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February, 2008

Smoking ban boosts smoking
Hong Kong - The citizens of Hong Kong have purchased nearly 12 mn more cigarettes a month since a public-places smoking ban was imposed there a year ago. Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department collected duty on an average of 289.6 mn cigarettes monthly during 2007, compared with 278 mn per month during the previous year.

What is a trademark, and what isn’t?
Mumbai - A trademark cannot be claimed on common, descriptive English words, the Bombay high court has ruled. Following a petition filed by cigarette giant ITC, a high court quashed an order allowing rival GTC Industries to register a trademark in the name of “Magnum.” The order comes as sweet victory for ITC, which had mounted a legal battle for over 15 years against GTC’s plan to register “Magnum” as a trademark for a brand of cigarettes and cigars.

Smart ID cards will be needed to operate cigarette machines
Tokyo - The Tobacco Institute of Japan has started accepting applications for age-verification cards to be used at cigarette-vending machines beginning in March.

Vending machines with the age verification function will be phased in from March through July, and smokers will have to use the ID card to purchase cigarettes. The process to obtain the card is much like obtaining a passport - the applicant must send in a form with an application, photo ID, and a copy of a document that proves the applicant’s age. The card is issued free of charge and the application is obtained at shops selling cigarettes or downloaded on-line.

As of July, all 520,000 cigarette-vending machines in the nation will require the card, which also can be used as an electronic money card to buy cigarettes from vending machines.

Customs intercepts 480,000 packs of fake Marlboros
Lagos - More than 480,000 packs of fake Marlboros from China have been intercepted by officers of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS). The interception of the cigarettes followed a tip off from Philip Morris International.

JTI signs agreement to combat illegal trade
Geneva - Japan Tobacco International (JTI) announced in mid-December that it had signed a 15-year agreement with the European Commission and 26 member states of the EU defining how they intended to co-operate in combating the illegal trade of cigarettes.

The agreement calls for JTI to pay $400 mn over 15 years to the Commission and participating member states for use in “additional support” for anti-contraband and anti-counterfeit initiatives. And it precludes the bringing of lawsuits against JTI for civil claims arising out of alleged past conduct related to the illicit trade in cigarettes. The UK is the only member state not to have signed the agreement.

The agreement’s framework and timetable have been established so as to include the former Gallaher, which was acquired by JTI in April.

PMI launches “snack-sized” cigarette
Istanbul - Philip Morris International (PMI) is planning a “snack-size” to allow smokers forced outside by the smoking ban to get a quick fix of nicotine. The compact cigarettes will be half an inch shorter than conventional cigarettes - measuring 2.8in (7.2cm) instead of the usual 3.3in (8.5cm) - and will have the same potency but will take less time to smoke.

They are designed particularly for employees who are forced outside for a cigarette break. The cigarettes will be tested in Turkey, but PMI believes it has worldwide potential, with more than 50 countries now having bans on smoking in public places.

United States
PM USA sues “gray market” importers
Richmond - Philip Morris USA filed lawsuits against two cigarette importers in mid-January for alleged counterfeiting and unauthorized use of the Marlboro trademark. Richmond-based PM USA filed separate federal suits against C.H. Rhodes and US Sun Star Trading Inc., both of New York state.

The suits come after US Customs and Border Protection confiscated about 16,450 cartons of counterfeit cigarettes in separate incidents when Rhodes and Sun Star were the respective importers of record.

Over the last few years, the federal government and many state governments have increased taxes on cigarettes, raising their overall prices. So-called gray-market vendors typically import cigarettes intended for foreign markets and sell them to consumers more cheaply than domestic products because they’re untaxed. PM USA has filed 29 cases against counterfeit importers over the past four years.

Tobacco International - February, 2008

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