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January/February, 2010
BMJ

US judge okays color, graphics in tobacco ads

New York - A judge has overturned two of the marketing restrictions in the new federal tobacco law, including a ban on color and graphics in most tobacco advertising. Several tobacco makers sued in August to block the restrictions, and US District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. in Kentucky agreed that two violated tobacco companies' free speech rights.

Congress could have exempted certain types of colors and images instead of banning all color and graphics in advertising that children might see, McKinley ruled. He also said the US Food and Drug Administration can't bar everyone from saying the agency's regulation of tobacco makes it safe, but he left open the possibility that the FDA could bar tobacco companies from making that assertion.

McKinley upheld most of the new marketing restrictions, including a ban on tobacco companies sponsoring athletic, social, and cultural events or offering free samples or branded merchandise. The ruling also upholds a requirement that warning labels cover half the packaging on each tobacco product.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, signed into law in June, lets the FDA limit but not ban nicotine. It also lets the agency ban candy flavorings and marketing claims such "low tar" and "light," require warnings be emblazoned over carton images, regulate what goes into tobacco products, and publicize those ingredients.

The lawsuit by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., maker of Camel cigarettes; Lorillard Inc., which sells Newport menthols, and other tobacco companies was the first major challenge of the legislation.


Bulgaria
Gigantic cigarette tax hike
Sofia - As of this beginning of the year, Bulgarian smokers have had to deal with an imposing raise in excise duties on cigarettes. Under a decision that the parliament took at the end of November, a BGN 101 excise duty for 1,000 cigarettes is introduced instead of the previous BGN 41, while the proportional tax is 23% of the sales price instead of 40.5%. The latter will affect mostly expensive cigarette brands. The tax for tobacco for pipes and cigarettes is set at BGN 100 per kg.

The new duties increase the price of a pack of cigarettes anywhere between BGN 1.10 and 1.40 making the price of the best-selling Victory brand BGN 5 instead of the current BGN 3.40. Opponents to the tax hike claim that it will boost cigarette smuggling and may lead to the bankruptcy of the dominant state cigarette maker Bulgartabak. Bulgaria has the second highest percentage of smokers in Europe and plans to ban smoking in all public spaces as of June next year.


Cyprus
New indoor smoking ban
Nicosia - Cyprus rang in the New Year with the introduction of a blanket ban on indoor smoking in pubs, clubs, and cafes that is among the toughest in Europe. Cyprus has its fair share of heavy smokers, but 2010 will see them having to follow in the footsteps of the French, Irish, and Italians and puff outside as the authorities imposed a new anti-smoking law on January 1st.

Proprietors and offenders face a maximum 2,000 euro (2,870 dollar) fine if they break the law by smoking in a closed public space. A maximum 1,000 euro fine will also be imposed for any establishment that fails to clearly sign that an indoor area is a smoke-free zone.

Bar and club owners have voiced their disapproval to the move saying it could cost jobs as they expect a loss of custom from regular smokers. Critics also argue that there should be smoking lounges and smoking floors in hotels.


Finland
A plan to end all smoking
Helsinki - Finland plans to completely abolish smoking, starting with a ban on displaying tobacco products and smoking in cars carrying minors. Finnish State Secretary Ilkka Oksala said the new laws were the start of a move to get rid of tobacco "once and for all." although several European countries now ban smoking in public buildings, including restaurants and pubs, Finland would be the first country to adopt a total ban.

Greece
Raising tobacco taxes to fight debt
Athens - Greece's center-left government recently said it would be increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol, looking for euro 1 bn ($1.43 bn) in badly needed revenues as the country grapples with a debt crisis. Under the changes, tax on a packet of cigarettes will rise from 57.5 to 70%. Greeks are among the heaviest smokers in the European Union. The new prices would mean a packet of cigarettes, commonly priced at €3.20 ($4.57), will cost €3.61 ($5.15) and add about euro1 ($1.43) to the price of a bottle of whisky, currently selling at about €14 ($20).

Poland
Country will be key country in fight against illegal tobacco
Warsaw - The EU is mobilizing itself to cope with smugglers of cigarettes, which are causing annual losses in the billions. The dam on the road to the EU smuggling will be developed in Poland, where in 2009 authorities seized 750 mn cigarettes, which is 100 mn more than in the preceding year. However, this is only the tip of an iceberg as Poland is also the main distribution center of cigarettes floating from the East to the European Union countries. The stakes are high as each successful shipment of a container of cigarettes with 100,000 packs means net earnings of z?.2 mn for the smugglers.

Spain
Parliament split on smoking ban
Madrid - Originally set to be implemented on the 1st of January this year, a Spanish smoking ban is still being debated in the halls of power here in Spain with opposition parties failing to agree and Madrid setting its own rules.

Spain's Health Minister has stated that she wants a new tobacco ban prohibiting smoking in all public places throughout Spain to go into effect as soon as the ruling Socialist Party can gather cross party support for its ratification by Congress.

In 2005, that the government introduced a tobacco law that has been poorly enforced. Under the regulations, public places more than 100-square-meters had to have a separate area for smokers. But a year later, a survey showed that more than half of the businesses around the country didn't stick to the ban. Madrid’s regional government issued its own decree, giving more freedom to smokers, such as allowing them to light up at certain areas at work and eliminating the 100-square-meter rule in the capital.


Taiwan
Green tea could modify smoking’s lung cancer risk
Taipei - Drinking green tea could modulate the effect of smoking on lung cancer. Results of this hospital-based, randomized study conducted in Taiwan were presented at the AACR-IASLC Joint Conference on Molecular Origins of Lung Cancer, held in early January.

Researchers enrolled 170 patients with lung cancer and 340 healthy patients as controls. Among smokers and non-smokers, those who did not drink green tea had a 5.16-fold increased risk of lung cancer compared with those who drank at least one cup of green tea per day. Among smokers, those who did not drink green tea at all had a 12.71-fold increased risk of lung cancer compared with those who drank at least one cup of green tea per day.


United Arab Emirates
Age limit for tobacco sales to be increased to 20
Abu Dhabi - The UAE is likely to revise the minimum age limit set in the federal law for sale of tobacco products from the current 18 to 20, according to health officials. While announcing details of the National Anti-Tobacco Law that has already come into force, a senior health official said that though the law has set the minimum age limit for sale of tobacco products at 18, it was likely that the limit will be changed in future to 20 as is being followed by Dubai.

Nearly all countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Yemen have similar laws except Saudi Arabia that has a tobacco control program. Egypt, Jordan, and Syria are expected to come up with similar laws soon.


Vietnam
Government fails to curb smoking in public ban
Hanoi - Many Vietnamese are still smoking in public places like parks, stations and hospital despite the government's ban on smoking in public places, which supposedly took effect on January 1st this year, according to a recent report from the Vietnam news agency.

Eight of 10 interviewed smokers at the Saint Paul Hospital in Hanoi said that they did not know about the ban while the other two said that they did not care about the ban and will continue to smoke. Saint Paul Hospital is one of thousands of hospitals and health clinics that fall under the list of public places where smoking is prohibited. According to the ban, people are not allowed to smoke in public places such as schools, health clinics, cinemas, and stations. Violations of the ban can be met with a fine of 50,000 to 100,000 VND (between US$2.70 to US$5.40).


Tobacco International - January/February, 2010
Essentra


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