with 75% believing it is harmful to children’s health.

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said the findings showed the government had to act. “Smoking just one cigarette, even with the car window open, creates a greater concentration of secondhand smoke than a whole evening’s smoking in a pub or a bar,” Shovelton said. “A ban on smoking in the car with children would prevent some of the 22,000 new cases each year of asthma, caused as a direct result of passive smoking. This overwhelming evidence of public support can no longer be ignored, and as the only UK charity supporting everyone affected by lung disease we are calling for this legislation.” An early day motion in parliament demanding a ban on smoking in cars where children are present has been signed by 40 MPs.

But Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, warned politicians to think twice before implementing further changes to the law. “Any attempt to extend the smoking ban to outdoor areas or private spaces, including cars, will be resisted strongly,” Clark said. “Smokers are fed up with being the whipping boys for politicians and campaigners like Ash.”

Growing support for the ban is consistent with attitudes in other countries such as Ireland, which outlawed smoking in public places in 2004. But Ash said that despite the legislation one non-smoker in eight continues to be exposed to tobacco smoke during their work, often at the entrances. The group also claimed there was no objective evidence the hospitality industry overall had suffered as a result of smoke-free regulations. “England’s smoke-free law has been a huge success and has attracted more support with each passing year since it was implemented,” said Martin Dockrell, director of research and policy at Ash. “The tobacco industry managed to scare smokers and the hospitality trade into opposing the law at the time, but three years on opposition has all but vanished.”

A survey on behalf of the Office for National Statistics indicates that there has been a net increase of 3% in the number of people going to pubs since restrictions were imposed. But Clark said it was “ridiculous” to suggest the ban had not had an impact on pubs and clubs. “The evidence is staring people in the face,” he said. “Thousands of pubs have closed since the ban was introduced.”

A recent report in the British Medical Journal concluded that the smoking ban had led to a 2.4% drop in heart attacks in its first year.


■ 2m children live in households where they are exposed to cigarette smoke.

■ One smoker emits five times more fine particles into a car than are emitted per mile by the car’s exhaust pipe.

■ It is estimated that every year passive smoking causes 25,500 new cases of respiratory tract infection in children under three, as well as 121,400 new cases of middle-ear infection and 22,600 cases of wheezing and asthma.

■ About 1 in 8 boys and 1 in 10 girls have a long-term respiratory disease.

Source: British Lung Foundation

FDA May Ban Marijuana E-Cigarettes

The Food and Drug Administration [FDA] is considering whether to ban the sale of e-cigarettes advertised to administer “potent” marijuana to users “at the office, or even on the plane,” and with ads suggesting use of the product to get high in public without being detected: “now I can get high . . . anywhere without a lighter, smell, shake, smoke and unwanted attention.” This latest escalation follows earlier product advertisements for e-cigarettes used to administer Cialis.

“Yes, now smokers can get an erection, and lose some of their inhibitions, all from a simple product which they advise can be used in the workplace, shopping malls, and even on airplanes, all without any testing or inspection, much less approval, from the only agency authorized to approve any device for the administration of any drug — even relatively benign ones like aspirin, over-the-counter sleeping pills, etc.” — says Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the organization which promoted the FDA to crack down on nicotine e-cigarettes, and to warn the public about dangers of cancer from using them.

Ads for the new product seemingly invite users not only to violate laws against smoking generally in public places, but also laws against the use of marijuana itself, suggesting that you can now smoke weed in public without attracting attention: “the latest buzz in the pot world: Vapor Rush . . . Vapor Rush is a new way to smoke bud that allows you to smoke anywhere without a lighter, smell, shake, smoke and unwanted attention.” Users are invited to get high from “three different varieties [of marijuana]: haze, bliss and rush . . .taken from potent sativa and indica strains of cannabis.”

Even websites which are generally supportive of e-cigarettes administering nicotine admit “the unveiling of [this] product [is] sure to take the debate over e-cigarettes to a new level. . . .With its emphasis on delivering doses of psychoactive THC, Vapor Rush is clearly designed to get users high, even though the manufacturer instructs customers to ‘visit your local dispensary’ to get e-cigarette cartridges.”

Another warns: “I can’t joke about this part. Now, on top of these dangers, there may be additional ones as users are able to ‘smoke’ marijuana in their workplaces, and in other public places including airplanes surreptitiously (without any smell or smoke as the sellers brag), and where bystanders – including young children, the elderly, those with a variety of medical problems, and those who do not wish to get even a little bit high – can be exposed. This is a real problem. And this is how the FDA might win its argument that e-cigs are drug delivery devices.”

The FDA has ruled the e-cigarettes designed to administer nicotine are drug-delivery devices, and are “illegal” because they haven’t been approved by the agency for distribution. Although it is now clear that the FDA has jurisdiction over these devices, there is a question whether the new federal statute giving the FDA jurisdiction over ordinary tobacco cigarettes limits the FDA’s power to regulate nicotine e-cigarettes.

“But e-cigarettes which administer marijuana, Cialis, Viagra, etc. are obviously not affected by a new federal statute dealing with tobacco cigarettes and nicotine administration products, so the FDA’s ability to immediately ban this new product, and to initiate appropriate enforcement proceedings, is obvious unfettered,” says Banzhaf, suggesting that continued failure to take any effective action will only further undermine the agency’s reputation and credibility.

“If manufacturers — or even users, since some fill the e-cigarette cartridges themselves — are already adding not only nicotine but also Cialis and marijuana, will the FDA stand up or wait until they literally begin marketing them to administer heroin, crack, and even more potent drugs,” asks public interest law professor John Banzhaf, Executive Director of ASH.

ASH notes that if these new marijuana e-cigarettes are used to help users get high in the workplace and on airplanes as advertised, those around them will likewise be subjected to some of the marijuana which they claim is very “potent.” This potentially includes infants and toddlers on airplanes, fellow workers in the workplace, the elderly, and those with a variety of medical conditions and special sensitivities which make them even more susceptible, warns ASH.

“Manufacturers should not be able to foist off on the public, and use both customers and those around them as human guinea pigs, for products containing dangerous and even intoxicating drugs which haven’t been tested — much less approved — by any agency,” argues ASH.

Professor of Public Interest Law at GWU,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
FELLOW, World Technology Network, and
Executive Director and Chief Counsel
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
America’s First Antismoking Organization
2013 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006, USA
(202) 659-4310 // (703) 527-8418

Brown County Tavern League sells e-cigarettes as alternative to smoking

In advance of the state’s smoking ban on July 5, the Brown County Tavern League is selling electronic cigarettes, battery-powered devices that use liquid nicotine to imitate a cigarette’s taste and effects.

The league began selling the devices in March, and the demand from bars and taverns around the state has been “crazy,” said Brown County Tavern League President Sue Robinson.

Made to look like cigarettes, electronic cigarettes do not use tobacco. The battery heats the nicotine when the user inhales, creating a vapor that gives the appearance of smoke.

“We’re hoping that it’ll keep our smoking customers comfortable and coming to our business,” said Robinson, who sells the devices through her tavern, Bourbon Street, at 821 S. Broadway.

When the ban takes effect, smoking in public indoor spaces will be prohibited, making it illegal to smoke any tobacco product, such as a cigar, cigarette or pipe. The electronic cigarettes would allow bar patrons to have a sense of smoking in a tavern without breaking the law, Robinson said.

Units can cost more than $100, but the league charges $60 each because Robinson said the organization buys directly from a distributor called AirE8. The league also sells 10 refills of nicotine for $15. One refill of nicotine can equal one-and-a-half packs of normal cigarettes, which is less expensive than a pack of cigarettes, the cheapest being $5.59, without tax.

Robinson said she does not think the devices will replace cigarettes. In her experience, smokers have used the devices to help quit smoking.

Electronic cigarettes are advertised as being healthier than regular cigarettes because they allow the user to add the amount of nicotine, possibly choosing not to have any at all.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it does not have scientific proof that e-cigarettes are safe or effective as a smoking cessation tool. The agency has tried to stop the devices from being imported into the country. The devices have been banned in Canada and Australia.

While not worse than regular cigarettes, the inconsistent amount of nicotine and lack of quality control make e-cigarettes dangerous, said Connie Olson, executive director of Community Action for Healthy Living, which promotes smoke-free lifestyles.

“They pose different risks,” she said. “But … they haven’t been studied.”

Someone who smokes a pack a day, for example, may take four to five doses a day, she said. Without a way of monitoring how much they add, it is possible to overdose, which can kill a user.

The group also is concerned that making nicotine available in different flavors has a higher potential of attracting younger people, Olson said. Robinson, however, said the league is not concerned about health effects because the e-cigarettes have fewer carcinogens.

By Ilissa Gilmore
Greenbaypressgazette, June 27, 2010

Asia’s tobacco growers oppose new control

Jakarta ― Tobacco growers from Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and India are up in arms over a World Health Organization (WHO) proposal that they claim would kill as much as 50 million jobs in the tobacco industry and related fields around the world.

The first Asia Tobacco Forum, held in the Indonesian capital last week, discussed proposed guidelines under the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) that would ban the use of ingredients, such as sweeteners, stimulants and spices, to reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products.

Tobacco growers from the six Asian countries signed a formal declaration opposing the FCTC proposal for its potentially devastating effect on the industry, its lack of scientific basis and its violation of international trade laws.

Roger Quarles, president of the International Tobacco Growers Association (ITGA), said the proposal would have a serious impact on the jobs and livelihood of millions of tobacco farmers and workers in related areas.

“We urge all governments to reject the proposal to ban tobacco ingredients and to investigate other alternatives that can achieve public health goals while protecting the millions of jobs dependent on tobacco growing,” he said. The ITGA is an organization of tobacco growers from 22 countries, representing 85 percent of the world’s tobacco production.

The WHO FCTC is a treaty aimed at stopping the global tobacco epidemic. Proposed guidelines including Articles 9 and 10, which deal with ingredient bans in tobacco products, will be taken up during the next WHO FCTC meeting in Uruguay in November.

However, tobacco growers have questioned the proposed guidelines for their lack of scientific basis, since the FCTC assumes the ingredients are being added to enhance the appeal of tobacco products.

The growers noted these ingredients are essential components of traditional blended or American-style cigarettes, which account for half of the global market for such products.

These traditional blended cigarettes, containing a combination of burley, Virginia and Oriental tobaccos, need extra ingredients to make the blend come together. Without the additives, they would not be palatable.

They fear the proposed FCTC guidelines would effectively lead to the elimination of these traditional blended cigarettes from the world market. Once this happens, burley growers say demand for their produce will fall and their industry would immediately be decimated.

Soedaryanto, chairman of the Indonesia Tobacco Community Alliance (AMTI), also criticized the lack of transparency in the FCTC discussions. He noted tobacco growers in Asia, who are already some of the poorest in their countries, have been excluded from discussions, even though they will be the most affected by the WHO proposal.

“No other crop currently exists that can provide similar economic benefits to those communities,” he said.

Soedaryanto said the group will lobby with the Indonesian government to urge other countries to reject these measures. Indonesia has not ratified the FCTC.

There will be a significant impact not just on the tobacco growers, but also for the countries’ fiscal revenues and employment in other industries.

Tobacco growers in India, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand produce 1 million metric tons of tobacco leaf and $33 billion in finished products. Around 50 million jobs are linked to these countries’ tobacco industries, which generated tax revenues of more than $16 billion in 2009.

Korean tobacco growers are also expected to feel the pinch, since there are around 7,000 families involved in growing tobacco, half of which is burley. Burley production in Korea is estimated at 8,000 tons a year, worth 64 billion won.

“The proposal will do serious damage to the Korean tobacco industry. Many of the households are from the older generation, whose income depends fully on tobacco. It won’t be easy for them to switch to other crops,” said Choi Kyu-sup, director of the Korea Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association.

While it is clear the objective of the FCTC is to reduce the use of tobacco to safeguard people’s health, tobacco growers said it should not be at the expense of their livelihood.

“We need to strike a balance. Tobacco is the world’s number one choice for relaxation and it is legal. We have recognized the harmful effects of tobacco use. But this is a matter of choice. Obviously people still choose tobacco even knowing the risks involved. No one is forcing them to use tobacco,” Quarles said.

By Cathy Rose A. Garcia

New York’s high-priced cigarettes business boom for NEPA

Smoking has certainly become a luxury in New York after state legislators recently approved a hefty cigarette tax that makes the Empire State the most expensive place to smoke in the nation.

However, the tax – which raises the price for a pack of smokes to about $9.20 statewide and nearly $11 in New York City – has put smiles on the faces of cigarette store owners just across the border in Pennsylvania who traditionally benefited from New Yorkers looking for a cheaper smoke.

“We have a lot of New Yorkers that come here, and I expect more,” said Rene Kizer, store manager of Smokin’ Joe’s Tobacco Shop in Beach Lake, Wayne County, a 6-mile hop from the New York border.

Ms. Kizer sells a pack of premium cigarettes for just under $6 and a carton of cigarettes for $59, compared to $100 just over the Delaware River in New York.

On June 21, New York legislators tacked on the additional $1.60 tax setting the per pack tax rate at $4.35 – the highest cigarette tax in the U.S. and slightly below the price for a generic pack of smokes in Pennsylvania – including taxes.

Minutes from the New York border, out-of-state smokers from New York and New Jersey looking to save a buck have made up “almost all” of the customers at Smokers Choice in Milford, Pike County, even before this most recent cigarette tax hike, said store employee Natasha Marcial.

But after hearing about the latest smoke tax across the border, she’s certain it will boost business.

“Absolutely, hands down,” Ms. Marcial said. “You’ll be paying almost double (in New York).”

The higher taxes is “good for business” at the smoke shop, she added.

Even tobacco shops in Lackawanna County are bracing for an influx of New Yorkers stocking up on cigarettes. At Tobacco Road Smoke Shop in Scranton, tourists from New York often purchase multiple packs of cigarettes because they are cheaper, a worker said. New York’s new tax will likely cause a rise in business from New Yorkers, she added.

Manhar Patel, an employee at Cigar & Cigarette Outlet in Milford, put it simply.

“We are cheaper,” he said. “They will come.”

Thetimes-tribune: June 26, 2010

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Young Barack Obama

Young Barack Obama Smoking

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Young Barack Obama Smoking

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Young Barack Obama Smoking

New Cigarette Regulations Go into Effect

In 2009, the tobacco industry officially fell under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and, for the first time, tobacco products became subject to federal regulation. As of June 22, cigarette manufacturers are no longer allowed to label their products as “light,” “ultra light,” “mild,” or “low tar.” The FDA has argued that these labels were designed to deceive consumers by suggesting that “light” cigarettes were less harmful than regular cigarettes, or that the risk of cancer and other smoking-related diseases was lessened by choosing a “light” or “ultra light” cigarette. Tobacco companies counter by saying that the terms “light” and “mild” refer to the flavor of the cigarette in question, and should not be taken to mean anything about the safety level of the product.

But, will changing the name of a cigarette — for instance, from “Marlboro Light” to “Marlboro Gold” — really change Americans’ smoking habits, or prevent kids and teens from picking up the smoking habit?

Recent studies show that nearly 21 percent of all American adults smoke. More alarming, the CDC reports that about 3,000 kids under the age of 18 start smoking every day, and underage smokers account for 20 percent of all American smokers. One in five deaths in America is attributable to smoking. Given these alarming statistics, America has a vested interest in finding a way to limit smoking. What’s not clear, however, is how many people choose their cigarette based on a perceived lower risk from it, or how changing the labels will affect that choice.

Until I quit over 15 years ago, I was a pack-and-a-half a day smoker. My cigarette of choice was Camel Light. I did not choose my brand because I thought that light cigarettes would be less harmful to me than the full-strength version. Jokes about going to the doctor to be diagnosed with “light cancer” aside, I knew that my Camel Lights were just as dangerous as my father’s Vantages and my boyfriend’s Marlboro Reds.

Many of the women I knew in my small Midwestern town chose light cigarettes from various brands, and not a single one of us, if pressed, would have said we had chosen it to lower our risk of cancer. People choose a given cigarette brand for myriad reasons — taste, image, cost, availability — and none of these factors have a thing to do with perceived health risks. Americans know that cigarette smoking is dangerous, and we do it by the millions anyway. Labeling changes do not get at the core issue of why people pick up smoking and continue to smoke, even in the face of potentially deadly health consequences.

Most Americans will likely continue to smoke their favored brand, even if they have to ask for it a little differently at the gas station or tobacco shop. Much as raising prices on cigarettes did not significantly lower the smoking risk — in fact, the number of American smokers rose in 2009 — changing the labeling will not stop significant numbers of people from smoking.

While the labeling changes are a good step for truth in advertising, they do not get at the heart of why people smoke. The addictive nature of tobacco ensures that people are unlikely to stop simply because their cigarette pack changes or they have to ask for “Marlboro Silvers” instead of “Marlboro Ulta Lights.” Until we address the systemic causes of smoking in America, all the label changes, warning labels, and price hikes in the world won’t keep American smokers from lighting up.

Massachusetts Senate casino bill would allow smoking

BOSTON — Six years after Massachusetts passed a ban on smoking in workplaces, bars and restaurants because of public health concerns, Senate leaders are backing a gambling bill that would allow smoking in new casinos proposed for the state.

The proposal is drawing criticism from antismoking advocates, who say the proposed legislation would put casino patrons and workers at a health risk, while also upending the ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces.

Under legislation briefly debated Wednesday, the state would license three casinos and allow smoking in up to 25 percent of their gaming areas. The bill also requires signs marking the smoking areas and “appropriate ventilation so as to minimize the effect of the smoke on the nondesignated areas.”

Advocates say banning smoking would drive gamblers to other states where casino smoking is allowed.

“The marketing study has shown without smoking, it would dramatically affect your revenues and the amount people play,” said a casino supporter, Sen. Steven Pangiatakos. The Lowell Democrat noted casinos in Connecticut allow smoking.

Sen. Richard Tisei of Wakefield said he supports allowing smoking sections in casinos. Tisei, the Republican leader in the Senate, said he had opposed the statewide workplace smoking ban.

“Anybody who’s ever been to a casino knows that smoking takes place in a casino,” said Tisei, a smoker. “If gambling’s a vice, smoking’s a vice, so why are you going to allow gambling but not smoking?”

Russet Morrow Breslau, executive director of the antismoking advocacy group Tobacco Free Mass, said Massachusetts could become the first state allowing casinos to offer smoking after passing a statewide ban.

“This is step backwards in terms of protecting the rights of patrons and workers,” she said. “Casino workers will be exposed for an entire shift to carcinogens.”

The Massachusetts law passed in 2004 made exceptions for private clubs and cigar bars.

Morrow Breslau said if casinos are allowed to offer smoking, they may even lose more customers than they gain because many people prefer nonsmoking environments.

Mark Hymovitz, the director of government relations and advocacy for the American Cancer Society, said smoking in casinos would force casino workers to choose “between their jobs and their health.”

Local businesses in communities with casinos also will face unfair competition if casinos can offer smoking, Hymovitz said.

“Allowing smoking would create an uneven playing field,” he said.

One proposed casino site is in the western Massachusetts community of Palmer.

“I personally do not want second-hand smoke in casinos, but if legislators feel it will bring revenues into three gaming facilities, the legislators have thought it out clearly,” said Robert Young, spokesman for Palmer Businesses for a Palmer Casino.

A study commissioned by the Senate to look at the potential revenues from casinos in Massachusetts said the three slot machine parlors in Delaware lost more than 11 percent in revenue in 2003 after the state banned smoking. The report also noted that in the years following the ban, revenues rebounded to pre-ban levels.

The report concluded that “smoking policies must be competitive with nearby regional competition.” Connecticut’s two casinos, which are both owned by Indian tribes, allow smoking and have resisted efforts by the state to ban the practice.

Sen. Susan Tucker, D-Andover, a leading casino opponent, is supporting amendments to ban smoking from the casinos. She said allowing smoking in casinos is an “indefensible policy” and predicted an amendment to ban smoking would pass. However, Tucker said she does not believe the smoking ban will last long.

“If smoking helps (casinos) make money, there will be smoking,” she said.

Atlantic City banned smoking in the city’s 11 casinos in 2008, but repealed the ban a month after it went into effect because of complaints by casinos.

Senate votes to ban smoking in future casinos

Gambling? Maybe. Smoking? No.

That’s the message from the Massachusetts Senate, which voted 24-15 today in favor of an amendment to expanded gambling legislation that would ban smoking in casinos. The vote was a rare rebuke for Senate leaders who wanted to allow smoking in one-fourth of the floor space at the casinos.

As the Senate took up a host of amendments on the second day of debate on the bill, leaders warned that the state will lose as much as $94 million in gambling revenue if it does not allow smoking in its casinos. They pointed out that Connecticut’s casinos allow smoking.

“Only in Massachusetts would we have a casino bill and try to build a politically correct casino,” said Richard R. Tisei, the Senate Republican leader and candidate for lieutenant governor, urging his colleagues to reject the amendment. “Have any of you people ever been to a casino and understand what it takes for a casino to be successful and to draw people in?”

But supporters of the amendment said second-hand smoke will put casino workers’ lives at risk. They pointed out that Massachusetts banned smoking in most workplaces six years ago and that a Harvard School of Public Health study has shown the ban saves 600 lives a year.

“I thought we were trying to create jobs here,” said Susan C. Fargo, a Lincoln Democrat who urged her colleagues to approve the amendment. “Why create jobs for people who will sicken and die? This is the most hypocritical thing I’ve seen in my 14 years in the Senate.”

The bill being considered by the Senate would license three casinos in the state.

If the Senate approves a plan to expand gambling, it will have to be reconciled with a bill passed by the House in April, which calls for two casinos and slot machines at the state’s racetracks.

By Michael Levenson
Boston, June 24, 2010

Has Scottish parliament power to ban cigarette vending machines?

Imperial Tobacco is taking legal action to overturn plans to stop the open display of cigarettes and cigars in shops and to ban cigarette vending machines in Scotland.

The company claims that the Scottish parliament, which approved the measures earlier this year, does not have the legislative competence to prohibit tobacco displays and cigarette vending machines.

The legal challenge, which will be heard next week in the Scottish civil courts, the court of session, is the latest attempt by the industry to prevent sweeping new controls of the sale of tobacco coming into force across the UK.

In April, Imperial began legal proceedings to block a similar ban on displays in England and Wales, which comes into force in October 2011 under the Health Act 2009. In February its cigarette vending machine subsidiary Sinclair Collis applied for a judicial review of the ban on tobacco vending machines under the same legislation. It claims the measures are unreasonable and lack sufficient health evidence.

Scotland was the first part of the UK to introduce a ban on smoking in public places, in 2006, and Holyrood followed Westminster’s legislation on tobacco displays and vending machines earlier this with parallel measures.

The ban on open displays of tobacco products will come into force in Scotland for larger retailers next year and small shops in 2013, while the ban on cigarette vending machines, usually found in pubs, restaurants and hotels, begins in 2011.

Imperial Tobacco claims the new measures are an attempt to regulate the sale and supply of goods to consumers, a matter reserved to the Westminster parliament. The bans also affect the freedom of trade provisions between Scotland and England under the 1707 Act of Union, again something which Holyrood is prevented by law from doing. Imperial said retailers would be required to comply with the new legislation at “significant cost and on pain of criminal penalty”, while tobacco firms faced having their freedom to compete affected significantly.

The Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini QC, insists the act is entirely legal. She said the legislation was part of a programme to improve public health in Scotland by reducing smoking, which kills 13,500 Scots a year and is the most preventable cause of premature death.

Point-of-sale displays serve “an advertising, normalising and marketing function” in order to make products on show attractive to potential buyers, the Scottish government argues. Some studies show that banning open displays cuts the odds of someone becoming an under-age smoker by 50%. But Gareth Davis, Imperial’s chief executive, said: “There is no credible evidence to support the idea that children start smoking or that adult smokers continue to smoke as a result of the display of tobacco products.

“If this misguided legislation is implemented it will simply fuel the growth in the illicit trade of tobacco and create a huge cost burden for retailers who are already under considerable pressure.”

The Scottish government said it would “rigorously defend” the legislation. “It is within the context of protecting future generations from the devastating effects of smoking that the measures set out in our act should be viewed.”

By Severin Carrell
guardian.co.uk, 24 June 2010

Online stores fall foul of tobacco law

The Foodtown and Woolworths supermarket chains will remove the words “light” and “mild” from cigarette adverts on their online shopping websites, after the Herald told them of an official warning against using the “potentially misleading” terms.

The Commerce Commission in 2008 issued a public warning to New Zealand’s three main tobacco companies over “light” and “mild” on tobacco packaging, saying the terms may mislead consumers and therefore risked breaching the Fair Trading Act.

The commission said consumers may believe they were exposing themselves to less harm by smoking those cigarettes, but there was “no such thing as a safe, or safer, cigarette”.

British American Tobacco NZ’s head of corporate and regulatory affairs Susan Jones said her company, and rivals Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris, had all stopped using the terms light and mild on their products. The three companies’ products accounted for 99 per cent of tobacco sold in New Zealand.

On the virtually identical cigarette pages of their shopping websites, Foodtown and Woolworths – part of the Progressive Enterprises group – have each been offering around 10 light or mild brands.

These are in addition to products with colour names, like gold or blue, and the use of new descriptive words like “subtle” or “mellow” – which tobacco control campaigners say are the new code words, well understood by smokers, to denote light or mild.

Progressive’s general manager of merchandise Murray Johnston said last night, “We had not been advised by the Commerce Commission that advice regarding cigarette labelling had been given to cigarette producers. Now that we are aware of this issue, the information on our online shopping websites will be changed within 24 hours.”

The commission said it was not aware supermarkets were using the light and mild descriptors for tobacco on their websites. It would be “assessing the information to see what, if any, further action may be appropriate”.

The Ministry of Health said that, in response to a complaint, it was seeking legal advice on whether new phrases being used on cigarette packets breached the smoke-free environments laws:

“The ministry is interested in ensuring that terms that could potentially mislead consumers are not used on tobacco products.”

But the smoke-free act and regulations did not cover use of potentially misleading terms such as light and mild.

Associate Professor Nick Wilson and colleagues at Otago University found last year in a study of 1208 discarded cigarette packs, that 8 per cent had colour words like “original silver”, indicating the contents were what used to be called light or mild, while 2 per cent carried words suggestive of mildness, like “refined”.

They said in the NZ Medical Journal that when the words light and mild were banned from tobacco packets overseas, manufacturers kept these cigarettes on the market and applied new words like smooth and fine.

Before the new rules came into effect, they developed new packet colour differences to help smokers to continue to identify the light and mild brands.

The researchers want the Government to force all tobacco into plain packets with pictorial health warnings – the policy which will come into effect in Australia in 2012 and which has been promoted by submitters at the New Zealand Maori affairs select committee’s tobacco inquiry.

By Martin Johnston
Nzherald, Jun 22, 2010

Smoking banned at airports

JEDDAH: The Council of Ministers urged the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) to ban smoking at all airports and their facilities in the Kingdom on Monday. It also advised GACA to impose a fine of SR200 on people who violate the new regulations.

The Cabinet meeting, chaired by Crown Prince Sultan, deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, approved the recommendations of the 150-member Shoura Council.

Although the Kingdom passed anti-smoking regulations in August 2003, the habit is growing among its population. There are six million smokers in the country who puff away SR8 billion every year. According to one report, smoking-related diseases kill at least 33 people in the Kingdom each month.

Saudi Arabia ranks fourth in the world in terms of cigarette consumption and 41st in terms of population. As many as 13 billion cigarettes are imported into the Kingdom every year.

About 10 percent of the Kingdom’s total smokers are women and 19.3 percent are teenagers. Studies have shown that 13 to 15 percent of young men and women live with smokers and are subjected to passive smoking.

The Cabinet meeting reviewed the current foreign tour of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and hoped his visits to Canada, the United States, Morocco and France would produce results.

The Cabinet referred to the launch of Ghazal-1, the first Saudi car designed by King Saud University students, adding it boded well for the Kingdom’s decision to invest in a knowledge economy.

The Cabinet decided to sign an accord with South Africa for the repatriation of convicts and accused in criminal cases.

It also approved the contracts that were signed to carry out a major housing project in Jazan, accommodating people displaced as a result of attacks by Yemeni intruders last year. The project includes 6,000 housing units, 31 mosques, 35 schools, five health centers and infrastructure facilities.

Jun 21, 2010

New cigarette rules bring new confusion

MID-MICHIGAN – Smokers may be in for some confusion at the counter now that a new law bans certain labels on their packaging.

ABC12’s Iris Perez explains how the law aims to nip smoking myths in the bud and why some smokers say it’s not going to work.

Josephine Tasley has been a smoker for nearly 30 years. “First thing you do normally when you wake up is a cup of coffee and a cigarette. It’s very addicting.”

While Tasley holds up what she wishes would be her last cigarette, she feels like the target of discrimination now that a new federal law bans the words “light,” “mild” and “low tar” from cigarette packaging. “It’s dangerous. So they’re not making things better, they’re making things worse.

“If you’re smoking, you’re addicted. I don’t care if it’s a light, mild, an addiction is inside your mind,” Tasley said.

Dan Spaniola runs Paul’s Pipe Shop in downtown Flint. He feels the new regulations will only do one thing. “It’s just going to confuse people.”

And confuse the companies themselves. “Right now, just in ordering, we want lights and we put down lights. And the company thinks we’re talking about something else and sends us the wrong product,” Spaniola said.

Some cigarette companies aren’t phased by the law and are using colors instead of the banned words.

Abdul Wsea Samaha is is the manager at Smoker’s Paradise. “Full flavor is red, light is going to switch to gold, ultra light is going to be orange.”

He thinks the change will do nothing more than confuse customers. “People think they changed the cigarettes. The first problem you’re going to face is like this is not the same one I’m smoking, this is a different one, and they think it’s different.”

This man feels it’s all a waste of time and money. “Why change the name? Drop the price and then everybody could be economically sound.”

“With the recession we in right now. People stressed out. Lack of jobs. Smoke a cigarette,” said James L. Williams.

Tasley says the law is giving her a new goal. “I’m going to try and quit. My next thing I’m working on.”

Both managers I spoke with say the majority of their cigarette customers buy the light brand and don’t expect the law to hurt their business.

Alcohol, tobacco cut from free trade deal

Health activists are lauding the Commerce Ministry’s push to remove alcohol and tobacco products from a list of products covered by a free trade deal with the European Union.

Center for Alcohol Studies director Thaksaphon Thamarangsi yesterday said alcohol and tobacco should be considered “special products” and should not be included on the list of products to be discussed at trade negotiations with the EU.

Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Pholbutr’s decision to exclude alcoholic beverages and tobacco from the talks will help safeguard Thai consumers from an influx of hazardous products, which will become cheaper if they are listed under the free trade deal, he said.

The trade pact will also force governments to soften their alcohol consumption control policy, Dr Thaksaphon said.

About 80% of imported alcohol from the EU is well packaged and designed, and could attract young drinkers to try their products, he said.

“If these two products are included on the list, they will be exempt from customs tax,” he said.

“The price of imported alcohol and tobacco will be cheaper and these products, which damage health and society, will be more accessible to young drinkers and smokers.”

Studies show that more teenagers are drinking alcohol on a regular basis than in the past.

Anti-alcohol and tobacco activists recently petitioned Mr Alongkorn not to bow to pressure from alcohol and tobacco producers.

Imported alcohol products attract 60% customs tax. The volume of alcohol imports from the EU last year – valued at 5.14 billion baht – accounted for half of total alcohol imports to the country, Anti-Alcohol Network coordinator Kamron Choodecha said.

“Free trade agreements are important for economic growth as well as the country’s development and competitiveness, but the effect of alcohol on society should be taken into account,” Mr Kamron said.

Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre director Siriwan Pityaransrit said the removal of tobacco from the Thai-EU trade talks will benefit the public.

An estimated 10.9 million Thais smoke cigarettes. If the customs tax is reduced following the trade talks, the price of a packet of cigarettes will be at least five baht cheaper. This will lead to an increase of at least 4% in the number of smokers, she said.

Flavored Tobacco Industry Faces Dual Challenges

Indonesian tobacco growers and their regional counterparts ended a two-day meeting, dubbed the first Asia Tobacco Forum, in Jakarta on Tuesday by revealing a plan that basically consisted of doing what they have already been doing — pleading with national governments not to adopt the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Countries that adopt the framework would, among other things, commit themselves to ban flavored cigarettes, which include clove-favored cigarettes, or kretek, the mainstay of the Indonesian tobacco industry.

Meanwhile, the domestic tobacco industry is fighting on another front.

The World Trade Organization on Tuesday began hearing an Indonesian trade dispute with the United States over the latter’s ban of flavored cigarettes.

Indonesia claims the ban is discriminatory because menthol cigarettes, most of which are produced in the US, were not banned.

Citing numerous studies, the US says flavored cigarettes encourage teens and children to begin smoking, and make it harder to quit.

The stakes are high for tobacco farmers and cigarette producers in Indonesia, where a toddler recently gained international renown for his clove cigarette habit.

The industry employes an estimated 6 million people, including tobacco farmers, production workers and vendors.

Around Rp 180 trillion ($20 billion) worth of cigarettes are produced each year, including $564 million of exports in 2009.

The industry claims millions of jobs could be at stake over the WHO framework and the US ban on clove cigarettes.

Sudaryanto, the chairman of the Indonesian Tobacco Alliance (Amti), said the framework presented a tremendous challenge to the Indonesian tobacco industry.

Ninety-three percent of cigarettes produced in Indonesia are kretek.

“Although Indonesia has not signed the FCTC, we will still be impacted since it will eliminate our ability to export kreteks to any country adopting the framework,” he said.

A total of 168 countries have signed the WHO framework, and are ready to debate its adoption at the domestic level.

Roger Quarles, the president of the International Tobacco Growers Association, on Tuesday vowed to take the fight to the health, agriculture and industry ministries in each country ahead of the next WHO meeting on tobacco in Uruguay scheduled for November.

Fuad Baradja, head of the education unit at the Indonesian Smoking Control Foundation (LM3), said national governments should not buy cigarette producers’ argument that adopting a ban on flavored cigarettes would devastate the industry.

“Cigarettes will always be around. There will never be a total ban on cigarettes. This particular ban is intended to discourage younger smokers,” he said.

Fuad said Indonesia needed to ratify the WHO ban on flavored cigarettes to slow the accelerating rate of smoking in the country as cigarette companies become more creative in seeking new customers.

“Flavored cigarettes are more and more creative. There are cappuccino flavors, different kinds of fruit flavors. All these flavors disguise the natural flavor of the cigarette itself,” he said.

Louise Baker, technical officer at the WHO office in Jakarta, said there was no justification for producing flavored cigarettes, which she said served only to make smoking more attractive to teenagers.

“It’s really concerning seeing a 14-year-old girl buying chocolate-flavored cigarettes, because the flavor is familiar to her. Several years later, she would be already addicted to the smoke,” she said.

Baker said the WHO was concerned about the fate of the workers and farmers that might be affected, and she urged the government to create a program to slowly shift farmers from growing tobacco to other crops and to retrain tobacco industry workers.

Yos Ginting, a director at cigarette company PT HM Sampoerna, declined to comment on the magnitude of the challenges facing his industry.

Sampoerna, as a member of Amti, would adhere to any decisions made by the organization, Yos said.
By Arti Ekawati & Faisal Maliki Baskoro

UK Pub And Tobacco Sectors Welcome Budget Duty Freeze

LONDON -The U.K. government’s decision to freeze alcohol and tobacco duty was welcomed by the tobacco and pub sectors Tuesday, while a rise in sales tax to 20% was described as “understandable” given the nation’s finances.

“We welcome the coalition government’s decision not to increase tobacco duties at this time,” The Tobacco Manufacturers Association said.

These comments were echoed by brewer and pub lobby group The British Beer & Pub Association. “This is a welcome relief for struggling pubs during difficult times,” it said.

The decision to freeze the beer and alcohol duty came in Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s first Budget speech Tuesday.

Both sectors had feared a further rise in duty as Osborne attempts to cut a budget deficit which is estimated at about 11% of gross domestic product, or about GBP155 billion for the fiscal year ending 2011.

As expected however, Osborne did announce a rise in U.K. sales tax to 20% from 17.5%, though not until January 2011.

The British Beer & Pub Association estimates that a 20% sales tax would result in a 6 pence rise in the price of a pint of beer.

“This tax increase is not welcome, but is understandable and applies to everybody,” said the BBPA. “We hope this will be short-term pain for long-term gain.”

Pub groups have already faced a rise in sales tax in January to 17.5% from 15%, but Osborne’s duty freeze effectively scraps the previous government’s alcohol tax escalator–which pledged to raise alcohol duty 2% above the rate of inflation each year until 2015.

Osborne also confirmed the government would reverse the previous administration’s decision to raise duty on cider by 10%.

Lower taxes on cider have historically been in place to protect apple growers and artisan cider makers. The cider category is now dominated by drinks giants like Heineken NV (HEIA.AE) and C&C Group (CCR.DUB).

Osborne also pledged to report back later in the year with proposals to overhaul the alcohol duty regime in order to combat binge drinking.
By Michael Carolan
Dow Jones Newswires

Cigarette label laws take effect today

A law aimed at educating smokers that “light” or “mild” cigarettes are no less addictive goes into effect today, forcing tobacco companies to drop those terms on packaging and to market packs using color or other codes.

After the Food and Drug Administration gained the power to regulate the tobacco industry last year, one of its first acts was to change the way cigarettes can be advertised and sold. Manufacturers may distribute any leftover packs bearing the banned terms through July 21, but they can’t print new ones.

Dropping labels that make smokers believe their choice is less harmful is a positive move, said Dr. Roger Zoorob, chair of Meharry Medical College’s Family and Community Medicine, but it won’t help current smokers overcome their addiction. He runs a smoking cessation clinic.

“I’m in favor of this law. … There is no such thing as good or light tobacco,” Zoorob said. “It’s about nicotine. It’s harmful and addictive.”

Tobacco products, including cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, are responsible for approximately 443,000 deaths and $193 billion in medical expenditures and lost productivity each year in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration says. In 2007, Tennessee ranked fifth in the nation for its smoking rate.

Nashville smoker Mike Leonard said he knows light cigarettes aren’t any less addictive. He had quit smoking for seven years — until he tried a light cigarette six months ago. Now he’s buying the cheapest brands available that promote the cigarettes’ taste as light or “low tar.”

“The craving was so strong that I got started again,” he said.

Smokers do believe in the “light” nicotine mythology, said University of Pittsburgh professor Saul Shiffman, a smoking cessation expert and consultant. Forty percent of smokers polled in a recent survey think that a light cigarette is less harmful, he said.

“This (law) is the first step for smokers to realize that lights are not a refuge,” Shiffman said. “I think this will have an impact over time.”

Free samples restricted

But Mary Harper of Nash ville, who smokes Carlton cigarettes, said people will continue smoking because the activity has little to do with wording on a package.

“If people have the mindset to smoke, they will,” she said.

“Mine already tastes light. When people bum off me, they tell me it’s like smoking air. People won’t stop smoking because of the words … only if it gets too expensive.”

Tennessee passed a 40-cents-a-pack tax increase on cigarettes in 2007 and saw an immediate drop in the smoking rate, but only by 1 percentage point.

John Chiaramonte, the American Cancer Society’s governmental relations director for Tennessee, said the best anti-smoking measures keep people from ever getting addicted.

“The marketing has been an issue for a long time,” he said.

Experts say it will take some time to see whether the new marketing regulations, part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, have an impact.

Other aspects of the law include:

• Prohibiting distribution of free samples of cigarettes and restricting free samples of smokeless tobacco products.

• Ending tobacco company sponsorship of athletic, musical or other social events.

• Banning sale of tobacco products in vending machines except in limited adult-only venues.

By Chris Echegaray
THE TENNESSEAN, June 22, 2010

Philip Morris Intl in Brazil

CHICAGO, – Philip Morris International (PM.N) said on Monday it had reached two deals to buy tobacco leaf directly from some 17,000 farmers in southern Brazil.

PMI’s Brazil affiliate, Philip Morris Brazil, said the tobacco purchased in the new arrangement will account for about 10 percent of its global supply needs and will allow the company to improve cost efficiencies and better align its supply with market demand.

The deals with Alliance One International (AOI.N) and Universal Leaf Tabacos Limitada (UVV.N) are expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter, according to a company statement. The transactions need to be approved by Brazilian authorities.

Philip Gorham, an analyst with Morningstar, said the move probably would not affect PMI much financially because tobacco costs represent a small percentage of total operating costs.

“This is really just a shift in how they get their raw tobacco,” Gorham said. “It’s not going to impact their earnings much at all.”

Universal has a similar deal in the United States that allows PMI to buy its own tobacco and process it with dealers, said Karen Whelan, vice president and treasurer of Universal.

AOI, a North Carolina-based tobacco merchant, said its Brazilian unit would give PMB contracts with about 8,500 farmers and would sell some of its inventory management software and other related assets to PMB.

Universal said it signed over about 20 percent of its contracts with farmers in Brazil.

PMI shares rose 0.7 percent. AOI shares fell 4 percent and Universal Corp slipped 1 percent in afternoon trading.

By Emily Stephenson and Maureen Bavdek

Production of cuban cigars leaf down

HAVANA, – Global economic woes and the worldwide spread of smoking bans are taking their toll on Cuba’s famous cigar industry, with the just-completed harvest of the country’s finest tobacco down 14 percent over 2009, local media said on Monday.

In westernmost Pinar del Rio, home of Cuba’s most famous tobacco, the harvest came in at 22.4 million leaves, down from 26 million in 2009, according to Guerrillero, the province’s Communist party weekly.

The area’s tobacco is used as wrapper leaf and part of the filling in Cuba’s prized cigar brands, including Cohiba, Montecristo, Trinidad and Partagas.

“There was a reduction in planting due to limitations in resources caused by the economic crisis,” the weekly said.

Cuba’s premium cigars dominate the world market with 70 percent of sales.

That jealously guarded market share excludes the United States, where Cuba’s cigars are banned under the 48-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the communist-led island.

But the industry has fallen on hard times in recent years, with production of cigars for export down from 217 million in 2006, to 123 million in 2007 and just 73 million last year as the business drew on its stored inventory, the government reported this month.

Cash-strapped Cuba cut the amount of land devoted to growing its famous tobacco by more than 30 percent last year.

Sales from cigar exports fell to $218 million in 2009, down from $243 million in 2008.

In contrast, domestic demand for lower-quality cigars, which cost as little as a few cents and are made from tobacco grown elsewhere in the country, showed no sign of slowing.

About 300 million were produced last year, compared with 278 million in 2008, the government said.

The exclusive distributor of Cuban cigars, Habanos S.A., a joint venture between Cuba and British tobacco giant Imperial Tobacco Group Plc, was not immediately available for comment.

Some 200,000 private farmers and family members depend on growing and curing the precious leaf under contract with the government. Tens of thousands of workers earn their living hand rolling the crop into the famous “Habanos” or “Puros” for export.

New York Increased cigarettes tax to Keep State Running

ALBANY — New Yorkers who like to smoke will have to dig a little deeper to light up next month, after the Legislature passed a bill on Monday that will give the state the highest cigarette taxes in the country.

The new law, part of an emergency budget measure to keep the government running, adds another $1.60 in state taxes to every cigarette pack sold starting on July 1, pushing the average price of a pack to about $9.20.

The average price in New York City, which imposes its own cigarette taxes, will be even higher, nearly $11 a pack.

Those who prefer other tobacco products will also be forced to pay significantly more.

The tax on smokeless tobacco will more than double, to $2 an ounce from 96 cents an ounce, starting on Aug. 1. And the wholesale tax on cigars, dips and other kinds of tobacco will rise to 75 percent from 46 percent .

And in what may be the legislation’s most controversial provisions, starting on Sept. 1, the state will begin collecting — or try to collect — taxes on cigarettes sold on Indian reservations to off-reservation visitors, an issue that led to violent protests during the early 1990s.

One Indian chief has said that trying to collect taxes would be considered an act of war.

Gov. David A. Paterson had proposed a smaller increase of $1 a pack in his executive budget proposal, saying it would forestall deeper cuts to state health care spending. But with the state budget now nearly three months overdue, Mr. Paterson and leaders of the Legislature agreed to insert the revised proposal into a pair of emergency bills to finance a week’s worth of government operations, putting pressure on lawmakers to support or risk a government shutdown.

The taxes will provide $440 million in revenue for health care programs, including subsidies for AIDS drugs, money for tobacco cessation programs and $71.6 million for the state cancer research center in Buffalo.

In the Senate, where Republicans and many rank-and-file Democrats had opposed the tax increase, the bill including the higher taxes passed narrowly along party lines, with all 32 Democrats voting yes and all 29 Republicans present voting no.

As for the other emergency bill, which included only appropriations, one Republican, Roy J. McDonald, joined the Democrats in voting yes.

The two bills also passed with only a few votes to spare in the Assembly, where Republicans assailed their Democratic colleagues.

“You’ve never met a tax you didn’t like,” Assemblyman Jim Hayes, a Republican from the Buffalo area, said to Democrats. “The governor proposed a buck. You hiked it to a buck-sixty!”

But Democrats said that the bill would provide needed revenue and begin closing a legal loophole that let New Yorkers buy cigarettes tax-free on reservations, undercutting other retailers.

“Because of the step we took in the Senate today, New York State will now have the added muscle it needs to collect this vital source of tax revenue in full and on time,” said Jeffrey D. Klein, a Democrat from Westchester County and the Bronx who had pushed separate legislation enabling the collection of cigarette taxes from reservations.

Higher cigarette taxes have been hailed by health advocates who say they will persuade many smokers to give up their habit. But critics, including tobacco retailers, said they would drive more customers to the black market.

It was the 12th emergency bill approved since the state’s fiscal year began on April 1. Mr. Paterson has pledged that if the Legislature fails to reach a budget agreement by next Monday, when the next emergency bill is due, he will insert the remainder of his budget proposal into that legislation.

The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, told reporters that he remained confident that budget negotiations were progressing. “I think they’re going well — maybe a little slower than I anticipated last week, but I think they’re going well,” he said.

Reflecting the secrecy of the negotiations between Mr. Paterson and the Democratic majorities in the Senate and Assembly, Republican senators repeatedly pressed Democrats during a floor debate to explain how they would make up the rest of the gap — roughly $3.65 billion, according to Senate Democrats. They also accused Democrats of negotiating the budget piecemeal to hide the true cost of their budget priorities and lay the groundwork to claim that only new borrowing or higher income taxes could bring the budget into balance.

“I just don’t see how this process is going to result in anything other than taxes and fees and borrowing,” said John A. DeFrancisco, the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking Republican member. “This is not a way to run state government.”

The Senate also appeared poised on Monday night to approve a series of other budget bills introduced by Mr. Paterson last week and approved by the Assembly on Friday. Those bills involve spending for the criminal justice system, general government operations, the Transportation Department and state economic development efforts.

Officials said those bills closed about $1 billion worth of the state’s budget gap of more than $9 billion for this year, achieved through a mix of cuts, new revenue and consolidations.

One of the largest cuts would result in New York City’s losing its entire allotment of direct state aid, about $302 million. The bills would also close two upstate prisons, while the State Police would delay, for the second year in a row, training a new class of recruits.

The bills also include what are known as “sweeps,” where lawmakers in effect take money out of accounts that aren’t technically part of the state’s budget. For example, the legislation will transfer $65 million from the New York Power Authority into the state’s general fund.

Nytimes: June 21, 2010

Electronic cigarette flavors are catching fire

Johnson Creek — Christian Berkey was a nearly two-pack-a-day smoker when he heard about electronic cigarettes, a device that vaporizes a solution of water, nicotine and flavoring without the smoke and the combustion.

Berkey went on the Internet and ordered the device.

“I was stunned. I took a puff, and it gave me the same experience as cigarettes,” Berkey said. “It looked like smoke coming out, but you can’t smell it. It addressed the tactile sensation of smoking.”

There was one problem.

“I was not thrilled by the taste,” he said. “Chinese smoke juice had a chemical aspect to it.”

Berkey decided he could do better. He wasn’t worried about perfecting the pen-like device, which carries a battery and usually has an LED light on the end. He believed the solution to a successful smoking experience was to make the smoke juice taste better.

Berkey went to work, testing various formulas and trying to improve the taste. That was in November 2007. By February 2008, he started to see some results. Two months and countless variations later, he found the formula he liked.

Unlike the Chinese version, which contains countless ingredients, Berkey’s formula was simple, using only seven ingredients.

In July 2008, Berkey quit his job as a manager of an Apple retail store and took the plunge.

He started to talk about his product on online forums devoted to e-cigarettes. He offered consumers free samples. The feedback he was getting was good.

“They loved it,” he said. “No one wanted to touch the Chinese stuff.”

Ramping up

That was Berkey’s “aha moment.” He cashed in his 401(k) and started his business, called Johnson Creek Enterprises.

“It was not an easy decision, but I did it,” Berkey said.

Berkey convinced Heidi Braun, another Apple employee, to join him. A non-smoker and an asthmatic, Braun wasn’t exactly the ideal business partner for an e-cigarette smoke juice business.

“But I trusted Christian’s ability to come up with a business plan,” she said.

From that humble start, Johnson Creek Enterprises has grown to 14 full-time employees, has a thriving business that expects to generate $2 million in sales this year, and is looking to move into bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and taverns with sales of e-cigarettes and the company’s Johnson Creek Original Smoke Juice.

And the two did it with no advertising.

At their cramped headquarters in a Johnson Creek industrial park, Berkey, the CEO, and Braun, the chief operating officer, are proud of the quality controls they have in their business. The smoke juice is prepared and put in small bottles in a “clean room,” a controlled environment where products are manufactured, where lab technicians wear head-to-toe lab coveralls and goggles.

The company claims to be the first company to produce smoke juice in the United States. It lists its ingredients on every bottle, uses child-resistant caps on the bottles, and shrink wraps the bottles for extra safety.

Berkey and Braun say business is so good, they plan to add as many as 12 to 14 more employees in the months to come. And they are looking for a bigger building to handle their needs.

Johnson Creek Enterprises produces 10 different flavors in four nicotine strengths for the firm’s Johnson Creek Original Smoke Juice line. And it offers six flavors in three nicotine strengths for the Red Oak, propylene glycol-free smoke juice line.

A 1-ounce bottle of smoke juice costs $19.95. A half-ounce bottle costs $9.95.
Regulators take notice

The business is not for everyone. The Food and Drug Administration conducted a lab test of electronic cigarette samples it said contained carcinogens and toxic chemicals, such as diethylene glycol (DEG), an ingredient used in antifreeze.

Moreover, the FDA warned that smoke juice and e-cigarettes are being marketed and sold to young people, and contain no health warnings. The flavors, the FDA said, “may appeal to young people.”

The FDA study, Berkey said, did find DEG but in trace amounts. Asked whether the FDA had tested Johnson Creek smoke juice, Berkey said he could not comment.

“I know regulation is coming, and it’s fine,” Berkey said. “We definitely look forward to working with the FDA.”

Berkey and Braun also are anticipating July 5, when state businesses must go smoke-free. The company has an exclusive agreement with Blu electronic cigarettes, and hopes to convince the owners of bars, restaurants and other public places to sell the e-cigarettes and their smoke juice in their establishments.

“We have a lot of folks who are interested in this,” Braun said.

The new law does not forbid the use and consumption of e-cigarettes, but both Berkey and Braun agree their venture will only succeed if they educate the public about the device and their smoke juice.

Maureen Busalacchi, executive director of Smoke Free Wisconsin, isn’t buying it. Johnson Creek’s efforts to get into the restaurant and bar business by selling the e-cigarettes and the smoke juice may confuse people.

“And it’s appalling they are trying to get kids addicted to nicotine,” she said.

Berkey understands that. Puffing on an e-cigarette, he and Braun argue that people should educate themselves on the product.

“This is an alternative. It’s better than smoking,” Berkey said.