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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Most States Still Preempt Local Smoking Policies

No progress has been made in the past decade toward abolishing state-level restrictions on local anti-smoking policies, one of the goals of the national Healthy People 2020 project, researchers said.

Whereas 28 states in 2000 preempted at least some types of local effort to discourage smoking, such restrictions were still in place last year in 27 states, according to Michelle Griffin, MPH, of the University of Washington in Seattle, and three CDC researchers.

They reported findings from the CDC’s State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation database in the Aug. 26 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Although eight states have dropped laws that prevent localities from adopting ordinances and administrative rules that limit smoking in workplaces and public gathering spots, states have been reluctant to allow local restrictions on tobacco advertising or vending methods that make tobacco products available to minors.

“Like smoke-free laws, restrictions on advertising and youth access are components of a comprehensive approach to tobacco control,” Griffin and colleagues wrote, citing studies that these are effective in reducing tobacco use.

Many communities have sought to adopt such policies, but have found that they are forbidden to implement regulations that are more restrictive than those in place at the state level.

The Healthy People 2020 initiative called for abolition of such state-level preemption of local regulation.

“State preemptive provisions that prevent local action in any of these three areas impede local and state efforts to reduce tobacco use,” Griffin and colleagues asserted.

In 2000, the study found, 18 states had laws blocking local regulation of smoking at work or in public places, which had fallen to 12 by 2010.

Eight states “completely rescinded preemptive provisions or had such provisions overturned by state courts” during the decade, the researchers wrote.

But in two states, litigation produced rulings that “ambiguous provisions” in statutes preempted local action.

Local advertising restrictions were preempted in 18 states both in 2000 and 2010. And, states thwarting local-level policies to block youth access to tobacco (primarily by banning vending machine sales) actually increased by one, to 22, when Pennsylvania adopted a preemptive provision in 2002.

Seven states retained preemptions on all three categories of anti-smoking policies in 2010: Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington. But that number was down from the 11 with comprehensive preemptions in 2000.

By John Gever,
MedPage Today

Tobacco laws to be strengthened as young smokers on rise

The Public Health Ministry plans to strengthen two anti-smoking laws in a bid to curb smoking.

Public Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri said the government will amend the 1992 Tobacco Control Act and the 1992 Non-smokers’ Health Protection Act in a bid to catch up with modern forms of tobacco trade, marketing and advertising, such as online commercials and public events which are sponsored by multinational tobacco companies.

Mr Wittaya was speaking on the sidelines of a two-day conference on tobacco and public health which concluded yesterday.

The move was part of Thailand’s effort to comply with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which Thailand is a party.

Adopted by 192 member countries, the FCTC was developed in response to a big rise in smoking-related illnesses.

An estimated 10.9 million Thais smoke, says the Public Health Ministry. The government is most concerned about smokers aged 15 to 18 years.

About 140,000 smokers are believed to have started the habit between 2007 and 2009.

The number of teenage smokers increased significantly after Thailand adopted the Asean free trade policy which allowed tobacco products to be imported tax-free, said Siriwan Tippayarangsrit, director of Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre.

Prakit Vathesatogkit, secretary-general of the Action on Smoking and Health Foundation, said the national health bill caused by smoking continues to rise.

Of the 415,900 Thais who died in 2009, 48,244 were killed by smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, esophageal cancer, other related cancers, emphysema and strokes. The number did not include those who died due to the effects of second-hand smoke, as this cannot be properly verified, said Mr Prakit.

“Every one in 8.6 Thais died [in 2009] of a smoking-related cause,” he said.

“We have to deal with the tobacco industry, as this can’t go on.”

Since adopting the FCTC in May 2003, Thailand has implemented many anti-smoking policies, such as picture warnings on cigarette packets, a ban on tobacco advertising or sponsorship of events by tobacco companies, and forbidding smoking in enclosed public areas, said Hatai Chitanondh, president of the Thailand Health Promotion Institute of the National Health Foundation.

However, there is strong opposition to the FCTC from the transnational tobacco industry.

As a result, governments in developing countries were often forced to be less stringent with their tobacco control policies, said Mr Hathai.

Public Health Minister Wittaya Buranasiri said the proposed law changes would cover a ban on tobacco trade, promotion and sponsorship on the internet, where tobacco advertising was flourishing.

Bulgarian King’s Tobacco to invest in new cigarette plant

Bulgarian cigarette maker King’s Tobacco will pump 45 million leva into a new production capacity, due for completion in 2012, the Plovdiv-based company said on August 26.

The new plant will cover 74 000 sq m and will create 400 jobs. The facility will comprise a cigarette making and packaging unit, a warehouse for raw materials and a storage unit for ready products.

King’s Tobacco, a former cigarette unit of Bulgarian majority state-owned tobacco group Bulgartabac, has already provided the plot for the new factory.

The management claims the construction of the new capacity along with 1440 sq m of offices, will employ new-technology, energy-efficient materials. The blueprint also envisages 15 000 sq m of green area.

At first, the new factory will operate concurrently with existing capacities, the company said explaining the investment with the growing demand for its products.

King’s Tobacco recorded a more than 200 per cent jump in sales abroad for the past nine months alone. The company closed 2010 with a profit of 1.06 million leva against 304 000 leva in the prior year, data from the Bulgarian Company Registry showed. Last year’s revenue amounted to 23.05 million leva, of which domestic sales totalled 16.8 million leva. Revenue from leased investment properties, including storage and recreation facilities and apartments in Plovdiv, stood at 17 000 leva in 2010.

Sugar trading firm Sigma Consulting, related to local wine and spirits maker Vinprom Peshtera, bought the cigarette factory in Plovdiv for just more than 30 million leva in the summer of 2008. The factory, including the land on which the new capacity will be built and a warehouse for ready produce, was sold via the Bulgarian stock exchange. The cigarette maker has about 15 per cent of the domestic market where it sells three brands – King, Merilyn and Corset.

More are dodging high cigarette prices by rolling their own

The high price of cigarettes has been burning a hole in Tina Ward’s wallet.rolling cigarettes

A pack of her Pall Mall Oranges? Five bucks. A carton? She’s not even going there.

“I haven’t bought a carton in months because they are too darn expensive,” said Ward, a homemaker from Indianapolis. “We’re talking $50 easily.”

So as she chatted on about the need to save money in an economy that’s been fizzling out, Ward did last week what hordes of smokers have been doing lately: She rolled her own cigarettes — and walked out of the Smoke Station on Crawfordsville Road with a carton for less than $25. That’s $2.50 a pack.

“I think I’ve found me a new cigarette,” she said.

It seems a lot of smokers are finding themselves a new source for smokes, say local tobacco shop owners.

That’s evident as they watch sales of commercial brands being snuffed out by a rise in sales of bags of tobacco and rolling paper.

“My over-the-counter, regular cigarette business has just kind of died,” said Randy Biggs, owner of Randy’s Tobacco Shop on Lafayette Road, who says the cost of rolling your own carton at his shop averages $15 to $20.

The roll-your-own cigarettes trend has become so popular that new shops are popping up all over the city, including four Smoke Stations in the past eight months.

Owner Kelly McKasson has plans to open a fifth store this year and wants to eventually have as many as 12.

“With today’s economy, it’s a big, big savings for people,” said McKasson, whose Crawfordsville Road shop was filled Wednesday morning with people using the four high-tech machines that can roll a carton in eight minutes.

“And this is usually one of my slow days,” McKasson said, smiling.

McKasson’s machines, which can be programmed to remember which tobacco flavor a customer likes best, are the latest in the roll-your-own world. They alleviate the tedious manual machines at many tobacco shops that can roll only one cigarette at a time.

McKasson said his product has another advantage. It’s all-natural tobacco, with none of the chemical additives in commercial cigarettes.

But his cigarettes also are missing something else — added taxes.

“Because we are just selling raw material, we are not a manufacturer, and we don’t have to abide by the state minimum prices,” he said.

That’s where roll-your-own has the big price advantage.

Those state minimum prices, set by the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, require a pack of cigarette-store.biz/online/camel to cost at least $4.91 and a pack of Naturals $7.06. The pricing takes into account a number of things, including the manufacturer’s listed prices, state excise tax, a 4.5 percent wholesale markup and 8 percent retail markup.

Indiana’s cigarette excise tax is 99.5 cents per pack, well below the national average of $1.34.

“These minimum prices are set because of competition to say by statute how low they can sell cigarettes,” said Richard Swallow, an officer with the Indiana State Excise Police who is in charge of monitoring minimum pricing.

More than 100 cigarette brands are priced by the state, ranging from the most expensive, English Ovals at $7.30 a pack, to the least expensive, a 3-way tie between 1st Class, Ultra Buy and Wild Horse at $3.36 a pack.

Swallow agreed that roll-your-own cigarettes aren’t considered a manufactured cigarette, and so are not subject to minimum pricing.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a push by anti-tobacco groups to impose one soon — to help drive down Indiana’s high smoking rate and its associated health problems.

About 21.2 percent of Hoosiers smoke, compared with the national median of 17.2 percent.

Gas stations and convenience stores, for example, say that each time the cigarette tax goes up, their cigarettes sales go down, and they lose out to the roll-your-own stores.

“The first thing that happens when taxes go up is that people seek out low-tax and no-tax alternatives,” said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores. “Until everything is equal for everyone, you will see people exploit loopholes.”

Kevin Smitson says it’s not exploiting. It’s shopping around.

“I bet I’ve spent close to $100,000 in my life on cigarettes,” the Clermont retiree said. “If we want to do the manual labor to make it cheaper on us by rolling them ourselves, that’s our choice.”

Smitson said he has been rolling his own for about six months, buying the tobacco at Smoker’s Choice on West Washington Street, then using his friend’s rolling machine.

And while everyone talks about the price advantage of rolling your own, he says there is also a price to be paid: taste.

“Nobody will ever tell you these taste as good or really fulfill you quite like the store ones,” he said.

But with savings upwards of 50 percent, many people are willing to try.

“It’s really, really taken off,” said Dave Kepler, owner of Smoker’s Choice, which has seven locations, one of which just opened in November. As the economy has soured, he has seen more people come in to buy roll-your-own products.

And even if taxes are imposed on the rolled cigarettes, he doesn’t believe it would change much.

“It’s still going to be a better value than commercial,” he said. “It just won’t be quite as good.

Star Scientific Loses New Trial Bid in Reynolds Tobacco Case

Star Scientific Inc. tumbled the most in two years after losing a bid for a new trial in its decade-long effort to extract patent royalties from Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) on way to reduce carcinogens in cigarettes.

While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington today upheld the validity of two Star patents, the panel said there was no need to retry the infringement case against Reynolds that Star lost in 2009. Chief Circuit Judge Randall Rader said in the 2-1 opinion that a new trial wouldn’t change the outcome as “there was substantial untainted evidence before the jury to support a verdict of non-infringement.”

The patents cover a curing process that prevents “bacterial activity” in tobacco leaves, resulting in the lowest levels of cancer causing nitrosamines, according to Star. The money-losing company, which had less than $1 million in sales last year, has “not been able to monetize their only asset,” Martin Shkreli, chief investment officer of New York- based hedge fund MSMB Capital Management, said after the ruling.

“This is a complete loss for Star and basically makes their business worthless,” said Shkreli, who has trading positions that bet on the stock falling. “Investors have been down this litigation road with Star for five to 10 years and it’s never been fruitful.”
Shares Fall

Star whipsawed in Nasdaq Stock Market trading after the ruling was made public, rising as much as 32 percent before tumbling the most since June 2009. The shares fell $1.45, or 48 percent, to $1.55 at 2:12 p.m. New York time.

The Glen Allen, Virginia-based company said it’s considering options for “further appellate review.” Star said the validity ruling will allow it to pursue claims “against all prior and future infringers,” including another case it has against Reynolds that had been put on hold pending this appeal.

“We intend to vigorously protect our intellectual property, which we consider to be among our corporate crown jewels,” Star Chairman and President Paul L. Perito said in a statement today.

Star had claimed Reynolds was unable on its own to reduce nitrosamines in tobacco as much as Star could. Star said Reynolds then chose to use the technology without permission as part of an effort to “neutralize” competition. Reynolds denied the claim, challenging validity of the patents.

“We’re very pleased with today’s ruling,” August Borschke, chief patent counsel for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, said in an e-mail. “R.J. Reynolds did not infringe Star’s patents.”
Patent Office Review

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco is the cigarette unit of Winston- Salem, North Carolina-based Reynolds American, the second- largest U.S. tobacco company. Reynolds makes cigarettespub.biz/camel, www.cigarettespub.biz/winston and Salem brand cigarettes.

The case initially had been thrown out in June 2007 after U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis said Star deceived the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to obtain formal rights to the invention. The appeals court reversed that order, setting the stage for the 2009 trial.

The case is Star Scientific v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 10-1183, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Star Scientific Inc. (CIGX) v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 01cv1504, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).

By Susan Decker in Washington
sdecker1@bloomberg.net

Advisers question American Tobacco Trail expenses

DURHAM — A member of a key advisory board says Durham officials need to look harder at why the bids for an extension of the American Tobacco Trail came in about 38 percent higher than expected.

The $2.1 million overrun “indicates the possibility of a serious error in judgment” by the engineers who designed the project and the city staffers who worked with them, said Toby Berla, a member of the Durham Open Space and Trails Commission.

Berla told fellow commission members last week that an architect and engineer he’d spoken to about the project were “not at all surprised” that the trail extension and its associated bridge over Interstate 40 had come in as high as they did.

“I don’t mean to start pointing fingers in the middle of a crisis, but I also don’t think we can just look the other way and pretend that nothing went wrong,” Berla said in an email to his colleague. “A $2 million underestimate on a project of this scope is huge, and demands a clear explanation of what went wrong.”

Berla’s comments came as he and other members of the trails commission — one of two advisory panels involved in the matter — began weighing their response to the city’s plan for covering the overrun.

Administrators intend to raise additional monies by draining construction reserves for four sidewalk-and-bicycle-lane projects in other parts of the city.

All told, they’re looking to push the trail’s construction budget up to $9.6 million, enough to cover the overrun plus a generous contingency. The trail is a 22-mile path for cyclists and pedestrians from just south of the West Point on the Eno city park in Durham to the Jordan Lake game lands in Wake County.

The prospect of taking construction money away from the sidewalk projects troubled some commission members, among them the panel’s new chairman, Duke University professor Will Wilson.

“The thing is, it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Wilson, who is among a slate of candidates vying for an appointment to a vacant County Commissioners seat. “We just don’t know what to think right now.”

Wilson’s emails to other commission members indicated he was especially bothered because one of the sidewalk projects targets a stretch of Hillandale Road he considers a danger to bicyclists.

But he and Berla both indicated that the trails commission could come down in favor of keeping the Tobacco Trail on track, despite members’ qualms.

Completion of the American Tobacco Trail has been a high priority for the commission and other pedestrian-and-bike advocates for years.

Berla said he’s “not saying” officials should “stop the process” pending a report on the reasons for the overrun. He told commission members he leans toward supporting the reallocation of funds.

But “I didn’t want to let go downstream the idea of how did we miss this by so far,” he said in an interview.

Fellow commission member Tom Stark warned colleagues they’d be “at grave risk of not being able to reassemble funding and political approval” for the Tobacco Trail project in the future should officials miss the present window for getting it built.

“I think we need to build that bridge,” Stark said, terming it an “important amenity” for residents. “It’s hard to get together the political will and funding to build something like that.”

Stark, who works as legal counsel for the Durham County Republican Party, argued that it makes sense to go ahead and then “fill in other sections of trail and smaller bicycle and road improvements in the future.”

Public Works Department officials and the outside firm that designed the project, Parsons Brinckerhoff, have disagreed on the cause of the overrun.

Both say it’s traceable to the bridge, but while Parsons blames price gouging by a Minnesota steel fabricator, Public Works argues that Parsons hadn’t reckoned with the views of construction contractors on the degree of difficulty involved in assembling the span.

Berla said the design pros he talked to — both of whom “worked at firms asked to look at the design options for the bridge” — thought expectations of staying within a $5.8 million budget had been unrealistic.

“Bent [steel] pipe is expensive, the whole design is custom-made and the plan to drop the entire span into place in a single, eight-hour window [in their opinion] all made it impossible to do for less than $7 million,” he told commission members.

The Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission also is expected to weigh in at some point is. Its chairman, Dan Clever, told officials he and his colleagues have begun pondering the matter.

By Ray Gronberg
gronberg@heraldsun.com
419-6648

Altria subsidiary to idle snus plant in York County

Altria Group Inc.’s U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. subsidiary is idling a manufacturing plant in York County that makes a special brand of smokeless tobacco called snus.

Production is being moved elsewhere as part of a consolidation, the company said.

The shutdown of the plant, which is near Busch Gardens, will affect 41 employees, said a spokesman for Henrico County-based Altria, the nation’s largest tobacco company and parent of cigarette maker Philip Morris USA.

The factory makes snus, a type of pouch smokeless tobacco that Philip Morris USA sells under the Marlboro brand name.

It is one of several alternative tobacco products the company has introduced in recent years as it and other cigarette makers look for products to replace declining U.S. cigarette consumption, especially smokeless brands that can be used where public smoking is banned.

The plant will be idled by the end of October, said Ken Garcia, an Altria spokesman. He said the company will try to place as many employees as possible in jobs at other operations.

“The facility itself is going to remain idle while the company evaluates its future needs,” Garcia said.

The company did not say where it would move the production. U.S. Smokeless Tobacco also has plants in Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois.

Altria acquired U.S. Smokeless Tobacco’s parent company UST Inc., the nation’s top maker of snuff tobacco, in 2009 for $10.4 billion. The deal gave Altria a leading position in the moist smokeless tobacco category, which, unlike cigarettes, has seen growth in the United States.

While U.S. Smokeless Tobacco has its own snuff tobacco brands such as Copenhagen and Skoal, the company manufactured Marlboro Snus at the York plant for Philip Morris USA.

The York plant has been through several transformations as part of Philip Morris USA and Altria.

Originally opened in 1978 as a cigarette machine repair plant, the factory was later converted to manufacture another alternative tobacco product — the Accord, an electronic cigarette that Philip Morris test-marketed in the 1990s with little success.

The company closed the plant in 2004, but in 2007 it made a $100 million investment to equip the factory for production of snus.

The company added 33,000 square feet to building, making it 139,000 square feet.

The plant also was equipped with tools for making snus tobacco, including adding a cold-storage room to chill and store tobacco leaf at 40 degrees to prevent it from degrading.

By: John Reid Blackwell
jblackwell@timesdispatch.com (804) 775-8123

Graphic Tobacco Warnings Stalled

Jakarta- Antitobacco activists warned on Wednesday that a proposed regulation that would require tobacco companies to place graphic warnings on cigarette packs was facing an untimely death.

“It is going nowhere, with so many tricks to delay the issuance of the regulation,” Kartono Muhammad, a prominent antitobacco activist, said after a meeting at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

“I believe in the end the regulation will die slowly.”

Kartono said he was disappointed that a government official had proposed doing away with the idea of placing graphic images depicting smoking-related diseases on cigarette packs.

He did not identify the official, whom he said argued in the meeting that the images would endanger the livelihoods of millions of people who made their living from the tobacco industry.

“It’s such a cliche. I know their trick,” he said. “They will try to delay, delude and eventually delete this law altogether.”

Kartono said the discussion went nowhere because the government insisted that all stakeholders, including the tobacco industry, have as much input as they wanted on the regulation.

“If we keep letting people challenge this regulation, there is no way we can finish it this year,” he said.

Under the 2009 Health Law, cigarette producers and importers must place pictorial warnings on packs or face a fine of up to Rp 500 million ($58,000). However, the government has yet to issue the supporting regulation required to enforce the law.

The Health Ministry proposed in a draft regulation that the warnings should cover at least 50 percent of the surface area of each cigarette pack.

However, Kartono said the tobacco industry was trying to shrink the images to 30 percent of the packs, or simply not have them at all.

Tulus Abadi, managing director of the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI), said the group would push the government to implement the regulation as drafted by the ministry.

“Written warnings are not effective. We need something stronger to convince people that smoking is deadly,” he said. “We will do whatever it takes to make sure the pictures will not get smaller or be deleted, and we will fight for this regulation to be issued immediately because it is already nearly two years late.”

Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the Health Ministry’s director general for disease control and environmental health, said it was important to hear suggestions from all stakeholders to ensure the regulation accommodated the interests of all parties.

He denied the government was intentionally delaying the issuance of the regulation. “It’s an ongoing process. We are not dragging our feet,” he said. “We have to give it more time.”

By Dessy Sagita

Facebook may raise risk of teen substance abuse

A New York research group released a study Wednesday claiming American teenagers who spend time on Facebook, Myspace or riskother social networking sites are five times more likely to use tobacco, three times more likely to drink alcohol and twice as likely to smoke marijuana.

But a San Francisco expert on juvenile justice debunked the study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University because it did not account for other factors, such as age differences or whether their parents also smoked or drank excessively.

The Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse suggested 12- to 17-year-olds showed a higher likelihood of substance abuse when exposed to photos posted on social networks showing that kind of activity. The study also linked substance abuse to watching “suggestive” teen TV shows like “Jersey Shore,” “Teen Mom,” “16 and Pregnant,” “Skins” or “Gossip Girl.”

But the study was not set up to determine whether social networking causes substance abuse. “Human will – the individual’s decision to use illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco – always comes into play,” said Steve Wagner of QEV Analytics, a Washington, D.C., research firm that conducted part of the study.

“But what is unmistakable from our research is that time spent on social networking sites is associated with a teen’s risk of substance abuse,” Wagner said. “Moreover, we know that teens who use such sites in a typical day are more likely to have been the victim of cyber-bullying and are more likely to have been exposed to photos of other teens getting drunk or high on drugs than are teens who do not use a social networking site in a typical day.”

The study claimed 70 percent of the teens spent time on a social network “in a typical day.” And 40 percent of all teens had seen photos on social networks of kids “drunk, passed out or using drugs.” Half of the teens saw those photos when they were age 13 or younger.

The center based its conclusions on concurrent surveys of a total of about 2,043 teenagers and 528 parents done in March, April and May. The teen surveys had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Center chairman and founder Joseph Califano Jr. said in a news release that the study “offers grotesque confirmation of the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Califano, who was secretary of Health, Education and Welfare during the Carter administration, recommended parents monitor their teen’s use of Facebook and be “involved and engaged in their teen’s lives.”

“Parental engagement is a key factor to lowering teen substance abuse risk, as are frequent family dinners, religious services and consistent messages,” Califano said in an e-mail. “We know from 16 years of surveys and lots of other research that for better or worse parents have more influence over their teen’s risk of substance abuse than anyone else, and it is important for parents to send a consistent and unified message to their teens about drugs and alcohol.”

But Mike Males, a senior research fellow at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco, questioned whether the research was “fatally flawed” because it appeared to improperly compare results of 12-year-olds against 17-year-olds.

Males said the center’s link of social media use to substance abuse was “silly and trivial.” He said the study did not account for some of the biggest environmental factors in drug and alcohol abuse among teens, especially the behavior of their parents.

“These studies are worse than useless,” he said. “They really hamper discussion of a very important social issue, which is drug and alcohol abuse throughout American society.”

In a statement, Palo Alto’s Facebook said the promotion of illegal drug use was prohibited by its terms of service and is removed when reported.

“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of the people who use our service, especially the many teens who use Facebook,” the company said. “We believe safety both online and off is a shared responsibility between teens, parents, teachers, companies, and other members of the community.”

By Benny Evangelista
bevangelista@sfchronicle.com.

Brazil to Increase Tax on Cigarettes

SÃO PAULO—Less than one month after the announcement of a cut in taxes for some industrial sectors in Brazil, the government announced an increase in the tax on cigarettes to compensate for the reduction in collections.

The government said it will increase the IPI industrial products tax for cigarettes to 9%, gradually, through 2015, from the current level of 6%. With the rise, the government expects an increase in tax collections to 7.7 billion Brazilian reals ($4.8 billion) by 2015, from 3.6 billion reals currently.

With the measure, the government expects to offset in part the impact of a recent package to create tax incentives for local industries.

Earlier this month, the government announced a plan to help manufacturers cope with what it says is “unfair” competition from overseas, due to the continued appreciation of the Brazilian real versus the U.S dollar.

Among the measures unveiled, the government will offer as much as 25 billion reals in tax cuts to industry over the next two years, alongside actions to spur new investments and some specific measures for industries including textiles, footwear, software and vehicles.

Brazil’s currency has gained nearly 30% against the dollar over the last five years and about 7% so far in 2011, and the government claims developed countries are deliberately weakening their own currencies to make their products cheaper.

According to a study by the World Health Organization, or WHO, published in 2011, 15% of Brazil’s population smokes. By comparison, in Mexico the rate is 8%. Chile has the highest rate in the region with 34%. Argentina has 22%.

Regarding taxes, according to the same survey by WHO, there were 26 countries across the globe that have total taxes constituting more than 75% of the retail price of cigarettes.

Brazil’s tax rate represented 60% of the retail price of cigarettes. Mexico’s tax rate was 63%. Argentina and Chile both had a rate of 76%.

E-Cigarettes Increase Workplace Productivity

First, smokers were banned from lighting up in theatres, restaurants, and pubs. That was bad enough. But when smoking bans began to encroach into every public place smokers found it more and more difficult to peacefully coexist with their non-smoking neighbours. Nowhere was this more evident than the workplace.Since most workers spend 8 to 10 hours every day on the job, being unable to smoke at a workstation left individuals only two alternatives: quit smoking or interrupt your workday and go elsewhere for a cigarette.

Despite smoking bans, laws have had to make provision for workers to excuse themselves on a regular basis to go outside for a smoke. While this satisfies the need of the smoker, it costs a business productive work hours. It’s been estimated that when comparing smoking and non-smoking employees side-by-side, the smokers can be as much as 20% less productive than their non-smoking counterparts. However, electronic cigarettes are changing all of that.

Electronic Cigarettes Okay in the Workplace

In the UK, electronic cigarettes are still welcome in most public places. This includes the workplace. A smoker who decides to use e-cigs at work can remain at his or her desk and freely “vape” without having to interrupt the day to step outside. With e-cigarettes there is no more losing your train of thought, failing to complete important tasks, missing meetings, and so on. And because there’s no smoke being emitted, other employees are not affected.

A recent study commissioned this past spring by an American company verified that electronic cigarettes are indeed good for the workplace. Companies that encouraged the devices found that their e-smoking employees remained more focused, were more productive, and left their desks less frequently than they did when they were using tobacco. All of this translates into a better business environment and more work getting done. Furthermore, the incidence of accidental fire alarms from smoking in the bathrooms also decreased.

Good “Public Relationships”

The same study also revealed that the key to successful use of electronic cigarettes in the workplace is a good public relations effort by those using the devices. They need to take the time to explain their electric tobacco alternative and demonstrate how it works in order to put non-smokers who might be fearful a bit more at ease. Electronic cigarette users who went out of their way to do this found their co-workers were a lot more accepting of the practice. If you need help in learning how to explain electronic cigarettes and how they work, a site like electronic cigarette direct is a good resource.

Happy Customers

Lastly, the study showed that happier and more productive employees led to happier and more satisfied customers. When employees were focused on their jobs and doing them properly, customers were more satisfied with the product service they received. On the other hand, companies that did not allow e-cigarettes did not experience any of the same benefits. The researchers were forced to conclude that electronic cigarettes are definitely good for the workplace with quantifiable, measurable results.

If you have questions about electronic cigarettes or their use, electronic cigarette direct has an FAQ section which you might find helpful. You also find the latest news, health information, and electronic cigarette products for sale.

Tobacco warnings latest business free-speech case

WASHINGTON – Tobacco companies are the latest of several corporate groups to assert a right to free speech in a high-profile legal battle that could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Reynolds American Inc’s R.J. Reynolds unit, Lorillard Inc , Liggett Group LLC and Commonwealth Brands Inc, owned by Britain’s Imperial Tobacco Group Plc last week sued the Food and Drug Administration for requiring more graphic health warnings on packages and in advertising.

Last year the Supreme Court ruled corporations had a free-speech right to spend freely to support or oppose federal candidates. In June it struck down a law barring use of prescription drug records for marketing and ruled it infringed on commercial free-speech rights of data-mining companies.

The issue of corporate free-speech rights has also emerged in New York, where U.S. credit rating agencies have argued their ratings were opinions protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment safeguarding free speech.

TOBACCO CASE AN EXCEPTION?

“This is not at all a new trend,” said University of California, Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh, who teaches free-speech law. He cited rulings on constitutionally protected corporate free-speech rights dating back some 60 years.

“These kinds of claims have been made for decades and have been taken very seriously by courts and have often won in court,” he said.

Still, courts may be reluctant to strike down as unconstitutional the new warnings mandated by a law adopted by Congress in 2009 and signed by President Barack Obama, especially in view of smoking’s known health risks.

While other businesses have won free-speech claims, the tobacco case could be different because of long-standing government regulation of cigarette advertising, the approval by Congress of the new warnings and the government’s interest in telling consumers about smoking’s health dangers.

It could take months, if not years, before a federal judge and then an appeals court decide the case and it ends up at the Supreme Court.

“The courts, including the Supreme Court, are likely to uphold the new warning labels on tobacco products,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, dean at the University of California, Irvine School of Law.

He said last year’s Supreme Court ruling protected corporate speech, but only in the specific context of campaign spending. “I would not generalize from this a protection in areas such as commercial speech,” he said.

In the first change for 25 years, the nine new warnings cover the top half of the front and back of cigarette packs and 20 percent of printed advertisements. They must contain color graphics depicting the harmful health consequences of smoking, including bodies, diseased lungs and rotting teeth.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on Tuesday scheduled a September 21 hearing on the request by the cigarette companies for a preliminary injunction to delay the regulations from taking effect in September 2012.

CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED

The companies said in seeking the injunction that the warnings “drown out their constitutionally protected speech about their lawful products and replace it with the government’s emotionally charged anti-smoking message.”

The Obama administration will defend the regulations in court, but has yet to respond to the substance of the lawsuit.

Supporters of the law requiring the new graphic labels, such as Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said the warnings were mandated by a large bipartisan majority in Congress.

“The new warnings are carefully crafted to be consistent with the First Amendment, strongly supported by the science and serve the compelling goal of reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco use, which kills more than 400,000 Americans and costs the nation $96 billion in healthcare expenditures each year,” he said.

A federal judge in Kentucky last year upheld much of the law that for the first time gave the Food and Drug Administration broad powers over cigarette and tobacco products.

The decision has been appealed to a U.S. appeals court based in Cincinnati, Ohio, which heard arguments last month, but has yet to rule. That case is expected to end up in the Supreme Court.

By James Vicini
Reuters

Leading Australians back plain packaging

Four former Australians of the Year have signed a joint letter to federal MPs, urging them to support legislation to mandate plain packaging for cigarettes.

They are among 260 professors, from medical and health faculties throughout Australia, who say plain packaging of cigarettes would help reduce the appeal of smoking, particularly to children and young people.

Professors Sir Gus Nossal, Ian Frazer, Fiona Stanley and Fiona Wood have put their names to the letter, which was coordinated by the Cancer Council, the National Heart Foundation and the Public Health Association of Australia.

Professor Mike Daube from the Public Health Association says the scientists are backing plain packaging because of the compelling evidence and the potential for improved public health.

“So with 20 years of evidence, including the tobacco industry’s own market research, showing how effective tobacco packaging can be for influencing young people, it is no wonder so many leading health experts back plain packaging,” Prof Daube said in a statement.

The Gillard government wants to force all cigarettes to be sold in drab olive-brown packs from mid-2012 in order to reduce the product’s allure and make mandatory health warnings clearer.

Parliament is due to debate Labor’s plain packaging draft laws on Wednesday.

The opposition last week said it would support the main enabling legislation, but not an associated bill that aims to ensure the change won’t affect big tobacco’s ability to protect their trademarks for use other than on cigarette packs.

But Health Minister Nicola Roxon believes the government has enough support to get both bills through parliament regardless of how the opposition votes.

The professors’ letter was emailed to all MPs and senators on Tuesday.

Should films with smoking have adult ratings?

Two articles in this week’s PLoS Medicine address the question of whether films with smoking scenes should have “adult” ratings applied to them.

Christopher Millett from Imperial College, London, UK and colleagues report that, despite the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control recommendation that films with smoking scenes have adult content rating, very few governments have complied with this advice. Arguing that exposure to tobacco imagery in movies is a “potent cause of youth experimentation and progression to established smoking,” the authors say their primary reason for supporting the film rating recommendation is to create an economic incentive for producers to leave smoking out of movies that are marketed to youths.

Even more problematic, the authors say, is the fact that “many governments provide generous subsidies to the US film industry to produce youth-rated films that contain smoking and as such indirectly promote youth smoking.”

“Governments should ensure that film subsidy programmes are harmonized with public health goals by making films with tobacco imagery ineligible for public subsidies,” the authors conclude.

In an Essay also published this week in PLoS Medicine and addressing the same issue, Simon Chapman from the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia and Matthew Farrelly from RTI International, USA strongly argue against adult ratings for film with smoking scenes, laying out four reasons why they believe this to be ill-advised. They argue that 1) the link between exposure to smoking in movies and smoking uptake is vexed by substantial confounding; 2) exposure to smoking scenes is much wider than just films, including internet; 3) adult classification of films is a highly inefficient way of preventing youth exposure to adult-rated content; and 4) censorship is not the best approach for this public health issue.

The authors say: “We believe that many citizens and politicians who would otherwise give unequivocal support to important tobacco control policies would not wish to be associated with efforts to effectively censor movies other than to prevent commercial product placement by the tobacco industry.”

By Clare Weaver
press@plos.org
44-122-344-2834
Public Library of Science

In defense of tobacco

When Europeans arrived in the New World, they found the natives smoking tobacco, an indigenous leaf the Dominican chronicler Bartolome de las Casas said made them “benumbed and almost drunk.”

From the start, however popular it was among some, tobacco was judged by many to be very bad. King James I of England wrote a treatise against it, damning smoking as “a custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.”

Tobacco is a member of the nightshade family, whose siblings include potatoes, tomatoes and chili peppers, all of which contain some nicotine.

Even those among us who don’t smoke may confess that the smoldering aroma of good pipe tobacco or a fine cigar can be pleasant. The good news is that tobacco can be enjoyed in ways that don’t involve sucking hot smoke into your lungs.

The culinary possibilities of tobacco have been explored by innovative chefs such as Thomas Keller of California’s French Laundry, who infused coffee-flavored custard with tobacco leaf and served it to fellow chef and TV personality Tony Bourdain.

About two years ago, I ate a dinner at Tru that paired small batch Pappy Van Winkle bourbon with several dishes, including a lobster lightly smoked with tobacco. The beverage and leaf, both sons of the American South, were quite complementary, reflecting the fundamental culinary principle that what grows together, goes together.

The James Beard award-winning Chicago chef Carrie Nahabedian of Naha warns, though, that, “You need finesse when dealing with tobacco and food. It’s a fine line between beauty and nausea, just like using too much lemon balm: one minute beautiful and fresh, too much and it’s like a bar of soap.”

Nahabedian once prepared sweetbreads with a veal reduction infused with high-quality tobacco at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles for an Academy Awards party. She remembers the dish as “haunting in flavor and aroma, with a rich, smoky, earthy, leather-scented finish.”

“Haunting” is a good way to describe the flavor of tobacco, which we do not usually associate with fine dining, except, perhaps, in the form of an after-dinner Cohiba.

Which brings us to chef Rick Gresh of David Burke’s Primehouse in the James Hotel, who has been experimenting with a medium amber ale finished with Blue Note pipe tobacco, a relatively sweet and mild Black Cavendish.

Gresh says he brewed this beer without a lot of hops to achieve “a sweet tobacco finish and that sensation of ‘I just smoked and now I’m drinking a beer.’ ”

By DAVID HAMMOND

Tobacco display ban set for spring

Belfast, Northern Ireland – A ban on displaying cigarettes in shops will not begin until next spring at the earliest, the health minister has said.

Edwin Poots wants to introduce regulations barring the tobacco products from view in stores and scrapping vending machines.

Mr Poots said: “Despite all the available evidence on the harm caused by smoking, hundreds of children and young people are still taking up this life-limiting habit each year. By removing displays of tobacco products from view in shops, and preventing children from accessing them through vending machines, we are building upon measures already in place aimed at reducing the prevalence of smoking.”

Shop owners have highlighted the time it will take them to be ready for the new legislation. There are also legal challenges to the equivalent regulations in England.

Mr Poots said the ban will not commence in Northern Ireland until next spring at the earliest. Vending machine sales should end from February 1 next year.

In March 2009 the Assembly approved the ban on the display of tobacco items in shops in Northern Ireland. Then health minister Michael McGimpsey wanted to introduce the prohibition in 2010 but the DUP argued for a delay to 2013 to give retailers time to fund changes to their premises.

Following delays caused by ongoing legal action, England and Scotland are now proposing an introduction date of April 6 2012 for large stores and April 6 2015 for small stores. Wales has yet to announce a new date. The Republic of Ireland introduced a display ban and further restrictions on underage access to vending machines from July 1 2009.

The latest survey results available show that almost 9% of 11 to 16-year-olds in Northern Ireland are regular smokers.

Menthol Cigarettes May Be Tougher to Quit

Smoking menthol cigarettes may make it harder to quit the smoking habit.menthol cigarettes

A new study shows people who smoke the mint-flavored cigarettes are less likely to be successful at smoking cessation. This effect is especially pronounced among certain ethnic groups.

The results showed that menthol cigarette smokers were about 9% less likely to have quit smoking overall compared with those who smoked non-menthol cigarettes. But in looking at quit rates among certain ethnic groups who smoke menthol cigarettes, Hispanics of Puerto Rican origin were 43% less likely and African-Americans were 19% less likely to quit smoking.

Researchers say the findings support a recent FDA advisory committee’s recommendation that the agency remove menthol cigarettes from the market to improve public health.

“It follows from these results that recent calls to ban menthol flavoring would be prudent and evidence-based,” write researcher Cristine D. Delnevo, PhD, MPH, of the Center for Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Research at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in the Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The FDA is considering the action.

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Big Tobacco Is Smoking Hot at the FDA

WASHINGTON (CN) – The nation’s biggest tobacco companies are smoking hot at a new FDA rule that will force them to put graphic images – such as a dead body on an autopsy table and diseased body parts – on cigarette boxes and ads. Big Tobacco says such forced speech is unconstitutional.
“Such ‘warnings’ are unprecedented,” the companies say in their federal complaint. “Never before in the United States have producers of a lawful product been required to use their own packaging and advertising to convey an emotionally charged government message urging adult consumers to shun their products.”
The five plaintiffs include R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, and the Liggett Group. They sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The rule, which falls under the Tobacco Control Act, will take effect Oct. 22, 2012. It will require all cigarette packages made, starting a month before the deadline, to display the new text and graphic warnings, which must take up 50 percent of the front and back panels of a cigarette box and the top 20 percent of cigarette ads, according to the complaint.
The warnings must contain messages, such as “cigarettes cause cancer” and “smoking can kill you,” as well as “color graphics depicting the negative health consequences of smoking.”
The tobacco companies say the proposed images are not based upon facts.
“They were to appear in color and they included cartoon images, as well as disturbing, technologically enhanced photographs that used actors to maximize an emotional response from viewers,” the complaint states.
The cigarette makers say the FDA acknowledges that the warnings were selected “not to inform consumers of facts that they do not know, but rather to make consumers ‘depressed, discouraged, and afraid’ to buy tobacco products.”
They claim that FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg acknowledged that the warnings are meant to turn every pack of cigarettes into a mini-billboard for the government’s anti-smoking campaign.
“This is precisely the type of compelled speech that the First Amendment prohibits,” the companies say. “While the government may require plaintiffs to provide purely factual and uncontroversial information to inform consumers about the risks of tobacco products, it may not require plaintiffs to advocate against the purchase of their own lawful products.”
They cite a 1977 Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the government from compelling companies to use their private property as mobile billboards.
Commonwealth Brands and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco are the other two plaintiffs.
The companies say the new rule violates their First Amendment rights and the Administrative Procedure Act. They want the government enjoined from enforcing the rules.
Big Tobacco has challenged several aspects of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act since it became federal law in 2009. It has initiated legal battles across the country over the law, claiming that provisions that regulate how tobacco may be advertised and marketed, and the mandated warnings, restrict speech.
The tobacco companies in this case are represented by Noel Francisco with Jones Day.

By RYAN ABBOTT

Anti-tobacco bill to stub out consumers

A proposed anti-tobacco law will see Russian smokers paying significantly more to light up, with key Ministries looking to reduce smoking numbers and smoking related illness.

Russia’s Health Ministry and Social Development Ministry have jointly introduced an anti-tobacco bill for discussion which will see tobacco excises rise 470%, and make the excise component of the price consumers pay for cigarettes more than 50%. The move will see the minimum price for a packet of cigarettes jumping from the current 17 roubles to as much 60 roubles.

Russia’s cigarette tobacco companies are bracing for the hit. About 56% of Russian men and 16% women smoke, with 22% of them smoking at least 1 packet daily, according to the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre. Kommersant reports that the average outlay of about 500 roubles per month could climb to nearly 2000, or 10% of an average Russian salary, if the law goes ahead.

While the intention of the bill is to restrict Russian smokers with higher price and push them to quit smoking, with an attendant long term reduction in outlays for smoking related illnesses, experts say that the move could spur illegal tobacco businesses. Vyatcheslav Bobkov, head of the All – Russian centre for life quality told Kommersant that people reducing outlays on other consumer items was also likely.

“Inelasticity of demand for tobacco products can be described as one of the distinguishing features of Russia’s consumer behavior, that’s why normal households reaction to a price rise could prove not to work.”

The bill also proposes legislation to ban smoking in public places such as restaurants and night clubs, hotels, and airports, with a TV advertising ban also proposed.

The bill also proposes limiting the sale of cigarettes to larger stores, exceeding 50 square metres. This will lead to major changes in tobacco retailing with currently about 40 – 45% of sales through smaller outlets, with just 25 – 30% – from big retail chains.
Sergey Smirnov, director of the Institute for social policy at the New Economic School added that tobacco smuggling and underground cigarette production could also become issues.

By Vitaly Bezrukikh
RIA Novosti

Half of cruisers want smoking onboard ‘totally banned’

New research from an independent cruise comparison website has revealed that 48% of cruisers want smoking onboard cruise ships ‘totally banned’ whilst a further 11% want smokers to be assigned a ‘designated’ smoking area onboard the liner.

As part of ongoing research in to the holiday habits of British cruisers, an independent cruise comparison website conducted a study of 1,271 cruisers to discover the attitudes they had towards smoking cigarettes onboard cruise ships.

The study, conducted by CruiseCompare.co.uk, initially asked the respondents if they smoked cigarettes, to which almost a third, 32%, answered ‘yes’. A further 19% of the respondents admitted that they were ‘social smokers’, meaning they only smoked occasionally when in a social environment. The remaining half, 49%, stated that they did not smoke at all.

The total number of respondents were asked about their attitudes towards smoking when onboard a cruise liner. According to the results, almost half, 48%, stated that smoking onboard a cruise ship should be ‘totally banned’. When asked to explain further, the majority, 37%, said they felt this way because of the ‘health implications of passive smoking’. 22% felt it was ‘too dangerous’ to have lit cigarettes on a cruise liner.

A further 27% of the respondents said that smokers onboard a cruise ship should be ‘assigned designated smoking areas’, much like the smoking ban introduced throughout the UK. This would mean non-smokers would not have to interact with or be near the passengers when they chose to smoke.

Of the respondents who stated that smoking onboard a cruise liner should be limited to designated areas, two fifths, 41%, said that they felt this way because smokers are ‘used to the same limitations when at home in the UK’.

According to the study, 14% of the respondents cited that smokers on a cruise ship should ‘be entitled to smoke in their cabin’.

Danielle Fear, Managing Director of CruiseCompare.co.uk, said the following about the findings, “I can’t say I was surprised at these results; society seems to have easily adapted to the smoking ban that has made it illegal to smoke in public places such as restaurants, bars and bus stops. I can see the logic of spreading this ban across cruise ships; after all, many non-smokers find being around cigarette smoke unpleasant.”

She continued, “However, having said this, people who smoke can find it very relaxing, and in fact find not smoking stressful. It wouldn’t be fair to cause cruisers any stress, weather they smoke or not, as everyone is entitled to a restful holiday. Perhaps the best option would be to create designated smoking areas onboard a cruise ship, as this would mean those that didn’t want to be around cigarette smoke wouldn’t have to be, but smokers could enjoy their cruise stress free.”

Tobacco companies will try to get Ontario lawsuit dismissed

TORONTO — Tobacco companies targeted in a $50-billion lawsuit by the Ontario government are expected to argue they’re outside the province’s jurisdiction.

The director of the anti-smoking group Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, says Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office told him a motion is set to be introduced in Superior Court on Monday.

Michael Perley says he has been told the 14 companies named in the suit will argue the province has no jurisdiction to sue them because they’re controlled by foreign firms.

Ontario is taking legal action under a provincial law that allows the tobacco companies to be sued to recover health care costs linked to smoking-related diseases.

A 2005 Supreme Court of Canada ruling upheld a similar law passed in British Columbia.

Governments in Ontario, B.C., New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador have filed cost-recovery lawsuits against tobacco makers.

The tobacco companies did not immediately respond to emails.

A new type of cigarette venture: U-Roll’em

Jamaicans for decades have bought cigarettes by the stick and by the carton at corners shops, from streetside sellers, and a URollmultiplicity of businesses that make money off a habit that is hard to kick.

What has been absent up to now is a dedicated retail channel focused solely on smokers, and selling cigarettes alone. That changed in July when the first U-Roll’em shop was opened in Kingston by a Jamaican couple resident in Florida.

It gets better. Customers get to hand-roll their own sticks – customise their own products – in an extension of the ‘grabba’ market, which offers the same options but in a more informal way. It’s not unusual for some smokers, for example, to season their grabba packets with marijuana.

The two Jamaicans behind the cigarette retail shop venture, Damian and Susan McKenzie, have a more sophisticated operation than the grabba trade, however. The husband and wife team owns 51 per cent and 49 per cent of the business, respectively.

The McKenzies are principals in the Palm Beach, Florida-based Tobacco Central LLC, which has set a target of 29 Caribbean countries to roll out their network of RYO – roll your own – retail outlets stocked with tobacco filling-station machines under a distributorship arrangement with owners of the RYO technology, Ohio-based RYO Filling Station Machine LLC. The American company also supplies the tobacco through a network of international sources.

The McKenzies, who migrated from Jamaica two decades ago, say that they have been pursuing different ventures for 20 years – putting them in a group dubbed ‘serial entrepreneurs’ – and are also owners of Total Sign Solutions and CNC Inc in Palm Beach.

They set up their first U-Roll’em Jamaica store on July 2 at The Domes Plaza on Hagley Park Road in Kingston, operated by their local subsidiary RYO Jamaica Limited. The tobacco is supplied by RYO from international sources.

personalised space

On Tuesday, when Sunday Business walked in, customers drifted through the store, which, modelled on its US counterparts, is set up like a lounge where clients can relax.

Wood panelling was everywhere, and noticeable for its absence was the smell of smoke in the open-plan room.

“U-Roll’em is a personalised space for consumers. Smoking is very personal,” said general manager of U-Roll’em Jamaica Limited David McCallum.

“It is not an easy barrier to cross, in terms of getting people to change. But nothing beats repeat business, and that is what we have been getting,” said McCallum. “It was what tells us that the product has been accepted.”

A second store will be open by September, the McKenzies said in an interview from Florida via Skype.

Jamaica’s cigarette distribution market, which the couple estimates at close to 100 million sticks annually, is dominated by Carreras Limited.

Carreras acknowledged Friday that the U’Roll’em set up appeared to be a first for Jamaica.

The McKenzies, by their investment, are betting that RYO Jamaica Limited/U-Roll’em Jamaica Limited can score a substantial portion of that market.

U-Roll’em’s filling machine users who buy at least one carton, or 200 sticks, pay J$18 per stick inside the Hagley Park Road store, compared to the J$30-J$35 per manufactured stick sold on the local market.

The minimum purchase per customer is 10 sticks, which costs J$250, including tobacco, tubes, and machine use.

Noting that of all the Caribbean territories, Jamaica is one of the most lucrative tobacco markets, price-wise, Susan McKenzie said Tuesday that the start-up costs for the first outlet at The Domes was just about US$100,000 (J$8.6m).

This included design of the club-like decor and installation of three machines ranging from a desktop to a 200-stick, multiple-carton machine.

The newness of the venture makes it a bit difficult to predict performance, but if its commercial appeal tracks with US stores, then a rough estimate for sales would be “32,400 pounds, or 32,000 cartons, and one box with the minimum amount of machines in the smallest Jamaican ‘territory’,” said Susan McKenzie.

“The gross income from one carton of 200 sticks is J$3,000 plus GCT,” she said.

The term ‘territory’ is an internal designation of geographic distribution zones as demarcated by RYO Jamaica.

RYO Jamaica wants, eventually, to take the retail chain nationwide through a network of operators.

“We have divided Jamaica into 24 territories each with the potential of five or six machine locations. We are seeking operators for the other 23 zones in Jamaica and hope to build out the network within three years,” said Susan.

According to the entrepreneur, Tobacco Central will provide all machines and consumables needed for operation. Operators who install machines will buy them outright and then pay Tobacco Central a royalty fee that will cover servicing. Tobacco, sticks, and other consumables would be paid for separately.

Susan said that Kingston as a designated territory was being considered for another five U-Roll’em stores. The second is set to open at the end of September in a “high-traffic area”, she said, in response to the demand of current clientele to locate shops within a three-mile radius of their homes.

The development of stores, McKenzie noted, however, is not a core-expansion strategy. The company wants instead to distribute the machines – which she claims can pull traffic into any shopping location – but the outlets are being pursued to demonstrate the business to potential partners and as training centres.

All 24 Jamaica territories, based principally on major towns, are expected to be taken up in three years. Locations, McKenzie said, will be routinely inspected for quality of service.

McKenzie said the RYO Filling Station Machine, since its placement on the market in 2008, has cut rolling time of one carton of 200 sticks from the one hour on standard machines to eight minutes.

authorised RYO agents

The machines are distributed by a list of authorised RYO agents, whose names and locations are listed on the company’s website.

The names of the McKenzies and their two companies do not appear on the list, but Susan says Tobacco Central’s deal with RYO was signed 12 months ago and that the website does not capture international agents.

“The terms are private. The website is for US distributors, and an update is currently being developed for international clients,” she said.

“Anyone can call to find out who is the Caribbean distributor.”

Tobacco Central was formed one year ago in Florida. While the original intent was to open five to seven stores in the state in the first year, the McKenzies said RYO Filling Station Machine LLC offered them the Caribbean distributorship instead.

Jamaica is their RYO venture, where McKenzie says her market research shows neither anti-smoking campaigns nor the cut in income occasioned by the recession has made a dent in local demand for cigarettes, although Jamaicans have been searching for cheaper alternatives.

That search led to the grabba market – small dollops of tobacco sold in packets large enough to make a hand-rolled cigarette.

At U-Roll’em, store clients are offered “fresh” tobacco as well as tubes, cases, lighters, and other ancillary products. McKenzie touts as one of the biggest selling points the use of pure tobacco with no additives or fillers.

Smoking is personal, she said, and customers have responded well to the offer to roll their own products at a cheaper cost and free of additives.

By Avia Collinder
austanny@yahoo.com

Hackney Council pumps taxpayer millions into tobacco firms

Hackney Council has admitted that it invests millions of pounds in the tobacco industry, despite also promoting several initiatives designed to combat smoking in the borough.

According to the Council’s own figures, about 1.3% of its pension fund is invested in tobacco stocks, including British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco. These investments represent about £10.5 million.

At the same time, the Council’s Health in Hackney Scrutiny Commission is looking at “what more can be done to reduce smoking at a local level.”

The Council is also part of the Hackney Tobacco Control Alliance, a group whose stated goal is “to steer a coordinated, prioritised strategic approach to tobacco control in order to reduce smoking prevalence in Hackney.”

The Alliance was behind the recent decision to make Clissold Park’s play area and paddling pool a no smoking zone, and features on its website a government health strategy document entitled ‘A Smokefree Future.’

On top of this, Hackney Council supported Cut Films earlier this year, a national film competition designed to encourage young people not to smoke. Speaking at a screening of films made by students from Hackney schools, Councillor Jonathan McShane, Cabinet Member for Community Services, praised the students for making a stand against the marketing of the tobacco industry.

“It was fantastic to see the films the young people have made and the effort they put into learning about the damage that smoking does,” he said.

Hackney Council is not alone in investing in the tobacco industry. The Guardian recently reported that councils across England have tens of millions of pounds of their pension funds invested in tobacco stocks. Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, was quoted as saying “It’s sad organisations are continuing to invest in tobacco, given that it shortens people’s lives.”

A Council spokesperson defended the investments, saying that “The Council’s Pensions Sub-Committee has a duty to maximise returns for its pension fund. As a result, our external fund managers will explore investing in a wide range of investment opportunities to ensure the committee’s responsibilities are fully met. This situation is not specific to Hackney and is the same principle that all councils in London follow.”

However, Amanda Sandford, Research Manager at the anti-smoking charity ASH (Action on Smoking and Health), challenged councils to think harder about where their money was invested.

“Whilst we recognise that pension fund managers need to seek the best return on their investments,” she said, “this does not mean that they should ignore the ethical implications of their decisions … We urge all local authorities to review their portfolios and to stop supporting an industry that has such a devastating impact on society.”

Dr Lesley Mountford, Director of Public Health for Hackney and the City of London and Chair of the Hackney Tobacco Control Alliance, declined to comment on the Council’s investments but did encourage people to resist the pressure to start smoking.

She said: “…Evidence shows that if you don’t start smoking by the age of eighteen then you are unlikely to. If you already smoke and want help to give up then call 0800 169 1943 or visit smokefreecityandhackney.nhs.uk.”

Brazil Considers Cigarette Tax Rise to Offset $16 Billion Industry Package

Brazil is considering raising taxes on cigarettes to partially compensate for a $16 billion package of measures announced yesterday to help manufacturers hurt by the real’s rally.

“There are discussions about a tax increase on cigarettes,” Deputy Finance Minister Nelson Barbosa told reporters yesterday in Brasilia. He declined to elaborate.

Levies on some goods may be raised to prevent a budget deficit of 2.19 percent of gross domestic product from widening after President Dilma Rousseff announced a 25 billion reais ($16 billion) tax cut over the next two years to boost local production.

Souza Cruz SA (CRUZ3), Brazil’s largest tobacco company, dropped to a three-month low yesterday after a government official who had asked not to be identified said the Finance Ministry may raise taxes on cigarettes. The official spoke before Barbosa’s comment.

Souza Cruz fell 2.8 percent to 17.74 reais at the close of Sao Paulo trading at 4:15 p.m. New York time, the lowest since May 4. The Brazilian unit of British American Tobacco Plc (BATS) earlier dropped as much as 3.8 percent.

“Taxes on cigarettes are still low in Brazil when compared to other countries,” Caue Pinheiro, an analyst at SLW Corretora in Sao Paulo, said in a telephone interview. “It’s reasonable to assume that taxes will eventually go up. Of course, that would be bad for Souza Cruz, as the company would probably increase prices to offset the higher taxes, which would affect sales.”
Spending Reduction

Barbosa said the government may cut spending to offset part of the tax cuts. The increase of a tax on consumer credit in April also raised tax collection, giving room to the government to offer tax breaks to exporters, he said.

Brazil doubled a tax on consumer loans on April 7 to slow demand and inflation.

The government also may take steps to curb vehicle imports in an effort to protect manufacturers from foreign competition, the government official who asked not to be identified said.

Brazil is also considering adjusting the terms of a 1 percent tax on derivatives to ensure that exporters hedging against currency losses aren’t hurt by it, said the official. The government created the tax last week to discourage bets against the U.S. dollar after the real hit a 12-year high.

An official at Souza Cruz who asked not to be identified due to internal policy said the company wouldn’t comment on the issue because a final decision hasn’t yet been made.

By Arnaldo Galvao and Andre Soliani

Johnny Depp Smokes Electronic Cigarette in Movie

Many have never heard of Electronic Cigarettes, but it seems Hollywood took a puff and couldn’t put it down! According to johnny depp e-cigarettePuffweb.com, ever since Johnny Depp was depicted smoking an Ecig in “The Tourist”, these devices have become the latest fad not only in Hollywood, but everywhere.

Notable Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio are switching from real cigarettes, to “Electronic Cigarettes”. Whether it is a matter of convenience or health, these Hollywood heroes are taking in the vapor.

According to a news article from splashnewsonline.com, Leo was even spotted smoking an Ecig while cycling in New York.

Electronic Cigarettes are battery powered devices that, when puffed on, emit a pure nicotine vapor instead of traditional tobacco smoke. A user cannot smell the vapor at all, but they can taste it. In fact, many Ecig companies offer a variety of flavors like Chocolate and Strawberry.

Users can also smoke these devices anywhere, including restaurants and movie theaters. They do not harm those nearby, and they do not burn or produce tar.

Puffweb.com, the leading website for finding an electronic cigarette review, has tons of information on electronic cigarettes, the best and worst brands, and what to expect from each brand.

The term “Vaping”, is used to replace the traditional term “smoking”. For instance, one might say that Johnny Depp was “Vaping” in “The Tourist”, instead of smoking.

Although the FDA has yet to conclude if Electronic Cigarettes are a “safer” alternative to regular cigarettes, according to an article from Puffweb.com, Ecig cartridges contain a liquid solution that atomizes when inhales to produce a vapor of pure nictotine. This eliminates the extra byproducts that are found in normal cigarettes, such as tar.

Currently, the leading brand of electronic cigarettes is Greensmoke, though V2 Cigs have also been noted as an equally impressive brand.

Smoke-Free Laws Don’t Impact Rural or Urban Economies

In a recent study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, Ellen Hahn, professor in the University of Kentucky College of Nursing and Mark Pyles, assistant professor of finance in the School of Business at the College of Charleston, found smoke-free legislation does not negatively influence local economies in either rural or urban communities. This is true regardless of whether the law is enacted at the state or local level.

The report, “Economic Effects of Smoke-free Laws on Rural and Urban Counties in Kentucky and Ohio,” documents the number of employees, total wages paid and number of reporting establishments in all hospitality and accommodation services in Kentucky and Ohio counties beginning with the first quarter of 2001 and ending with the last quarter of 2009. The primary purpose of the study was to examine potential differential impact of smoke-free laws in rural and urban communities since some studies find that smoking prevalence differs in rural versus urban settings with most finding a higher prevalence in rural communities.

“Smoke-free laws are a known public health vaccine, protecting workers and the public from deadly heart and asthma attacks,” according to Ellen Hahn, the study’s co-author. “Our study shows that smoke-free laws are good for business, regardless of whether the business is located in a rural or an urban community, or if it is located in a place with a statewide smoke-free law or in a city or county with a local policy.”

In April 2009, Lexington-Fayette County implemented the first smoke-free ordinance in Kentucky. Since that time, 30 additional Kentucky counties have enacted smoke-free city or county laws or Board of Health regulations. In 2010, a bill was filed in the Kentucky General Assembly to prohibit smoking in all workplaces and public places, but it was not called for a vote. The state of Ohio implemented a smoke-free law in November 2006 covering all workplaces, restaurants and bars in all areas of the state.

According to the Americans for Nonsmokers Rights Foundation, as of July 1, 2011, approximately 48 percent of the U.S. population was protected by local or statewide smoke-free laws that cover virtually all indoor worksites including bars and restaurants. Twenty-three states, along with Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., and 468 municipalities have comprehensive smoke-free legislation covering all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

Americans No Longer Outliving Europeans

Americans used to live a little longer than Europeans, but that’s no longer the case, according to a new study that gives old-friendshigh-income nations in Europe an 18-month advantage in longevity.

Smoking, in particular, and obesity are to blame, said the U.S. researchers. But measures to curb unhealthy behaviors could improve life expectancy in coming years and help to reduce health care costs, they said.

“The question is whether being American is an independent mortality risk factor,” said author Dana Goldman, director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California.

One hundred years ago, mortality rates were improved by saving babies, Goldman explained. “But now it is reduction in mortality among the elderly, rather than the young, that propels increases in life expectancy,” Goldman said in a USC news release.

The findings, which the authors said underscored a previous National Research Council study, are published in the July issue of Social Science & Medicine.

Researchers from USC, the RAND Corp. and Harvard School of Public Health compared the average lifespan in the United States with average age of death in certain Western European countries, including Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

The United States could close the gap by reducing rates of obesity and obesity-related chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, to European levels, the researchers found.

Such improvements would also pay off economically, they said. Although improving American health during middle age to increase life expectancy would boost pension benefits, that expense would be offset by a reduction of $17,791 per person in health care costs, the researchers estimated.

They also projected that by 2050, health care savings from gradual middle-age health improvements could surpass $1.1 trillion. Medicare and Medicaid alone could save $632 billion, they said.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides statistics on the health of older Americans.

By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
Healthday

Miley Cyrus lights up the lake and a cigarette

Miley Cyrus smokes a cigarette

Miley Cyrus smokes a cigarette while smoking a cigarette in Orchard Lake, Michigan

She may be famous for being a Disney star, but Miley Cyrus is starting to look markedly different from her Hannah Montana days.

The former Disney star sported a slinky grey bikini which showed off her slender figure and growing number of tattoos as she spent the day with boyfriend Liam Hemsworth at a Michigan lake yesterday.

Miley and Liam

Miley and Liam Hemsworth enjoy a jet ski ride together on the lake

And it seems the actress and singer has also developed a nasty habit as she was spotted lighting up several cigarettes while soaking up the sunshine.

It’s clear that the Hannah Montana star’s relationship with the actor – her co-star in film The Last Song – is firmly back on after the pair split briefly last year.

They were joined by Miley’s friend, former star of reality show The City, Erin Lucas.

‘Lake day with @erin_lucas and our bfs :),’ Miley wrote on her Twitter page yesterday. ‘We already put them do a coffee run but it’s taking WAY tooo long!’

Her new smoking habit comes in contrast to comments she made in her 2009 autobiography Miles To Go, according to the New York Post.

‘I would never smoke,’ she wrote. ‘I always say that for me, smoking would be like smashing my guitar and expecting it to play.

‘I’d never do that to my voice, not to mention the rest of my body,’ she added.

Electronic cigarettes taken off shelves in Ireland

Electronic cigarettes have been removed from the shelves of Irish pharmacies due to concerns about the safety of the products.

The device allows people to smoke in areas where tobacco is banned and were invented by a
Chinese pharmacist. They offer the sensation of smoking but have no tobacco or tar. However concerns were expressed that the cigarettes could contain harmful chemicals.

The EU must now establish if the device can be classified as a medical or tobacco products.

Owner of Bull and Bear Tobacco files lawsuit in response to default notice

St. Charles, IL — Inside Bull and Bear Tobacco shop on a warm Wednesday cigarafternoon, a group of men lounged on leather couches smoking cigars and chatting softly among themselves.

It’s a typical sight any day the shop is open.

This day, however, was a little different. Suddenly, a woman walked in and began complaining openly to everyone about the “strong” smoke smell that she could detect from a nearby business.

She asked for a filtration system to be turned on. But it was. Fans were running, too.

“I’ve exhausted everything I could possibly do,” said Zita Harmon, who owns the premium tobacconist shop. “I don’t know what’s left to do in my control.”

Regardless, the complaints continue from some neighboring businesses. Since the building is part of a shopping center on Illinois Street, there are several neighbors. While complaints don’t often come as directly, the shop’s landlord, ShoDeen Management, has been hearing most of them, said Robert Minetz, the attorney for ShoDeen Management.

In St. Charles, Bull and Bear Tobacco is one of few shops where people can socialize while smoking after Illinois’ public smoking ban took effect in 2008.

But, depending on the outcome of a lawsuit, that may soon change.

After receiving a Notice of Default in February from ShoDeen telling Harmon she was in violation of her lease because of the odor, Harmon decided to sue the company asking them to uphold the lease that ends in 2014.

“(The letter) was the course of action to try and evict us,” she said.

Calls to Eric ShoDeen, the owner of ShoDeen Management, were not returned.

In Illinois, shops that make more than 80 percent of sales through tobacco products can allow smoking indoors. Because the shop has been open since 1995, it also operates under the grandfather clause, Harmon said. The clause allows smoking in the shop — despite a smoking ban in stores within shopping centers that share the same building

If Harmon moved, she’d have to get a stand-alone building —a much more expensive option, she said.
“It’s very stressful for me,” she said. “I’ve gone from being an excellent tenant to one they want to evict.”
In this economy, Harmon argues that St. Charles can’t lose any more retailers.

“I’m not going to be thrown out and risk losing my business,” she said.

Specialists have come out and said filtration systems are more than adequate for the space, according to Harmon.

On the other hand, Minetz argues that the filtration systems are inadequate and that the system is not always turned on. Because the shop is private property, Minetz said the management company is unable to preform a first-hand inspection.

While smoking is allowed inside, part of the lease also states that tenants cannot release toxic odors, he added.

“People on the second floor smell it and don’t like it,” he said. “Everyone knows it’s cigar smoke.”

The issue arose after a business office upstairs expanded about two years ago, according to Harmon’s attorney Tracy Stevenson. Since the office is now more directly above of the shop, the business owners have begun to complain, Stevenson said.

Those at the business, ALE Solutions, as well as the owner of a salon next door to the cigar shop declined to comment.

For Harmon, the odor comes not just from smoke, but also from the smell of unlit tobacco in the shop. In addition, Harmon said cigarette smoking is generally not allowed in the shop. There’s a big difference between cigarette and cigar smoke because of additives in cigarettes and the difference in tobacco quality, she said.

Over the last few years, however, complaints of the smell have increased, Minetz said.

“One witness said when things are locked up in the winter, the smell, odor, is much more noticeable,” he added.

But Harmon said the cold weather months are often when people come in to smoke cigars.

“Some people are just social smokers,” she said. “There aren’t many places left to do that.”

The next hearing will take place at the end of August. The judge will either decide to grant summary judgment or to schedule a trial.

Meanwhile, Harmon’s customers are still smoking at the shop.

“All of a sudden what we’ve been doing for 16 years is no longer permitted,” Harmon said.

By Elizabeth Stoever, estoever@mysuburbanlife.com
GateHouse News Service