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January/February, 2010

What’s Next on Their List?

Finland is rarely described as a bellwether of Western trends. This may be a good thing given the recent announcement of Finnish State Secretary Ilkka Oksala who when asked to comment on a Finnish push to ban tobacco advertising and limit smoking in cars with minors answered that these laws would hopefully remove smoking “once and for all.” This is a few step further down the anti-tobacco trail than most politicians have been willing to travel (publicly). Historically the political rhetoric has been along the lines of wanting to lessen the occurrence of smoking or limiting advertising to lessen the appeal to minors. But this is a new tactic that seems to be stopping just short of wanting an outright ban on tobacco.

Another interesting item comes from the United Arab Emirates where the whole nation seems likely to follow the lead of Dubai and raise the legal age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 20. This is a tobacco-purchasing age that can be found throughout other Gulf states and various other locales around the Middle East. While there seems little chance this age-limit trend would spread westward (I have, of course, been surprised before!), this is a trend that may have some legs throughout the east where smoking is more prevalent, and anti-smoking forces more virulent (anyone at the recent Tabinfo conference in Bangkok can attest to that).

However, most countries seem to be content with the old tried and true method of taxing cigarettes out of existence. This, of course, often does just what it was designed to do: lessen smoking rates. It also, nearly without exception, leads to supplies of cheaper counterfeit cigarettes flowing into the marketplace (along with the sellers of such goods who aren’t known for placing “law and order” high on their priority list). One of the largest venues of counterfeit cigarettes comes from a state-sponsored enterprise in North Korea, whose pirate brand wares have found their way all over the world, even as far away as North America. As cigarette regulations grow through Asia, you can be assured that the North Korean cigarette industry will find plenty of new customers.

The next few years will find all sorts of taxes and regulations from all corners of the globe. If the Finnish authorities aren’t trendsetters in this field, then perhaps they are just the most honest about their intentions.

- E. D.

Tobacco International - January/February, 2010

U.S. Tobacco Cooperative

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