New Law Will Expand New York City’s Smoke Free Air Act

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Councilmember Gale Brewer today announced plans to expand the Smoke Free Air Act in New York City to include parks and beaches. Smoking is already prohibited in indoor workplaces and park playgrounds, and increasingly, research shows that exposure to secondhand smoke outdoors can have negative health effects on otherwise healthy people. To protect the public from the health effects of tobacco smoke, the new law will go a step further and not allow smoking in parks, beaches, marinas, boardwalks and pedestrian plazas. Councilmember Gale Brewer will introduce the new local law tomorrow at the City Council’s stated meeting. The Mayor, Speaker and Councilmember Brewer were joined at the City Hall announcement by Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs; CEO of The American Cancer Society’s Eastern Division, Don Distasio; Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
“The science is clear: prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke – whether you’re indoors or out – hurts your health.  Today, we’re doing something about it,” said Mayor Bloomberg.
“When this legislation is passed, all New Yorkers will be able to enjoy a walk in the park or a day at the beach without having to inhale secondhand smoke,” said Speaker Quinn. “From South Beach, Staten Island to City Island in the Bronx, when people visit parks and beaches, they expect to get some fresh air, not inhale deadly carcinogens.  Studies have shown that outdoor tobacco smoke levels can be as high as secondhand smoke levels indoors and there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. This bill will save lives and make New York City a healthier place to live. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg, my colleagues in the City Council, and advocates for leading this groundbreaking public health effort.”
“New York is the national leader in creating healthy cities, and promoting a healthy life style,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer, as she introduced her legislation to ban smoking at public parks and beaches. “That’s why we’re pushing to get butts off the beaches. And it’s not just a health issue, as any beachgoer knows: despite the clean-up efforts of the Parks Department, the sand is too often used as an ashtray.”
Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can result in respiratory changes in a healthy person and lead to more frequent asthma attacks in children with asthma.  A person sitting within three feet of a smoker outside can be exposed to levels of secondhand smoke similar to those experienced indoors. More than half of non-smoking New Yorkers (57%) have elevated levels of cotinine, a by-product of nicotine, in their blood – meaning that they were recently exposed to toxic secondhand smoke in concentrations high enough to leave residues in the body.
“We are all exposed to the harmful effects of tobacco – regardless of whether or not we have made the choice to smoke – if we are around someone who is smoking,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “By expanding the Smoke Free Air Act to include our parks and beaches, we will create a healthier environment for all those who live in and visit New York City.”
“Cigarettes kill some 7,500 New Yorkers every year, and thousands more suffer smoking-related strokes, heart attacks, lung diseases and cancers,” said Commissioner Farley. “New York City’s Smoke Free Air Act has greatly reduced the harm that cigarettes cause to nonsmokers. By expanding the act to cover parks and beaches, we can reduce the toll even further.”
“Secondhand smoke is a Class A carcinogen and unsafe at any level,” said Donald Distasio, CEO of the American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey. “The American Cancer Society believes that no one should be subjected to secondhand smoke- period. Smoke free parks and beaches will limit exposure to these cancer causing chemicals and help to keep kids from picking up this deadly habit. The American Cancer Society is proud to stand with New York’s top leaders as we prepare to take another step forward in protecting the health of our families.”
Smoking is responsible for one in three preventable deaths in New York City. Secondhand smoke causes more cancer deaths than asbestos, benzene, arsenic, and pesticides combined. In addition to the dangers of breathing secondhand smoke, the act of smoking, especially in front of children, makes the practice seem normal and acceptable. Studies have shown that adolescents whose parents smoke are nearly three times as likely to start. Smoking is also a significant source of litter. Cigarette butts, made of plastic cellulose acetate, can take more than 18 months to decompose and are the primary source of beach litter.  In fact, cigarette butts account for 75 percent of the litter found on New York City beaches.
New York City anticipates its residents and visitors will follow the new smoking policy on their own. Research shows that 65 percent of New Yorkers favor banning smoking at outdoor recreational places such as parks, ball fields and playgrounds. As with any quality-of-life issue in City parks, however, a violation summons may be issued by the Parks Department when appropriate.
“By supporting this legislation, we welcome the chance to improve the beauty and health of the City’s public outdoor spaces,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “Tens of millions of visitors – New Yorkers and tourists alike – enjoy our beaches and parks year round, and we hope this new legislation makes it even safer and more pleasant for children and adults to play sports and for visitors of all interests to enjoy healthier and cleaner parks and beaches.”
Most New Yorkers who smoked have already quit.  If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health.  New Yorkers interested in learning more about how to quit should call 311 or visit

A G.O.P. Leader Tightly Bound to Lobbyists

WASHINGTON — House Democrats were preparing late last year for the first floor vote on the financial regulatory overhaul when Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio and other Republican leaders summoned more than 100 industry lobbyists and conservative political activists to Capitol Hill for a private strategy session.
The bill’s passage in the House already seemed inevitable. But Mr. Boehner and his deputies told the Wall Street lobbyists and trade association leaders that by teaming up, they could still perhaps block its final passage or at least water it down.
“We need you to get out there and speak up against this,” Mr. Boehner said that December afternoon, according to three people familiar with his remarks, while also warning against cutting side deals with Democrats.
That sort of alliance — they won a few skirmishes, though they lost the war on the regulatory bill — is business as usual for Mr. Boehner, the House minority leader and would-be speaker if Republicans win the House in November. He maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.
They have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns, provided him with rides on their corporate jets, socialized with him at luxury golf resorts and waterfront bashes and are now leading fund-raising efforts for his Boehner for Speaker campaign, which is soliciting checks of up to $37,800 each, the maximum allowed.
Some of the lobbyists readily acknowledge routinely seeking his office’s help — calling the congressman and his aides as often as several times a week — to advance their agenda in Washington. And in many cases, Mr. Boehner has helped them out.
As Democrats increasingly try to cast the Ohio congressman as the face of the Republican Party — President Obama mentioned his name eight times in a speech last week — and as Mr. Boehner becomes more visible, his ties to lobbyists, cultivated since he arrived here in 1991, are coming under attack.
The woman he hopes to replace, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, derided him on Friday as having met “countless times with special-interest lobbyists in an effort to stop tough legislation” that would regulate corporations and protect consumers. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, through a spokeswoman, charged that he “epitomizes the smoked-filled, backroom, special-interest deal making that turns off voters about Washington.”
Mr. Boehner, who declined to be interviewed for this article, and his lobbyist allies ridicule such criticism as politically motivated by desperate Democrats. His actions, they say, simply reflect the pro-business, antiregulatory philosophy that he has espoused for more than three decades, dating back to when Mr. Boehner, the son of a tavern owner, ran a small plastics company in Ohio. And fielding requests from lobbyists is nothing unusual, he says.
“I get lobbied every day by somebody,” he said last month after a speech in Cleveland. “It could be by my wife. It could be the bellman. It goes on all day, every day, every place.”
Mr. Boehner — a 60-year-old, perpetually tanned, sharply tailored, chain-smoking golfer — is not as fiery as Newt Gingrich or as unrelenting an arm-twister as Tom DeLay, two of his Republican predecessors in top House posts. It is his reputation as a “Chamber of Commerce” Republican and his fund-raising skills — he has raised $36 million for Republican causes during this election cycle, more than almost anyone else in his party — that explain, in part, his rise.
If elected as his party’s leader in the House, Mr. Boehner will certainly lean on his industry allies for help as he builds coalitions necessary to push legislation through Congress, his office acknowledges.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner, said the industry ties only help make Mr. Boehner a better Republican leader. “Like the American people, Boehner — a former small-business man — is most concerned right now about the issue of jobs,” he said. “So he often speaks with employers, rather than, for example, labor unions or environmentalists who support job-killing policies.”
His lobbyist friends also defended the close ties.
“Does he have a lot of relationships in this city? Yes, absolutely,” said Mark Isakowitz, a friend whose Republican firm represents more than three dozen financial, telecommunications, energy and consumer products companies as diverse as Coca-Cola and Zurich Financial Services. “But I think all the good lawmakers do.”
Mr. Boehner won some of his first national headlines in 1996 after he was caught handing out checks from tobacco lobbyists to fellow Republicans on the House floor. Then the fourth-ranking House Republican, he said he had broken no rules and was simply assisting his lobbyist friends, who were contributing to other Republicans’ campaigns.
His business-friendly reputation was enhanced through the weekly powwows he organized on Capitol Hill nicknamed the Thursday Group, a gathering of conservative leaders and business lobbyists whom he relied on to help push the party’s legislative agenda. The Thursday gathering was disbanded after a Republican power struggle that cost him his leadership position.
But he continued to routinely meet with business leaders, particularly in his role as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, and returned to power as House G.O.P. leader in 2006. Several of the onetime Thursday regulars, along with some newcomers, are among the close-knit group that routinely call on Mr. Boehner’s office for client matters, write checks to his campaign and socialize with him.
That circle includes Mr. Isakowitz; Bruce Gates, a lobbyist for the cigarette maker Altria; Nicholas E. Calio, a Citigroup lobbyist; and two former aides, Marc Lampkin and Sam Geduldig, both now financial services lobbyists.
The tobacco industry is particularly well represented, with Mr. Gates and John Fish, a lobbyist for R. J. Reynolds, maker of Camel cigarettes, in the group. People affiliated with those companies have contributed at least $340,000 to Mr. Boehner’s political campaigns, with Mr. Gates being the top individual donor among the thousands during Mr. Boehner’s political career, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
While many lawmakers in each party have networks of donors, lobbyists and former aides who now represent corporate interests, Mr. Boehner’s ties seem especially deep. His clique of friends and current and former staff members even has a nickname on Capitol Hill, Boehner Land. The members of this inner circle said their association with Mr. Boehner translates into open access to him and his staff.
“He likes to bring similarly minded people together to try to advance legislation or oppose it,” said Drew Maloney, a lobbyist at Ogilvy Government Relations. “That is how you get things done.”
One lobbyist in the club — after lauding each staff member in Mr. Boehner’s office that he routinely calls to ask for help — ticked off the list of recent issues for which he had sought the lawmaker’s backing: combating fee increases for the oil industry, fighting a proposed cap on debit card fees, protecting tax breaks for hedge fund executives and opposing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Boehner’s office said these were positions he already agreed with.
Still, with Mr. Boehner and his party in the minority, they often lost the fights. But despite recent defeats on the House floor, Mr. Boehner has benefited from his alliance with lobbyists.
From 2000 to 2007, Mr. Boehner flew at least 45 times, often with his wife, Debbie, on corporate jets provided by companies including R. J. Reynolds. (As required, Mr. Boehner reimbursed part of the costs.)
In addition, over the last decade he has taken 41 other trips paid for by corporate sponsors or industry groups, often to popular golf spots. That makes him one of the top House beneficiaries of such travel, which has recently been curbed as a result of changes in ethics rules.
Mr. Boehner continues to travel to golf destinations on a corporate-subsidized tab, though now it is paid for through his political action committee, the Freedom Project. In the last 18 months, it has spent at least $67,000 at the Ritz-Carlton Naples in Florida, at least $20,000 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., and at least $29,000 at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, federal records show, for fund-raising events.
In June, with the prospects for a Republican takeover of the House rising, Mr. Boehner moved to accelerate his fund-raising effort, starting what he called the Boehner for Speaker campaign. The idea was to use his high profile to draw large donations that would be mostly allocated to help elect other House Republicans.
He turned again to the same group of lobbyists, former aides and friends during a July meeting at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee.
“The wave is there, there is a rebellion in the country, and we have good candidates,” Mr. Boehner told his supporters, one of the lobbyists present at the meeting recalled. “But I don’t want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because we have not raised enough money. They might be able to stop us with a wall of money.”
Mr. Calio of Citigroup was among the first to write a large check. So far, a party spokesman said, the campaign has raised nearly $2 million. Mr. Boehner has helped raise millions more in the last six weeks for Republican House candidates across the country and the party, appearing at more than 40 fund-raisers.
The Boehner for Speaker campaign offers donors who give the maximum amount special perks, like “meetings with Leader Boehner and much much more.”
But his lobbyist friends and former aides said these incentives did not mean too much, because they already had plenty of access to Mr. Boehner. They just now want to see him as the speaker of the House.
“He knows this is going to be a tough election,” said Samuel J. Baptista, a friend, golf partner and lobbyist whose clients include Goldman Sachs and Discover Financial. “But people who underestimate him really do so at their own peril.”

China tobacco firms accused of targeting children

China – Chinese tobacco companies are targeting women and children as potential smokers as the market in men has peaked, health experts said on Thursday.
Around 53 percent of Chinese men smoked, leading tobacco control activist Judith Mackay said, but only three percent of Chinese women.
“Prevalence in men has peaked, but they are targeting women and children,” she said at the World Cancer Congress in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. “That’s where we need to be extremely vigilant.”
As the world’s largest consumer and producer of tobacco with over 300 million smokers, health experts warned that tobacco firms in China were becoming more sophisticated in targeting their market.
“Girls in China are getting more independent and they have more money to spend,” Mackay said.
Calls late on Thursday to China’s National Tobacco Corp, the state-owned monopoly and the world’s largest tobacco producer, were not answered.
China’s 1.3 billion population carries an enormous cancer burden. With one in every three cigarettes in the world smoked in China, the nation had 2.82 million new cancer cases and 1.96 million cancer deaths in 2008.
Globally, there were 12.68 million new cancer cases and 7.6 million cancer deaths in 2008.
Despite the massive health costs, experts say state-owned Chinese tobacco firms are skirting tobacco laws with tactics such as printing health warnings in English, rather than Chinese, and using very fine print.
“The law mandates that the health warning should cover 30 percent of the face of the packaging in the front and the back,” said Professor Yang Gonghuan, deputy general director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“But in actuality the words are very small. It’s only a fine line.”

Stricter smoking ban expected soon as anti-tobacco fervor sweeps Middle East

The United Arab Emirates may breathe easier under a strict ban on smoking, the details of which are still being hammered out five months after smoking hookahthe actual bill was signed by President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National reported this week.
The new bylaws would ban smoking in all public places, including hotels, cafes and restaurants, and outlaw all forms of tobacco advertising. Even the ubiquitous nargileh, the traditional water pipe puffed across the region by teenagers and grandmothers alike, would be subject to tighter regulations.
The original law required only a partial ban on public smoking, and the wording was so vague that it could not be implemented, forcing health officials back to the drawing table.
They ultimately adopted more or less the exact language prescribed by the World Health Organization, banning even special smoking areas within public establishments and requiring smokers to stay at least 25 feet away from the entrance to a public building.
“We want to prevent the use of tobacco products in all public venues in the country. We want to fight this,” Dr. Salim Adib of the Abu Dhabi Health Authority told The National. “I don’t think we should accept anything less than what is happening in Western Europe.”
The new bylaws must be approved by the Ministry of Health and the relevant municipalities.
Drumming up the smoke-free spirit, Dubai authorities initiated their “Tobacco-Free Women” campaign this week at the Mall of the Emirates. The public awareness effort features free medical examinations at the mall for women who smoke. The campaign will culminate during worldwide Tobacco-Free Day on May 31, reported the official Emirates News Agency.
In honor of the global occasion, Dubai petrol stations have agreed to stop selling tobacco products for 24 hours, announced the Khaleej Times.
Most of the Emirates already had full or partial smoking bans in place, but the new legislation will introduce stricter measures, particularly for tobacco advertising and cafes that offer nargileh, which will be banned altogether from residential areas.
“Tobacco consumption in the gulf region has become an economic, social and health burden over the past 50 years due to the rapid and continuous phenomenon of smoking as well as the emergence of other behaviors such as shisha and medwaakh [tobacco pipe],” Health Minister Dr. Hanif Hassan said in a statement.
“The GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries have worked for many years on the implementation of several measures aimed at reducing the usage of tobacco and its products among its nationals, [including] anti-advertising, determining the percentage of nicotine and tar in cigarettes, increasing customs duties on tobacco products and finally the publication of numerous decisions and legislation to ban smoking in public places,” he continued.
Anti-smoking efforts are gaining momentum, not just in the Emirates but across the region, signaling a change in the winds of social mores and attitudes towards public health.
Most recently, Turkey and Syria both banned smoking in public. Saudi Arabia spearheaded a smoke-free hajj campaign last year, and last August, anti-smoking legislation was proposed in the Iraqi Parliament. Israel has had a partial ban on smoking in public since 1983 and continues to pursue reforms. Even in Lebanon, more health activists have raised their voices as of late for a smoking ban.
Critical of the trend, some analysts suggest that the prohibition will have deleterious effects on the tourism industry. Dr. Jonathan Tomlin recently conducted a study on the potential effect of a proposed ban in India, claiming that the tourist industry would undoubtedly suffer.
The National Tobacco Control Committee expects the ban to be fully implemented by the end of the year.
By Becky Lee Katz in Beirut

AT&T led pack in lobbying expenses

Despite a modest agenda, communications giant AT&T spent up to $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2010 on lobbyists, more than any other principal.
Compensation reports submitted to the Florida Legislature show the company again outdistancing any other and show a near tripling of lobby expenses reported for the quarter ending March 31.
State lawmakers involved in communications issues said there was no particularly big issue that would have sparked such an increase. Others said AT&T has always spent a lot on lobbying efforts regardless of whether there was a particular issue in play.
The most conservative estimates show AT&T spending $401,000 in the quarter, nearly three times larger than its 2009 low-end estimate of $150,000. On the high end, the company may have spent up to $1.1 million, up from $370,000 it reported for the same period last year.
Lobbying compensation reports allow principals to report spending in ranges, making an exact amount difficult to determine.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and member of the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, said the company had no major issues before the panel this session. Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, and member of the Government Operations Policy and Steering Committee, concurred.
AT&T was also one of the top spenders last year. Others in the list of top lobbying spenders in the first quarter of this year included other companies that routinely spend the most.
U.S. Sugar Corp spent up to $329,991 during the most recent quarter, more than double the $140,000 spent during the 2009. Competitor Florida Crystals spent up to $200,000 during the period as both parties wrangled over a proposed $536 million sale of U.S. Sugar land to the state. Florida Crystals opposes the 73,000-acre sale, which is now being challenged in the Florida Supreme Court.
Competing tobacco companies also spread money around, as companies tried to persuade or prevent lawmakers from including smaller cigarette makers into the group that pays the into a state tobacco lawsuit settlement. Currently several big tobacco companies pay, but some lawmakers have suggested small companies that didn’t settle with Florida a decade ago should also pay into the fund.
Dosal Tobacco Corp spent as much as $250,000 in the first quarter of the year. The Miami company is a small producer fighting being added to the settlement. Competitor Altria Client Services, the parent of Philip Morris, spent between $90,000 and $150,000 on lobbying — it wanted the smaller non-settling companies added — also making the top 20 for the quarter. Lawmakers ended up not adding the smaller firms to the settlement.
Healthcare companies also continued to spend. Facing tight budgets and possible changes to the state Medicaid delivery system, Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida spent up to $230,000 for the quarter, up $150,000 from a year earlier.
HCA Healthcare, followed closely behind, spending up to $210,000 in early 2010, up from $70,000 in 2009. The Florida Medical Association spent up to $100,000 for the period.
Gaming companies also spent heavily as lawmakers weighed a compact with the Seminole Tribe and how to protect existing gaming interests.
Greyhound dog track owner Hartman & Tyner shelled out $170,000 on lobbying during the period. The Seminole Tribe of Florida spent up to $120,000. The compact eventually was OK’d.
25 Mai, 2010

The tobacco farmer and the law

It is easy enough to find evidence of the lingering presence of tobacco growing in Motueka – it’s standing there in clear view of tobacco farmerpassing traffic on the Motueka Valley Highway, the remnants of Laurie Jury’s latest crop.
If, as recent events imply, the row of distinctive, tall, large-leafed plants represents a key to the black-market tobacco trade, it is a remarkably blatant one. Not that Mr Jury accepts for a second there is anything illicit about what he’s doing.
To him, his continued high-profile involvement in tobacco growing, as probably the last self-acknowledged commercial grower in the country, is nothing more than a small farmer growing a small crop of a plant he knows well and sees an opening in the market for.
The small fact that his determination to stick with tobacco has seen him fall foul of the authorities twice now in five years, the second time involving a raid by armed police on his Pangatotara home last week, only hardens his resolve.
The Customs officers who arrived at his place in the wake of the Armed Offenders Squad came with a search warrant that suggested Mr Jury was a suspect in a range of offences, including helping defraud Customs of revenue.
They took all the leaf he had stored in his shed – he won’t say how much, but one report said it was about two tonnes – and a bunch of other stuff, including $4000 in cash, but he is confident they didn’t take anything that is going to land him a conviction.
The last time they tried, as he likes to point out, their case all but collapsed and they had to return the tobacco they had seized.
His argument is that there is no law against growing tobacco and, as far as he has always understood it, nothing in the law to stop him from selling the raw, dried leaf.
So that is what he does, as he freely admits. Buyers, he says, range from passers-by in camper vans who have seen his roadside crop and want some leaves as a “souvenir”, to customers in the North Island.
He has sold as much as 50kg to some. He says all of his customers tell him that they are cutting it for their own use.
The appeal, obviously, is the cheaper price. Even if the leaf has to be processed for smoking, it is still cheaper than buying commercially prepared tobacco, about 70 per cent of the cost of which goes to the government.
What clearly is illegal is to manufacture tobacco, as in processing it into a state for smoking – for example, pressing it into a block and then cutting it into the fine shavings that can be rolled into a cigarette. Manufacturing, except for home-grown tobacco for personal use, requires a licence and the full knowledge of Customs, so that it can collect the stiff excise that applies to tobacco.
If it looks like his customers are evading excise, Mr Jury’s argument is that once he has sold it, his responsibilities end. It is over to the buyer as to whether what they do with it is legal.
“They’ve told me that they want it for their own use. The responsiblity shouldn’t come back to me.”
Mr Jury started to grow tobacco in the 1980s, as part of the vibrant but slowly dying Motueka-based industry which provided leaf for the cigarettes of Rothmans, until the company pulled the pin on Kiwi tobacco in 1995.
Like most of the other suddenly redundant growers, he turned his hand to various other crops and ventures on his small farm, but about 2002 decided there was nothing to prevent him from getting back into tobacco, never mind that there was theoretically no local market for the stuff.
As it happened, he came across a small-scale manufacturer in Christchurch who was interested in his leaf, for a new budget line of roll-your-own tobacco.
That never worked out and Mr Jury subsequently decided to sell the raw, dried leaf to acquaintances.
Customs, meanwhile, had been conducting occasional operations against suspected black-market manufacturers almost since the demise of the formal, regulated industry in 1995.
Mr Jury’s first taste of the service’s attentions came in 2005, when it showed up at his farm, seized 3.8 tonnes of leaf and charged him with working with another grower from the Motueka Valley to run an illegal manufacturing business.
The case against him largely fell over. The connection was never proved. Mr Jury accepted a deal to plead guilty on a lesser charge, manufacturing tobacco on unlicensed premises, and paid a small fine, while Customs was ordered to give back the leaf it had seized from him.
That is an extremely abbreviated version of events that dragged on for two years and cost Mr Jury tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills and leaf that was ruined while in Customs storage. While he says he has moved on from it, it obviously still rankles with him.
The memory of it also meant he wasn’t exactly floored by the events of Tuesday last week, which started with being woken before 6am by the sound of his partner, Michelle’s, dog, Diesel, barking ferociously at the end of their driveway.
He grabbed a spotlight to investigate, shining it on to the road frontage, where the dog was “nutting off”, charging up and down the fenceline.
Mr Jury could see nothing, but seconds later, his phone rang, the voice on the other end advising that the police – armed police – were outside his property to help Customs execute a search warrant, ordering him to turn off the spotlight, get dressed and go outside with his hands up.
As he describes what happened over the next few minutes, it is clear the police weren’t mucking around. Armed Offenders Squad officers had stationed themselves along the road, on his property and on the stopbank across the highway. He says he counted at least 10 blue laser sights on rifles being pointed in his direction.
He was shouted at, ordered down to the road frontage to be greeted by snarling police dogs, handcuffed and loaded into a car.
His partner was ordered from the house too. Her daughter and the daughter’s seven-year-old son were roused and ordered out of a bach on the property where they were sleeping.
The couple were driven a short distance up the road to the place the police operation had been launched from, and where an ambulance was parked among the mass of police cars and vans. The sight of that, Mr Jury says, made him remark to Michelle that the police really must have been ready to shoot him.
Then they waited while the police searched his house, presumably for booby traps, to make sure it was safe for Customs.
If it sounds over the top, Customs has said that armed police were there because of “perceived risk”.
Mr Jury maintains there is nothing in the way he behaves to warrant it, although he does have convictions for two minor firearms offences.
One was having an unlicensed .22 rifle on the property which was seized during the 2005 raid; and, years before that, he was given a suspended sentence after discharging a shotgun to frighten off a petrol thief who had been stealing from his farm. In last week’s raid, the police confiscated a BB gun owned by Michelle.
He says he is still unsure about what was behind the latest action. He hasn’t yet been interviewed by Customs – that is scheduled in a couple of weeks – and while he says they asked him plenty of questions during the raid, they wouldn’t answer any of his.
Some property was later returned, which Customs decided was of no interest and, he muses, they were at least better mannered this time than what he experienced in 2005.
Customs is not answering media questions about the Jury raid or others that took place at the same time in Nelson and Northland.
His theory is that Customs sees him as an easy target. Rather than going after those who are doing the illegal manufacturing, it is trying to shut down the supply.
But the only supply? Customs won’t reveal what it believes.
It says it monitors tobacco growing in the region, but won’t say whether it agrees with the suggestion that Mr Jury is the only remaining grower of any scale.
It needs to be said that there has long been an element of the will o’ the wisp surrounding stories about a tobacco black-market fuelled from secret plantations tucked away in the Motueka Valley.
Part of that speculation is fed by the tobacco industry itself, which from time to time makes pronouncements about a widespread problem depriving the government of millions in taxes and, ironically enough, threatening the health of people smoking black-market cigarettes, because of the danger of mould and other contaminants in amateurishly prepared leaf.
Market heavyweight British American Tobacco (BAT) recently commissioned a report on the illicit trade, from consultants Ernst & Young.
Called Out of the Shadows and bearing a cover picture of a misty, vaguely sinister forest, it suggested quite startling levels of illegal growing were under way, centred on Motueka, as well as the smuggling of cigarettes from overseas.
While it concluded New Zealand’s small size and isolation meant the black market here is nothing like the scale seen in much of the the-latest-tobacco-news-across-europe, for instance – Ernst & Young calculated that 8 per cent of
all roll-your-own tobacco smoked here is illegally grown.
It claimed that somewhere between 66 and 76 tonnes of tobacco was being illegally grown each year, most of it near Motueka; and that as much as 50 to 60 acres (20 to 24 hectares) of tobacco plantations had been detected in the Motueka district “in previous good years”.
While the Ernst&Young report is presented by the industry as a thorough and independent assessment of an elusive problem, not everybody is convinced.
Customs itself says, “We have noted the content of the report and regard it as a useful picture and commentary on the state of the illicit trade in tobacco. We cannot and do not, however, confirm the accuracy of all its content.”
New Zealand’s main anti-smoking lobby group, Ash, is entirely sceptical. Its director, Ben Youdan, believes the tobacco industry likes to whip up fear about the black-market when it is a tiny proportion of the whole.
He questions the methodology and calculations Ernst&Young applied to work out how much illegal, New Zealand-grown tobacco is out there. For instance, it worked on productivity levels that are usually achieved only on large-scale commercial plantations in the ideal growing conditions found in the United States or Africa.
A small-scale New Zealand grower would get only a fraction of that productivity, he says.
To counter the scaremongering it sees, Ash is in the final stages of completing its own research, Mr Youdan says. It doesn’t expect to find anything like the scale of problem Ernst&Young did.
It might seem surprising that an anti-smoking group would be so dismissive of concerns about illegal tobacco growing and manufacturing, but Mr Youdan sees the big tobacco companies using it as a red herring, to divert attention from the vast majority of the industry they control.
Nevertheless, he applauds Customs’ recent raids.
“I think that’s a really important message for Customs to send out, because contrary to that, you’re getting this British American Tobacco (BAT) spin that the world’s going to end because everyone’s going to start buying illicit tobacco and we won’t be able to control it.
“We think it’s very timely that just as BAT are putting out this [Ernst& Young] report, Customs are showing they’re aware of the issue and on top of it, even if it’s very small.”
Whether the latest raid against Mr Jury will put anything like a dent in that trade is, as yet, anyone’s guess. But despite twice now feeling the attention of the Customs Service, twice having his entire stock of the stuff taken away, and finding himself standing at the wrong end of a policeman’s gun, Mr Jury promises he is committed to sticking with tobacco.
It’s not a case of defiance, he says, simply determination, and a refusal to be cowed.
“I’m not going to let them beat me like that,” he vows, sitting at his kitchen table and reflecting on the incidents that unfolded in his home a week earlier.
“They’ve picked the wrong man if they think they can bully me.”
Stuff, 15 Mai, 2010

Philip Morris packaging now in FDA compliance

Pale-blue “FDA Compliant” signs with big, red check marks are being taken off machines at Philip Morris USA’s plant in South Richmond.
Philip Morris USA had been phasing in new packaging that complies with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration ban on terms like “light” or “mild” on cigarettes. The ban takes effect June 22.
Last week, the company ran its last “Lights,” “Ultra Lights” and “Milds” packages through the giant plant, which produces about 150 million packs of cigarettes a week.
The signs were meant to remind workers to double-check that they were loading cigarettes into packages that comply with the FDA rule, said Eric Schardt, director of cigarette manufacturing.
Now that the company is no longer labeling cigarettes as light or mild, the signs aren’t needed. All the packaging material at the plant now complies with the FDA rule.
The new packs are starting to filter into stores — in the Richmond area, menthol-flavored Marlboro varieties have been the first to arrive.
They’re a special challenge — nonmenthol Marlboros will keep their old colors, so smokers who buy will still be able to recognize their brand by the packs’ gold color, as will those who use with their silver-colored packs.
Menthol brands come in green packs, and now that the “Lights” or “Ultra Lights” labels are gone, the only way to tell them apart from each other is the color of the tear-tape on the cellophane wrapper.
“The reasons for eliminating the terms ‘light’ and ‘low-tar’ was because it misled the public into thinking those products are safer,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Whether the elimination of those descriptors will have any impact on smoker habits and beliefs is uncertain.
“It is about 30 years too late — the barn door has already busted open,” said Dr. Alan Blum, director of the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society at the University of Alabama. “The misleading nature of those terms was there the day they came into being.”
Blum doesn’t think the rules will hurt Philip Morris.
“Now they are imprinting on consumers’ minds: You don’t have to read the words anymore — now you just look at the colors.”
Myers said the industry’s shift to color-coded packaging may be an important test for the FDA to ensure that both the “letter and the spirit” of the law are followed.
“To the extent that the color-coding leaves consumers with the continued impression that certain products deliver fewer toxins and are less hazardous, it violates the prohibition on implicit as well as explicit health messages,” he said.

Panel defers bill on smoking in casinos

On a close 8-6 vote, the House committee that handles health issues sidetracked legislation Thursday that would limit smoking in tobacco in Casinocasinos.
House Bill 1323, which would have required some casinos to set aside a nonsmoking section, fell after warnings from lobbyists for the companies that own gambling operations that the change would result in the loss of about $80 million in tax dollars to the state general fund and about 3,300 jobs.
A much stricter measure —Senate Bill 334 — that would totally forbid smoking in Louisiana casinos is awaiting a vote by the full Senate. If approved, SB334 would have to be passed by the House Health and Welfare Committee.
“In an ideal world, I would be OK with banning smoking in the casinos,” said Rickey Nowlin, R-Natchitoches.
But the world isn’t ideal, so his legislation tries to strike a balance, he said.
The bill failed on a near party-line vote.
Nowlin said his legislation was more selective, involving some but not all of the state’s 13 riverboat and one land-based casinos.
HB1323 described the “smoke-free gaming facility” to be physically separated by walls and doors and to contain a separate air-handling system to prevent air from any smoking area to be supplied to the smoke-free area or contains mechanical or electrical equipment in the building air-handling system whose function is to eliminate smoking by-products from the air supplied to the smoke-free area.
Nowlin said his measure would not require casinos to be totally smoke free.
Wade Duty, the executive director of the Louisiana Casino Association, a Baton Rouge-based trade group, testified that a June 2009 study tracked immediate reductions in revenues, employment and tax receipts after a smoking ban was enacted in Illinois. The study also found about 6 percent of Illinois’ business went to Indiana where smoking was allowed, he said.
Nowlin rebutted the methodology used in the study Duty quoted.
Duty predicted Louisiana state government could see an $80 million drop in tax collections for the state’s general fund. The loss of business would cost up to 3,300 jobs, about 1,500 of which are directly employed by the casino industry, he said.
Duty said 24 percent of Louisiana residents smoke but more than 65 percent of the casino patrons smoke.
Riverboat casinos are particularly concerned about the legislation because structural changes must be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, Duty said. Because of emergency systems, the ventilation systems on riverboats are built in such a way that it would be impractical to segregate a single nonsmoking room, he said.
Voting to defer HB1323 (8): state Reps. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans; Jean Doerge, D-Minden; Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek; Robert A. Johnson, D-Marksville; John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie; Fred Mills Jr., D-St. Francisville; Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs.
Voting against deferring the bill (6): Chairman Kay Katz, R-Monroe; Reps. Richie Burford, R-Stonewall; Walker Hines, D-New Orleans; Rickey Nowlin, R-Natchitoches; J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs; and Thomas Willmott, R-Kenner.
Advocate Capitol News Bureau, May 7, 2010

New FDA Regulations Could Change Smokers’ Habits

For decades, tobacco lobbyists fought against any kind of federal regulation of cigarettes and tobacco products — and for decades, no regulations existed. Cigarettes had less federal oversight than both pet food and makeup — in part because of a 2000 Supreme Court decision that ruled that the Food and Drug Administration was not allowed to regulate nicotine without Congressional approval.
That changed last June, when the Senate voted 79-17 in favor of placing cigarette and tobacco products under the regulation of the FDA. After the House ratified the Senate’s bill by a margin of 3 to 1, President Obama signed the legislation and congratulated Congress, saying, “We’ve known for years about the harmful, addictive and often deadly effects of tobacco products. … Each day, about 1,000 people under the age of 18 become regular smokers.”
The bill contained specific provisions about the marketing of tobacco products to minors, explains Duff Wilson, who covers the pharmaceutical and tobacco industries for The New York Times. Starting in 2013, he explains, tobacco companies will not be able to display ads in places where children can see them — and will not be able to advertise at all near schools or playgrounds. In addition, the companies will have to display a more visible warning label on the outside of cigarette boxes.
“Instead of that little ‘surgeon general says’ box, the label will be half the pack and will be covered with a graphic warning label including images,” Wilson says.
He says the new regulations will also force cigarette companies to reveal the ingredients in cigarettes — including any additives. In addition, they’ll have to reveal the ingredients in new products currently marketed as alternatives to smoking, such as spit-free tobacco pouches designed to sit in the upper lip — and dissolvable tobacco tablets, which come in various flavors.
These products are often marketed as being “healthier than cigarettes” because they don’t involve inhaling smoke directly into the lungs. But Wilson says public health officials still consider them to be dangerous “gateway drugs” onto the path of nicotine addiction.
“The new products are ways around the indoor air laws, which have been a big component of the ‘stop smoking’ campaigns,” he says. “Three things have encouraged people to quit since the surgeon general’s report in 1964 [which declared smoking a health hazard] — high prices … fresh air and indoor air laws that have encouraged people to quit, because it’s stigmatized smoking, and education and knowledge about the dangers of smoking.”
In addition, Wilson says, the new FDA regulations may help the 20.6 percent of U.S. adults who smoke stop their deadly habit.
“Ultimately the FDA will have to set new standards about what’s in regular cigarettes,” Wilson says. “The FDA is going to consider how much nicotine they should have. Congress won’t allow them to reduce the level to zero because that’s prohibited, but they can reduce the level significantly. And some public health advocates think that might be a way to wean people off this addiction.”
April 22, 2010,

Commonwealth Brands Shocked by FDA Rules

The U.S tobacco giants barely managed to celebrate their victory against Native American online tobacco sellers, after the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking (PACT) Act was approved by the Congress, when the US Food & Drug Administration spoiled the festivity by introducing new rules, rigorous and excessive.
Commonwealth Brands Inc., the fourth biggest tobacco company across the country was shocked to familiarize with the latest rules approved by Food & Drug Administration. The regulations published last week, are not the new ones, but a reissued copy of 1996 regulations, which explain and enforce restrictions on promotion, marketing and advertisements of cigarettes and other tobacco items.
Anthony Hemsley, Commonwealth Brands’ vice director of corporate affairs, declared Commonwealth Brands expressed its support for the regulations intended for reducing teenage smoking rates. Nevertheless, as regards other regulations, the Agency once again showed its ignorance and lack of respect for tobacco industry it is supposed to control. Although the tobacco companies closely collaborated with FDA experts, their opinion was completely sidelined, according to Hemsley.
He also mentioned that there is only one way to establish fair and meaningful rules is to cooperate with the industry. Implementing the regulations that are only needed to torture a legal industry, which generates billions in duties for the state and federal treasury, provides thousands of semi-qualified workers with well-paid jobs and works with thousands of small businesses across the nation, is an absolutely ridiculous practice.
Two provisions of the regulations issued by the FDA have recently been proven to violate constitution, while another provision, which features removal of many brands from the American tobacco market, is also definitely an offence to the commercial free speech rights, according to the company.
Commonwealth Brands’ vice director declared, “We have no idea why should a legal industry go to the court to prove its rights under the constitution? How much money paid by the simple people should be spent by this Federal Agency for the legal proceedings and when the Federal Food and Drug Administration finally understands the need to respect the legal rights of tobacco industry, and apply their efforts where they are indeed needed?
“It is absolutely incorrect for the Agency to have a different approach to the tobacco industry, comparing to other businesses it controls. Instead of establishing reliable relations and create reasonable policies, the FDA is only considering the opinion of ubiquitous and one-sided anti-smoking advocates, who are neither interested in respecting the rights of adult smokers that buy legal products, nor understand the dimensions of the economic consequences their excessive and draconian measures can lead to.”
Commonwealth Brands is the U.S. subdivision of Imperial Tobacco, the fourth largest tobacco company in the world. Among the most popular brands, there are Davidoff, USA Gold, Sonoma and Montclair. The company also markets tobacco products such as Premier, Bali Shag and Rave. It is headquartered in Bowling Green, Ky., with more than a thousand of employees across the USA.