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No 10 accused of ‘caving in’ to cigarette lobby as plain packs put on hold

Category : Business

Tobacco giant warned of loss of jobs in UK before packaging rules were dropped, and anti-smoking camp also cites possible fear of Ukip

Anti-smoking campaigners have accused the government of caving in to pressure from the tobacco lobby and running scared of Ukip after plans to enforce the sale of cigarettes in plain packs failed to make it into the Queen’s speech.

Minutes released by the Department of Health show that one of the industry’s leading players had told government officials that, if the move went through, it would source its packaging from abroad, resulting in “significant job losses.”

Cancer charities and health experts were expecting a bill to be introduced last week that would ban branded cigarette packaging, following a ban introduced in Australia last December. At least one health minister had been briefing that the bill would be in the Queen’s speech. But the bill was apparently put on hold at the last minute with the government saying it would be a distraction from its main legislative priorities.

Ukip, which enjoyed considerable success in last week’s elections, has positioned itself firmly on the side of smokers and there is a suspicion that the Tories scrapped the plan because they did not want to be seen as anti-smoking.

It has emerged that senior Department of Health officials held four key meetings with the industry’s leading players in January and February, when at least one of the tobacco giants spelled out to the government that its plan would result in thousands of jobs going abroad.

Department of Health minutes released last week reveal that Imperial Tobacco, British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris International and Japan Tobacco International were each invited to make representations to the government, in which they attacked the plan and its impact on the UK economy.

Only the minutes of the meeting with Imperial have been released. They record that Imperial warned if plain packs were introduced it would source packaging from the Far East resulting “in significant job losses in the UK.”

The tobacco giant also outlined how its packaging research and development department supported small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK and argued that standard packs would “result in some of these being put out of business”.

It added that the plan would boost the illicit trade in cigarettes, which already costs the Treasury £3bn in unpaid duty and VAT a year. And it noted that 70,000 UK jobs rely on the tobacco supply chain, implying some of these would be threatened if the illicit market continued to grow.

When asked to hand over its assessment of the impact of the plan, Imperial refused, citing commercial sensitivity.

The decision to delay the introduction of plain packs is a major success for the tobacco lobby, which has run a ferocious campaign against the move. Cigarette makers fear that the loss of their branding will deprive them of their most powerful marketing weapon. The industry has backed a series of front campaign groups to make it appear that there is widespread opposition to the plan, a practice known in lobbying jargon as “astroturfing”. Many of the ideas were imported from Australia, where the tobacco giants fought a bitter but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to resist plain packs. Much of the Australian campaign was masterminded by the lobbying firm Crosby Textor, whose co-founder Lynton Crosby is spearheading the Tories’ 2015 election bid.

Crosby was federal director of the Liberal party in Australia when it accepted tobacco money. Crosby Textor in Australia was paid a retainer from BAT during the campaign against plain packs. Some anti-smoking campaigners are now questioning whether the decision to drop the plain packs bill was as a result of shifting allegiances at Westminster.

“It looks as if the noxious mix of rightwing Australian populism, as represented by Crosby and his lobbying firm, and English saloon bar reactionaries, as embodied by [Nigel] Farage and Ukip, may succeed in preventing this government from proceeding with standardised cigarette packs, despite their popularity with the public,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the health charity Action on Smoking and Health.

The decision to drop the plan will become a divisive issue for the coalition because the Liberal Democrats were strongly in favour of the measure, which will still be introduced in Scotland.

It is also a concern for the government’s own health adviser. “Our view is that plain packaging is one of a range of measures shown to be effective in reducing the amount of people taking up smoking,” said Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, the government agency charged with helping people to live longer and more healthily.

A Department of Health spokeswoman denied that tobacco lobbying had been a factor in the decision to pull the bill. “These minutes simply reflect what the tobacco company said at the meeting, not the government’s view,” she said. “The government has an open mind on this issue, and any decisions to take further action will be taken only after full consideration of the evidence and the consultation responses.”

Tobacco smugglers losing UK market share

Category : Business

Traffickers’ share of cigarette market has slumped to 9% amid joint efforts by HMRC and UK Border Agency to disrupt supply

Britain is winning the war against tobacco smugglers who target cheap cigarettes at poor smokers and children and deny the Treasury revenue, according to a parliamentary report.

In 2000, one in five of cigarettes smoked came from the black market. But by 2010-11 traffickers’ share of the cigarette market had fallen to 9%, according to the report on the illicit tobacco trade by the all parliamentary group on smoking and health.

Over the same period, the share of the UK’s hand-rolled tobacco market originating with smugglers fell from 60% to 38%, an inquiry by the group of MPs and peers found.

Joint action by HM Revenue & Customs and the UK Border Agency has disrupted smugglers’ efforts to bring in and distribute their products, as have partnerships involving local police forces, councils and NHS organisations, the report says.

Stephen Williams, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the group, said the success disproved the industry’s claims that high taxes on their products in the UK boosted the supply of illegal tobacco.

He said manufacturers’ claims that forcing cigarettes to be sold in standardised packaging would increase the illicit trade were “self-interested and at times seemingly disingenuous industry lobbying”.

Legal agreements the EU has concluded with the big cigarette firms to reduce trafficking has also helped make fewer available, the parliamentarians say.

Their report highlights how the previously easy availability of black market tobacco in the UK was partly due to producers deliberately exporting more cigarettes than were wanted to other countries, knowing that many would be smuggled back into Britain.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s policy director, said: “This report is further evidence that the tobacco industry should not be listened to when developing health policies aimed at reducing the devastating impact of smoking.”

The Tobacco Manufacturers Association claimed that more recent data showed that “the level of cigarettes consumed that are not UK tax paid has risen from 17% in 2011 to 21% in 2012″ and that figures from the Office of Budget Responsibility last week showed the government expected to receive £200m less in tobacco revenue in 2012-13.

A spokesman for the association claimed the inquiry was biased because it had not given a fair hearing to the industry and did not mention firms’ contributions to reducing smuggling.

Japanese join U.S. West Coast cleanup

Category : World News

Japanese living on the West Coast of the United States joined cleanup activities Saturday at beaches that are expected to receive debris generated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In San Francisco, around 50 Japanese, including consulate general officials and employees of Japanese firms, picked up cigarette butts and plastic bottles.

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Green Smoke Designer E-Cigarette Battery Excites Expert

Category : World News

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL–(Marketwire – Jun 7, 2012) – provides updates on the electronic cigarette industry. Since 2009, the site has been the premier source of information, reviews, and occurrences in the growing industry. Electronic cigarette review expert Andy Gray recently had an advance look at the “designer” e-cigarette battery for sale by popular brand Green Smoke. Known for his in-depth and sometimes critical reviews, Gray shared his excitement for the new product release.

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Review of ‘plain’ cigarette packs

Category : Business, World News

The government is considering plans to strip all branding from cigarette packs sold in England in a bid to make smoking appear less attractive.

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Lansley comes under fire over plain cigarette packet plans

Category : Business

Health secretary faced criticism from within his own party after announcing plans for a consultation on cigarette branding

Health secretary Andrew Lansley is facing criticism from within his own party after announcing plans to begin a consultation that could strip cigarette packets of all branding.

The consultation which starts on Monday will examine whether tobacco companies should be forced to sell their products in plain packages, legislation which has been attempted in Australia.

Lansley said the government had a responsibility to examine initiatives that might reduce smoking. “Each year it (smoking) accounts for over 100,000 deaths in the UK and one in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease.”

Legislation on plain packaging would be the latest in a series of measures against smoking including the ban on advertising and smoking in public places, graphic health warnings on packets, the ban on display in shops and annual tax rises.

But Lansley’s initiative was fiercely criticised from within the Conservative party. Mark Field, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster said the introduction of plain packaging would infringe the rights of international business and set a dangerous precedent.

“I suspect plain packaging will result in other sorts of negative impacts, including the increased health threat posed by counterfeit tobacco, the encouragement of smuggled products and damaging competition,” he wrote in the Conservative Home website.

“Indeed, the Treasury is already losing around £3bn a year from tobacco that has evaded UK duty; criminal gangs operating a contraband supply chain at the expense of legitimate businesses. “

Deborah Arnott, the head of Action on Smoking and Health, welcomed the plan. “The consultation is just the first step, putting us in pole position to be the first European nation to put tobacco in plain, standardised packs. Cigarettes are not like sweets or toys and should not be sold in fancy colourful packaging which makes them appealing to children. Cigarettes are full of toxins and cause fatal diseases: plain, standardised packaging makes this explicit.”

Last year, Australia approved laws to introduce plain packaging to reduce the attractions of smoking, but three of the world’s four largest tobacco groups, Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco are challenging the law in court.

Alex Parsons, a spokesman for Imperial Tobacco said that plain packaging would be “a disproportionate step”. He told BBC Radio 4′s World At One: “There is no credible evidence to substantiate what the government is saying which is that people make the decision to smoke or continue smoking because of the colour of the packs of the cigarettes they buy. Quite frankly, it is a preposterous notion.”

4 Quebec firefighters arrested in raids tied to illegal cigarettes

Category : World News

Four members of the Godmanchester volunteer fire department, including the chief, were among 20 people arrested in a series of raids in Quebec cracking down on illegal cigarette operations.

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Tobacco Companies Can’t Be Forced by FDA to Use Graphic Warnings

Category : Business, World News

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was blocked by a federal judge from requiring tobacco companies to put graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging.

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E Cigarette Explosions: The Rest Of The Story

Category : World News

A recent e cigarette battery explosion has created doubt in the minds of many about the safety of e cigarette products, but one very important fact has been conveniently left out.

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Alcohol: Serial Killer With a Social Pass

Category : Business, Stocks

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet’s guest contributor program, which is separate from the company’s news coverage.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — I just saw the great movie “White Irish Drinkers” and it got me thinking. Global deaths from smoking are almost twice as high as alcohol-related deaths — 5.4 million vs. 2.5 million annually. And yes, it is also true that nearly half of all heavy smokers will die because of the “sticks.” But there are many other ways drugs can kill. It turns out that the damage resulting from excessive alcohol consumption dwarfs that from cigarette smoking.

Smoking and Drinking ‘Externalities’

Heavy smoking/drinking causes health problems for the individual smoker/drinker — like death! But aside from secondary smoke, the side effects/externalities of smoking are quite limited. You can work (even if you have to go outside periodically for smokes), you can drive to and from work, and you can be a good parent.

If anything, smoking allows people to relax and focus more on the task at hand. And with the growing global obesity epidemic, smoking is a plus — weight control. As I have noted in an earlier piece, people who stop smoking normally gain 5 to 15 pounds….

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