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June, 2009

US Government may oversee tobacco, ban cloves

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As of press time, the US Senate was very close to passing a bill which would give the federal government oversite over tobacco manufacturing and marketing.

President Obama has pledged to sign the bill. The bill would, for the first time, give the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) powers to regulate the content of tobacco products, order the removal of hazardous ingredients, restrict the marketing and distribution of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, clamp down on sales to young people, require stronger warning labels and stop use of characterizations such as “light” or “low tar” that give people the impression of lower health risks.

A new office would be set up in the FDA, with administrative costs paid by a fee on tobacco companies. Cigarette makers would have to register with the FDA and provide the agency with a list of all the products they make. Additionally, cloves may be banned as a cigarette flavoring, along with cherry and chocolate, under tobacco legislation currently working its way through the Senate. Altria Group Inc., the largest US tobacco company, backs the measure, which would exempt mint-flavored menthol cigarettes such as its Marlboro Smooth.

However, the ban is running into opposition from Indonesia, whose 4 mn clove farmers may lose a market. Indonesia vows to take the matter to the World Trade Organization if the proposed ban becomes law.

Cloves, native to Indonesia, are a spice taken from the dried flower buds of a tropical tree. Indonesia is the world's largest producer of clove cigarettes, known as kreteks, exporting about $500 mn of the product a year, according to the Indonesian ambassador. The tobacco bill also specifies that the Food and Drug Administration could ban menthol cigarettes later if it finds them harmful. Menthol-flavored products account for about 28% of all cigarettes sold in the US, compared with 0.09% for clove cigarettes, according to the Specialty Tobacco Council Inc., a trade group in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Bangladesh to increase tax on cigarettes, other tobacco products
DHAKA - The Bangladeshi government will increase tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products in the next fiscal year (starting July 2009) budget, a senior official said on Sunday. During a recent meeting with a local research organization Unnayan Samannay (Development Coordination), Chairman of the Bangladesh's National Board of Revenue (NBR) Abdul Mazid said the purpose of increasing tax on cigarettes and tobacco products is not to boost revenue earning but to protect public health.

EU smoking habits study released
BRUSSELS - European statistical service Eurobarometer has reported that Greece ranks first in the EU for the percentage of adult smokers. The Eurobarometer poll carried out between December 13 and 17, 2008, where smokers represent 42 % of the adult population. Bulgaria ranks second highest, where the study found found that 39% of Bulgaria's adult population smoke regularly or occasionally. Slovenia with 22% and Sweden with 26% of smokers are at the bottom of the list. A total of three out of 10 Europeans aged over 15 are smokers, Eurobarometer data also showed. About 46% of EU citizens have never smoked. Over 26,500 randomlyselected citizens aged 15 years and over were interviewed for the poll in the 27 EU Member States and in Norway.

The effects of cigarette consumption tax
KINGSTON - One day after Finance Minister Audley Shaw announced a further increase in the “Special Consumption Tax” (SCT) on tobacco products, executives at the island's largest cigarette distributor, Carreras Limited, are meeting to discuss the implications. Carreras markets and distributes the popular Craven A cigarette. The SCT on cigarettes moved from $6,000 per 1,000 sticks to $8,500 in May. The Jamaican authorities are projecting to collect $1.4 bn from the tax measure.

Employees must quit smoking, may require tests to verify
SEOUL - South Korean steelmaker Posco has sent its employees a tough no smoking message and may require them to take blood tests to check if they have kicked the habit.

Company officials recently said that CEO Chung Joon-yang wants Posco, which employs 16,000 people, to be smoke-free by the end of the year. Chung says the company may conduct blood tests to determine whether they have really given up tobacco. The company's union and the Health Ministry have welcomed the campaign. But Noh Hee-bum, a spokesman at the Constitutional Court, says the move could violate South Korea's Constitution, which guarantees the people's right to seek happiness.

Nicotine may prevent bioterrorism damage
BRIGHTON - British scientists say they've determined nicotine can delay the effects of ricin used during a bioterrorism attack. Jon Mabley and his colleagues at the University of Brighton found nicotine works to block the tissue-destroying effects of ricin—a highly toxic compound derived from castor beans. The study was conducted in laboratory models, but the scientists said nicotine agonists could potentially be used in patients exposed to ricin as a stopgap measure before other treatments take effect. The British investigators studied the effect of nicotine on animals exposed to ricin and found it reduced death and organ failure. The study appears in the journal Molecular Medicine.

Tobacco industry in uproar over proposed NC tax
REIDSVILLE, NC - The new governor of North Carolina took little time after her inauguration in January to show her concern for the state’s tobacco community, asking the legislature to increase the state cigarette tax by $1 per pack to generate funds for the state’s budget.

This move set off an uproar among growers and the industry

"It is a disgrace to continually target legitimate, adult smokers who choose to purchase a legal product," said Anthony Hemsley, Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs. "It is disappointing that states, especially one like North Carolina which has benefited from tobacco for so many years, continue to persecute our smokers to cover state deficits."

Hemsley chided Governor Bev Perdue (Dem) for thinking cigarette tax could rescue the state budget. "State budget projections based on historical tobacco sales volumes will lead to significant shortfalls," he warned.

Smoking may boost “fat-depleting” gene
NEW YORK - Offering clues to why smokers often gain weight after quitting, a new study suggests that smoking enhances the activity of a gene that helps break down body fat.

Researchers found that compared with non-smokers, a group of healthy smokers showed greater activity in a gene called AZGP1 in cell samples taken from their airways. Because the gene is thought to be important in breaking down fat and controlling weight, the findings point to one possible reason that smokers tend to weigh less than non-smokers—and why people often put on pounds after quitting.

Dr. Holly Vanni and colleagues at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York report the findings in the journal Chest.

Researchers have pointed to various potential reasons for the weight gain that often follows smoking cessation. People who quit may start to eat more, for example, while at the same time losing the metabolism boost that nicotine provides.

Tobacco International - June, 2009

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