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November, 2009

Backlashes against display bans in Ireland/UK

Dublin - Philip Morris Limited (PML), Philip Morris Products S.A. (PMPSA) and Maurice Timony, an independent retailer from Donegal, have announced that they will file a joint lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban on display of tobacco products at retail stores in Ireland, which has been in effect since July 2009.

Additionally, the UK has just passed their own tobacco display ban, despite a backlash led by various MPs citing the burden the ban will cause to small retailers. Imperial Tobacco released a statement claiming their disappointment “that the Government has once again ignored the abundant evidence that legislation to ban tobacco displays will have no impact on young people smoking but will instead place an unnecessary burden on retailers.”

Probing tobacco on Facebook
Canberra - The Australian government recently stated that it will investigate reports that tobacco companies are using internet social networking sites like Facebook to hook smokers. Online fan clubs and unofficial product pages endorsing Marlboro, Benson and Hedges, and Lucky Strike are now appearing on internet social networks, with links posted to the product’s website.

Ontario latest to launch tobacco suit
Toronto - The Canadian province of Ontario has become the latest jurisdiction to launch a lawsuit to recover smoking-related health costs from the tobacco industry. The suit seeks $50 bn Canadian (US$46 bn) from a dozen Canadian firms and their parent companies. The claim follows similar actions in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and New Brunswick, as well as in the US and from other governments.

Among those named in the suit is Canada’s largest tobacco manufacturer, Imperial Tobacco Co., a wholly owned unit of British American Tobacco of London that sells cigarettes under such well-known brands as du Maurier and Player’s.

Imperial spokesman Eric Gagnon suggested the Ontario government was being hypocritical. “They’re collecting billions of dollars in taxes, and right now they are turning and suing the tobacco companies,” Gagnon said. “This is a legal product and we do it in the way the government dictates us to do it.”

Tobacco ban lifted - temporarily
Zagreb - Croatia has lifted a smoking ban on bars and cafes. This past April, Croatia banned indoors smoking in all public places, and bar owners say the restriction has halved their profits and forced many of them to close. About a third of Croatia’s 4.5 mn people are believed to be smokers. In reaction, the government recently announced that it will ease the ban, allowing spacious cafes and bars to have separate smoking areas, while smaller ones can decide whether to allow smoking or not. Smoking places will, however, have to install extensive ventilation systems. The owners are given six months to adapt. In the European Union, 12 countries have, or are planning, some kind of ban on smoking in public places.

Bans smoking in public places
Damascus - Syria banned smoking inside all public buildings, according to the government news agency. The decree sets a fine of 2,000 ($46) Syrian pounds on anyone flouting the ban in cafes, pubs and restaurants, the SANA agency said.

The ban extends to schools and public transport, and covers the nargile, or water pipe, a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Those owning and running buildings where people violate the law, which also includes strengthening a ban on tobacco adverts, will be fined and, in some cases, imprisoned.

United States
Homemade cigarette shop comes under fire
New Hampshire - Smokers have been lining up to use a commercial roll-your-own machine at Tobacco Haven in Brookline, New Hampshire. The machine spits out hundreds of cigarettes for less than half the price of brand names. However local officials want to pull the plug stating that the shop is now a cigarette manufacturer and can no longer sidestep what it owes the government. The state is suing the smoke shop, arguing that it is trying to get around its financial obligations as a cigarette manufacturer.

More than 10 years ago, major tobacco companies agreed to help fund medical expenses for illnesses related to smoking. The owner of Tobacco Haven says his business is not a manufacturer. David Rienzo, New Hampshire’s assistant attorney general disagrees, saying that if New Hampshire doesn’t take action, the state could jeopardize the $50 mn it receives from the tobacco agreement every year. Machines like the one in New Hampshire are turning up in other parts of the country.

Tobacco International - November, 2009

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