AMA: Tobacco plain packaging will save lives

The AMA congratulates the Government on the passing in the Senate on the evening of Nov 10 of its world-leading tobacco plain packaging legislation.
AMA Vice President, Professor Geoffrey Dobb, said that the new laws – to take effect from December 2012 – would save lives.
“Plain packaging eliminates one of the last means of flashy advertising or marketing open to tobacco companies,” Professor Dobb said.
“It takes away the perception of glamour or trendiness that is falsely associated with smoking, and which draws people, especially young people, to take up or continue the killer habit.
“This is a significant day for public health in Australia. It is another significant milestone in tobacco control in this country that stretches back over decades.
“It is an achievement that sends a strong signal to the rest of the world to follow our lead.
“Many lives will be saved and many people will have another incentive to quit smoking and improve their health.
“The AMA urges the tobacco industry to put its efforts into abiding by the legislation in the best interests of the health of the Australian community,” Professor Dobb said.

Tobacco Control Network

The Tobacco Control Network (TCN) is comprised of the tobacco control program managers and additional staff from each state, territory, and D.C. This wide representation allows the Network to access a wealth of expertise and experience from across the country.
Formed in 1994, the Network’s primary function was to facilitate information sharing between the NCI-funded ASSIST Program, the CDC-funded IMPACT program and other national partners. With the creation of the National Tobacco Control Program in 1999, in which CDC provided funding to all state health departments for tobacco control programs, the Network reorganized with a focus on raising the primacy of tobacco control in all state health agencies and fostering collaboration and communication among state programs.
The Network activities are led by officers elected at the TCN Annual Meeting. The current officers are:

  • Chair: Karla Sneegas, MPH – Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation
  • Chair-Elect: Sally Herndon, MPH – North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services
  • Immediate Past Chair: Mikelle Robinson, MA – Michigan Department of Community Health
  • Policy Chair: Sharon Biggers, MPH, CHES – South Carolina Department of Health and Environment Control
  • Programming Chair: Tiffany J. Netters, MPA – Louisiana Tobacco Control Program
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Kenneth Ray, MPH – Georgia Tobacco Use Prevention Program

What can TCN do for you?
The Tobacco Control Network (TCN) gives you an opportunity to:

  • NETWORK with your colleagues, learn about national happenings, and share policy and programming strategies. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
  • HAVE A VOICE with the National Tobacco Control Program and with other national tobacco control organizations. The Network often serves as an advisor to CDC on National Tobacco Control Program issues and as a resource for national partners (e.g. The Legacy Foundation, The Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium and The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids), on state needs and perspectives.
  • KEEP INFORMED with tools like a newsletter, listserv, and website.

About Tobacco Control

Tobacco use is the single greatest cause of preventable death worldwide – a risk factor not only for lung diseases, such as emphysema and lung cancer, but also for a host of other diseases. More than 5 million people die each year due to tobacco-related illnesses, the vast majority of them in low- and middle-income countries.
The Union has been active in tobacco control for more than 25 years, and in 1996 it established a department devoted to this issue. Its focus has been identifying practical strategies for low- and middle-income countries to achieve tobacco control and disseminating this information through technical assistance, education and applied research.
Since late 2006, The Union has played an active role in the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, working to implement tobacco control interventions in the countries with the highest burden of tobacco-related diseases.
In addition, The Union has conducted extensive research on the links between smoking and tuberculosis, the effects of smoking on TB treatment outcomes, the efficacy of brief cessation advice, and other topics.
The Tobacco Control Department is based at The Union Europe Office in Edinburgh with a staff of more than 100 technical consultants, programme managers, policy and communication experts working out of Union offices in China, Egypt, France, India, Mexico, Russia and Singapore.

WHO chief faces fight on reforms

Manila – Tough-talking World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun may be facing the toughest battle of her leadership as she launches a bid for unprecedented funding and management reform at the UN body.
The WHO director-general has begun governance reforms in the Geneva headquarters and has been traveling the world trying to convince the group’s regional and country offices they should change the way they do business amid global financial austerity.
On the second day of the WHO regional meeting in Manila, Chan emphasized to the 194 member states the need for reform.
“We have to rethink given this financial austerity,”she said yesterday.
The WHO budget would have to be cut by 30 percent, and the cost-savings would include even a cutback on money spent on telephone calls.
She said the WHO should not hastily plan programs before funding has been received, “otherwise we will go bankrupt.”
In an interview with The Standard, Chan emphasized her determination to fight the tobacco companies.
She said big companies will go as far as character assassination to derail global efforts to combat smoking.
“Dr Judith Mackay [Hong Kong’s pre-eminent anti-tobacco activist] was named and [the tobacco lobbyists] gave her a hard time,saying this and that.”
Chan said it is unethical for scientists to be paid by the tobacco industry to do research to counter studies about the harmful effects of tobacco.
The former Hong Kong director of health, has announced she will seek re-election for a second five-year term, when her first term ends next year.
Chan, 64, who ran as a representative of China for the leadership of the UN health body, said the mainland has one third of the world’s smokers, and that every time she visits China, she takes up the tobacco issue with the nation’s top leaders.
” I always talk to them. I talked to Premier Wen [Jiabao] before they organized the Beijing Olympics and I also talked to the leaders in Shanghai when they were organizing the World Expo,” she said.
Both were declared smoke-free.
Chan said her focus on noncommunicable disease in recent weeks does not mean communicable diseases will be relegated to second place.
By Mary Ann Benitez

France unveils new austerity budget

CIGARETTE and alcohol price rises and a new tax on France’s richest residents are among the measures unveiled by the goverment in an €11bn deficit reduction package.
Prime minister François Fillon says the new measures will target well-off individuals and big businesses – but they have angered opposition leaders and unions, who say ordinary workers will be hit as well.
The headline announcement was a new “exceptional contribution” for households earning more than €500,000 a year. The 3% tax is forecast to bring in €200m a year and will be scrapped as soon as the budget deficit is back under control.
The deficit currently stands at 7% of its GDP – a figure President Sarkozy wants to cut to 3% by 2013. Economic growth in France was flat in the second quarter of 2011.
Fillon said: “Our country cannot live beyond its means forever.
“Well-off household and the very rich will be asked to contribute more than people from modest backgrounds – large businesses more than small and medium firms.”
Most of the major personal tax breaks have been kept – and employees’ overtime hours will continue to be exonerated from income tax and benefit from reduced social charges.
However, some areas of consumer spending have been targeted. The price of cigarettes will rise by 6% within the coming days – a measure expected to bring in an extra €100m a year in revenue – and a further 6% in the 2012 budget.
This budget will also include a duty increase on spirits and beer and a new tax on fizzy drinks with added sugar, forecast to raise €120m a year.
Tax on health insurance (complémentaires santé) is set to rise by up to 7%, bringing in an estimated €1.1bn a year.
Theme park ticket prices will also go up, with the rate of VAT charged increasing from 5.5% to 19.6%.
For companies, the tax breaks available when incurring a loss will be limited – raising an estimated €1.5bn and harmonising the French corporation tax system with that of Germany.
Unions will meet on September 1 to discuss their response to the budget. The CFDT trade union said: “The efforts required of workers are quite significant [compared to] that demanded of companies and very high-earners.”
Socialist Party spokesman Benoît Hamon said: “France has officially plunged into austerity” and green party presidential candidate Eva Joly said the measures were “short-term”, politically motivated and lacked vision.
Front National leader Marine Le Pen said: “The middle classes are constantly being asked to make sacrifices. The price rise on certain products is particularly unpopular.”
The government has also announced that a planned reform of dependency arrangements in France – including better help for families looking after elderly people – has been pushed back to 2012.
The changes, which were promised by President Sarkozy in 2007, have been delayed because Fillon said it would have been “irresponsible to deal with it in the current economic context”.

Florence council passes smoking ordinance

FLORENCE, SC – Three months of often contentious debate reached a dramatic conclusion Monday as Florence City Council approved final reading and adoption of a long-debated smoking ordinance with a 5-2 vote.
The ordinance, which applies to most indoor public gathering areas, will take effect in November.
The council spent more than an hour on the ordinance, listening to final comments from the public as well as additional thoughts from council members.
A vocal majority of the packed council chamber spoke out against the ordinance employing various last-minute rhetorical strategies they hoped would sway a council that consistently held a 5-2 majority favoring the ordinance.
When discussion ended, that 5-2 majority held together and approved the ordinance, much to the disappointment of the opposition.
While they weren’t happy with the result, those opposed to the measure said they weren’t surprised.
“The council did what they intended to do months ago,” Bill Pickle, chairman of the Florence County Republican Party and a vocal opponent of the ordinance who spoke during Monday’s meeting, said. “I don’t think there was any doubt that it was going to end up this way, but there’s a lot of disappointment.”
Among those disappointed were Councilmen Steve Powers and Ed Robinson, the two lone dissenting votes. The two tried multiple legislative tactics in an effort to delay, amend or even dismiss the ordinance.
Powers and Robinson moved for six such actions during the course of the discussion. All six were voted down, 5-2.
Following the meeting, Powers summed up his feelings on the final vote in one word:
Points of contention from Powers, Robinson and other opponents at Monday’s meeting ranged from disputing medical evidence suggesting secondhand smoke is a hazardous to others’ health to alluding that members of council were somehow influenced by anti-smoking stimulus funds awarded to area medical institutions.
Mayor Stephen J. Wukela reminded speakers as well as council members that accusing elected officials of corruption is serious and requires evidence.
Robinson moved to delay the vote until council could investigate the allegations further, which was seconded by Powers. That motion, like the others proposed by the pair, failed 5-2.
Supporters of the ordinance were noticeably absent from Monday’s meeting and no council member who supported the measure commented on it during the meeting.
Of the 10 speakers who addressed council, only one spoke in favor of the ordinance. Members of Smoke Free Florence were outnumbered and silent for most of the meeting.
The few supporters present applauded council when the ordinance was passed.
Pickle said he did not anticipate any legal action being taken against the smoking ordinance, but said if he thought a case could be brought against it, he would support it.
“If I had the funds, I would probably file a federal court case against this,” Pickle said.
Enforcement of the ordinance will rest with the city administrator and appointed designees. Fines of no less than $10 and no more than $25 will be assessed.
By John Sweeney

The case against menthols

Menthol cigarettes are “cool” — literally and figuratively. They soften the harshness of tobacco smoke, and their popularity continues Newport menthol cigarettesto increase, particularly among young people and African Americans. Some health experts feel it’s high time they were banned.
This month, a scientific advisory panel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration delivered a 231-page report on the public-health risks of menthol cigarettes after reviewing scientific literature and seeking comment from researchers and the tobacco industry. The panel’s bottom line: “Because there are menthol cigarettes, we have more smokers,” says Dr. Jonathan Samet, an expert in pulmonary medicine and environmental health at USC, who was chairman of the committee.
Here’s a closer look at how menthol cigarettes differ from regular cigarettes and why tobacco-control advocates want them outlawed.
What is menthol and what does it do in cigarettes?
Menthol is a naturally occurring aromatic compound — it can also be synthesized in labs — that has cooling, anti-itch and pain-relieving properties. It’s found in a variety of products, including throat lozenges and chest rubs for colds.
Most cigarettes have some menthol. The FDA’s current focus is on brands specifically marketed as menthol cigarettes, such as Newport, Kool, Marlboro, Camel and Salem, which contain significantly more.
Adding this much menthol to cigarettes reduces the harshness of smoke and blunts the irritating effect of nicotine in the airways.

Why has menthol been treated differently from other cigarette flavors, which were banned in 2009?

The 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave the FDA the authority to regulate the manufacture and marketing of tobacco products. Later that year, the agency banned the sale of candy-, fruit-, and clove-flavored cigarettes. Though menthol cigarettes were not included at that time, the legislation charged the FDA with putting together a comprehensive review of the products, which the panel has now done.
Peter Jacobson, a professor of health law and policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says that menthol is a much bigger target involving much bigger tobacco companies. “The FDA was smart to not take everything at once. It’s given the agency time to build momentum and to build a body of evidence,” he said.
Are menthol cigarettes a bigger health risk than regular cigarettes?
Samet says the panel looked at two possible ways that menthol cigarettes might pose a greater risk to public health, and found significant supporting evidence for one of them.
First, they examined whether adding menthol makes cigarettes more dangerous for individual smokers, perhaps by delivering a higher dose of nicotine or other toxic chemicals in the smoke, or causing higher rates of smoking-related diseases. The panel found insufficient evidence to make that case.
Concurring with the panel’s conclusion, a study published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that lung cancer rates were actually lower in people who smoked menthol cigarettes than in those who smoked nonmenthol cigarettes. The researchers selected 440 lung cancer patients and 2,213 control subjects — matched for age, race and gender but without lung cancer — from a much larger population study of 85,806 people living in the Southern U.S. They found that menthol smokers were 12 times more likely to have lung cancer than nonsmokers, whereas nonmenthol smokers were 21 times more likely to have cancer.
The second way that menthol cigarettes might cause more harm than regular cigarettes would be if they increased smoking rates. The panel did find evidence for this, particularly in younger smokers.
Samet says research shows that with menthol cigarettes, a teen experimenting with smoking is more likely to become a regular smoker and then an addicted smoker. And these young years are crucial for establishing or not establishing a habit.
“During those formative years — that’s when the uptake of cigarette smoke really may lead to more dependence,” says Dorothy Hatsukami, professor of cancer prevention and psychiatry at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who also served on the FDA panel.
In the case of adults, the science says that nonwhite populations had more difficulty quitting smoking if they smoked menthols compared with people who smoked nonmenthol cigarettes. African Americans favor menthol cigarettes more than any other demographic: More than 80% use them.

So what’s the upshot? Will menthol cigarettes be banned?

It’s unclear. Although the advisory panel concluded that banning menthol cigarettes would benefit public health, it did not explicitly recommend that step. The FDA has yet to review the report and may consider ways to restrict menthol cigarettes short of an outright ban. It has set no timeline for making a decision.
By Jill U. Adams, [email protected]

Tobacco Retailers Will be Charged for Selling Tobacco To Underage Shoppers

Tobacco control officials in Niagara declare that they won’t permit retailers sell tobacco products to young people.
A recent report demonstrated that officers are distributing fewer warnings to retailers but charging with those who interfere in provincial law banning the sale of cigarettes to young people aged 19 and under.
The number of tobacco control officials dropped from the six full-time people to four full-time people because of the funding reductions. All tobacco enforcement programs are funded by the province.
In the circumstances concerned, officials were more severe in laying charges against those stores which sold tobacco products and also against youngsters who smoked on school properties.
Those tobacco control officials, who lead inspections at stores, resort to underage shoppers help in order to control shops, whether they obey the age limit for buying tobacco. Usually, stores caught infringing the law received a warning on the offence. But because of increased cases of vendor’s noncompliance, the public health department announced all tobacco retailers that any sales to young people would result in charges. It was decided that those stores which would sell tobacco to minors should be prohibited from selling cigarettes for at least six months.
According to the report the number of warnings issued to tobacco retailers dropped from 72 in 2008 to 30 last year, but the number of compulsory charges rose from 51 in 2008 to 92 last year. That is despite the fact that there were fewer test shops lat year, down to 875 from 1,078 two years earlier, mainly due to the fact that the number of retailers selling tobacco products in Niagara decreased from 534 in 2008 to 480 last year.
Tobacco officials also issued 63 charges last year for young people smoking at schools, up from 12 in 2008. Penalty for convictions are about $250 for caught smoking in a public place, or about $300 for the owner of a business who allows someone smoke or the one who sell cigarettes to underage shoppers. Clerks who sell tobacco products to young people can also be charged.
Officials continue to face smoking rules infringed at workplaces, such as people smoking in cafes, bars in workplaces office premises and in workplace vehicles. For instance the Region issued 44 charges at workplaces and public places last year.
It is very important to control and maintain enforcement efforts in Niagara, which has a higher smoking rate than province, both for adults and teenagers. In a report released last April, regional officials declare that smoking rate among young people in Niagara has ceased falling, underlying the need to keep young people away from all kinds of tobacco products.

How to Distinguish a Counterfeit Tobacco Product?

It was found that daily in South Africa are sold more than 15 million illicit tobacco products and the returns are used to sponsor Counterfeit Tobacco Productorganized underworld.
According to a representative of British American Tobaccos (BAT) Fay Kajee, packages used to smuggle illegal tobacco products in to the country often contain various guns and weapons.
“There is an evident connection between contraband cigarettes, organised crime and drug and weapon smuggling,” Fay said.
Precedently, illegal tobacco products were brought into the country in trucks but as soon as the government stopped it, criminal organization became slier in this matter.
Currently large quantities of illegal cigarettes are coming by air and unintentionally British Airways and South African Airways become crime associates in bringing them in.
There are evident links to organized crime, drug trade and arm contraband. Interpol has even kinked it to terrorism and its consequences on everyone.
According to a source which is struggling against the illegal trade in tobacco and counterfeit tobacco products, the money gained from this multimillion illegal trade is often used to sponsor and maintain other crimes.
An illegal cigarette is an original cigarette that has been contrabanded into the country without taxes and entrance duties.
“They are genuine in the countries that they are brought from but they do not correspond to health standards set by our laws. But a counterfeit tobacco product is just that counterfeit, and it is too difficult to distinguish counterfeit cigarette from the genuine one,” states the source.
Trade of counterfeit tobacco products is linked to organized crime and the revenues are used to sponsor gangsterism, human trafficking and even terrorism. It was estimated that 95% of the trade is realized by foreigners. Afro-American people are most likely to buy counterfeit and illegal cigarettes. They can go to a shop a say:” Give me a packet of Rothmans with the white label”. They suppose that if it is lighter, than cigarettes will be smoother, but in fact it is simply a different label that the health warning was printed on.
There is no clear way to distinguish counterfeit pack of a tobacco product from the rest unless you study it thoroughly.
In order to show it, Fay places a real and counterfeit package of Rothmans Special Mild on a table.
After studying thoroughly both packages, he indicated the differences. The red on the counterfeit package is darker than on the genuine one. The shaded curves next to the emblem stick out more on the counterfeit package.
“Counterfeit tobacco products are produced from substandard tobacco that was blended with grass, various chemicals and additives. And you may also observe that these cigarettes burn faster than genuine one,” concluded Fay.

New York gets mixed grades on tobacco control

ALBANY — New York received failing grades from the American Lung Association Thursday for the amount of money it spends on New Yorktobacco prevention and health care coverage for cessation, but it earned A’s for its smoking laws and cigarette tax.
The Lung Association’s ninth annual State of Tobacco Control report evaluates whether individual states and the federal government are doing what the group considers sufficient to protect people against tobacco-related health problems. Eight states received all F’s and no states got all A’s.
Scott T. Santarella, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York, said New York is not doing enough to protect residents.
“While we’re obviously pleased with the progress we’ve made in increasing the state tax on cigarettes and expanding smoke-free areas, the reality is that more than 25,000 New Yorkers are still dying every year from tobacco-caused disease,” he said.
The Lung Association gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a B for its regulation of tobacco products, and the federal government a D for $1.01 tax rate on a pack of 20 cigarettes.
The federal government received a C for cessation coverage. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires the majority of private health plans to provide tobacco-cessation treatments. However, Medicaid, a health care program for low-income people, provides only limited coverage.
Dr. Irwin Berlin, chairman of the American Lung Association in New York’s board, said there are too many barriers to treatment in the state.
“We need better coverage for cessation so everyone can access it,” he said.
Berlin, chief of the Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine Division at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, said he’s witnessed the “grim reality that tobacco use inflicts on patients.”
The state’s Medicaid program provides coverage for medications to help smokers quit, but it covers individual counseling for limited categories of recipients and there are annual limits on quit attempts. More coverage is provided for state employees. There is no mandate for private insurers to cover medications and counseling.
New York’s $69.1 million in funding for tobacco-control programs this fiscal year, which includes $10.7 million in federal money, is 27.2 percent of what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, the report said. New York has cut its funding of programs by more than 30 percent since 2007.
New York’s high marks are for its $4.35 per pack cigarette tax and its smoking law, which bans smoking in all public and private facilities except cigar bars and bars that receive economic-hardship waivers. Tribal casinos are exempt.
New York raised its cigarette tax from $2.75 to $4.35 per pack in July 2010 — the highest in the nation — to help balance its budget. That hike will save an estimated 31,000 lives and prevent 23,000 kids from taking up the habit, the group said.
The report grades states on a limited number of categories, and New York’s marks don’t reflect the success the state has had in reducing smoking rates and preventing people from becoming smokers, said Peter Constantakes, a state Health Department spokesman.
Nationally, the average adult smoking rate is 20.6 percent of the population, compared to 18 percent in New York. The rate for students in high school is 19.5 percent in the United States and 14.8 percent in New York.
The latest Health Department statistics show the high school smoking rate has further decreased to 12.6 percent in New York, Constantakes said. In 2000, it was more than 27 percent, he said.
New York’s spending on tobacco control and prevention was $85.5 million in the 2006 and 2007, Constantakes said. But the $58.4 million total this year is still $15 million more than in 2005, he said.
Bill Phelps, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, said states receive billions of dollars a year in tobacco-settlement payments from tobacco companies. They should use it to fund anti-smoking initiatives. States received a total of $8.8 billion in 2010, he said.
“Not only have the vast majority of those states diverted billions of dollars that many had hoped would be spent on prevention of youth smoking and health programs, now many are seeking tax increases to help fund some of those same programs,” he said.
The decline in state funding means New York has not been able to do as much anti-smoking advertising, said Maureen Kenney, director of the state-funded POW’R Against Tobacco
OW’R Cessation Center, which serves Putnam, Orange, Rockland and Westchester counties. One of the consequences is fewer smokers are getting the message that they should quit and are seeking help, she said.
By Cara Matthews
Albany Bureau