It's not your usual tobacco plant

WILLIAMSBURG — The Marlboro label is familiar, but what’s coming off the production line at a factory near Busch Gardens is not your typical tobacco product.
In a former Philip Morris cigarette-equipment repair plant, the nation’s top tobacco company is now making something called Marlboro snus, one of the newer entries in a growing array of alternative tobacco products.
Snus — the word rhymes with “juice” — is an oral, but spitless, pouch tobacco.
A popular way of consuming tobacco in Sweden for decades, the smokeless product has gained traction in recent years among U.S. cigarette-makers as a way to sell tobacco to smokers in an increasingly smoke-free society.
The York County factory itself isn’t a typical tobacco plant, either.
“It is something that is new and unique and different from anything else that we have,” Ed Tucker Jr., director of smokeless tobacco manufacturing at the York plant, said yesterday during a tour of the plant.
The plant operates more like a food-processing facility than a tobacco factory. Employees wear hair nets, plastic aprons and gloves. “Clean-room” rules are enforced in areas where the snus is blended, flavored and packaged. Hand sanitizer dispensers are strategically placed around the plant.
“We use pretty extreme sanitation measures to make sure everything is clean,” he said, adding that the equipment is swabbed regularly to check for microbial growth.
It could be a sign of things to come under the Food and Drug Administration’s new regulatory authority over the tobacco industry.
The FDA is still developing guidelines for safe manufacturing processes for tobacco products, but the agency could require similar sanitation measures in other tobacco plants.
Tucker said the company adopted the sanitation measures because it was necessary to ensure the integrity of the product.
Originally opened in 1978 as a repair plant, the York factory was later converted to manufacture the Accord, an electronic cigarette that Philip Morris test-marketed unsuccessfully in the 1990s. The company closed the plant in 2004.
The company made a $100 million investment in 2007 to convert the plant to snus production. It added 33,000 square feet to what is now a 139,000-square-foot building. It put in new equipment and added a cold-storage room where tobacco leaf is kept chilled at 40 degrees to prevent it from degrading.
The plant’s staff includes 30 hourly process technicians, 17 salaried employees and 54 contractors.
In July, the plant’s ownership was transferred from Philip Morris to sister company U.S. Smokeless Tobacco, which is producing snus for Philip Morris.
Philip Morris’ parent company, Henrico County-based Altria Group Inc., bought U.S. Smokeless Tobacco parent UST Inc. in 2009 for $10.4 billion. With brands such as Skoal and Copenhagen moist snuff, the deal gave Altria a leading position in the moist smokeless tobacco category.
That category has been growing about 7 percent a year in the United States, as cigarette sales have declined at about 3 percent to 4 percent a year.
After test-marketing Marlboro snus in several states, Philip Morris went national with the product earlier this year, selling it mainly in packages containing six snus pouches for a retail price typically about half the cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes. The company is selling snus in four flavors: spearmint, peppermint, rich and amber.
“They are hoping it is going to offer them some new growth in the smokeless area,” said Steve Marascia, a senior research analyst at Capitol Securities Management in Henrico.
The company has not disclosed sales figures for Marlboro snus, and spokesmen would say only that the overall snus category has grown from virtually nothing to about 3 percent of the total U.S. moist smokeless market in about three years.
Besides being sold in pouches, snus tobacco is different from conventional moist snuff in other ways. Unlike moist snuff, snus is not fermented.
Instead, the tobacco is “cooked” or “heated to a high temperature degree,” as Tucker and Altria spokesman David Sutton described it. They would not say whether that means it is pasteurized, a process of heating foods such as milk to slow microbial growth.
Tucker said the heating process helps reduce the harshness of the tobacco.

Japan Tobacco Says Demand Is Recovering in Russia, Ukraine and Neighbors

Japan Tobacco Inc., the world’s third-largest publicly traded cigarette maker, said demand is recovering in Russia, Ukraine and neighboring countries, as the region emerges from the global recession.
Sales by volume of Japan Tobacco’s Winston, LD and other brands in the region rose 0.6 percent in the two months ended Aug. 31 after falling 9.7 percent in the first quarter and 7.3 percent in the second, the company said in a presentation to investors yesterday.
Japan Tobacco counts on Russia and other markets in eastern Europe to spur earnings as it expects domestic sales to fall 16 percent this fiscal year because of a planned tax increase on Oct. 1. The region accounts for almost half of Japan Tobacco’s overseas cigarette sales by volume, according to the company.
There have been “initial signs of recovery observed, with the return of the historic trend of higher consumption during the summer,” the Tokyo-based company said in its presentation in St. Petersburg.
Russia’s economy may expand 4.3 percent in 2010, compared with a record 7.9 percent contraction in 2009, VTB Capital, a Moscow-based investment bank, said Sept. 13.
Japan Tobacco rose 0.1 percent to 280,700 yen at the 3 p.m. close of trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The stock has fallen 10 percent this year, compared with a 9.4 percent decline in the Nikkei 225 Stock Average.
The cigarette maker bought RJR Nabisco Inc.’s international businesses, including the Camel and Winston brands, in 1999 and the U.K.’s Gallaher Group in 2007.
The company’s profit in the first quarter declined 47 percent after domestic sales fell 7.9 percent and a stronger yen eroded the value of overseas earnings. The Japanese government plans to raise taxes by 70 yen (84 cents) per pack of 20 cigarettes from next month.

Japanese Smokers Buoying GDP by Hoarding Before New Tax

Yusuke Sato says a man walked into his tobacco store in Atsugi, southwest of Tokyo, this month and bought 100 cartons of Mild Seven cigarettes. While they may not be good for his health, he may have saved $1,300.
The man is one of thousands of smokers across Japan stocking up before Oct. 1 to beat a record 40 percent tax increase on tobacco. Their hoarding may add as much as 1.4 percentage points to this quarter’s annualized economic growth rate, according to estimates from the Japan Research Institute.
“We were afraid we would run out of stock,” said Sato, who started taking reservations for cartons last month. “Thirty cartons has been the norm.” Next month, customers would pay 110,000 yen ($1,300) more for the same 20,000-cigarette order after the price of a pack of 20 jumps by a third, he said.
Japan is the fourth-largest market by volume for the world’s tobacco makers, after China, the U.S. and Russia, according to a report from U.K.-based market researcher ERC Group. Retailers like Sato and JR East Retail Net Co. and producers including Japan Tobacco Inc. have gained from the rush of demand as they increased output and orders.
Japan Tobacco, the world’s third-largest publicly traded cigarette maker, which controls 65 percent of its home market, is raising prices on 103 of its 105 brands in October. A pack of its flagship brand Mild Seven will cost 410 yen, up 110 yen, as the government will raise the duty by 3.5 yen per cigarette, with tobacco companies charging an extra 1.5 yen each. That’s still less than half the $10.80 average price for a pack in New York City.
Japan Tobacco has slid 10 percent this year, compared with a 9.4 percent decline in the Nikkei 225 Stock Average. The stock gained 0.1 percent to 280,700 yen today.
12 Billion Cigarettes
Japan Tobacco expects 12 billion cigarettes of additional demand before the tax is introduced, and has increased production accordingly, said spokeswoman Yuka Sugimoto.
“Looking at the numbers, it looks like the frontloading already began in August,” she said. Japan’s cigarette sales by volume climbed 1.9 percent from a year earlier, the first gain since April 2008, according to the Tobacco Institute of Japan.
Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama proposed the tax increase last year to discourage smoking in a country where 36.6 percent of men and 12.1 percent of women smoke, according to Japan Tobacco. The average Japanese smoked 2,028 cigarettes in 2007, according to ERC, almost twice as much as Americans and Germans and almost three times as much as Swedes.
‘Feel Bad’
“We’ve increased supply by about five times our regular amount,” said Mitsuko Matsui, 82, owner of a tobacco store in the Kanda business district of Tokyo. “I feel bad for the men who come here. They’re saying their cigarettes are going to be more expensive than their lunches.”
While New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing to extend the city’s smoking ban in indoor workplaces to public parks and beaches, many of Japan’s restaurants don’t even have non-smoking sections and government buildings still include smoking rooms. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News.
The Institute for Health Economics and Policy estimates the cost to society from smoking was 4.3 trillion yen in fiscal 2005, including fees for smoking-induced illnesses, lost productivity and fires started by cigarettes. The Finance Ministry, the majority shareholder of Japan Tobacco, estimates that the tax will raise 1.97 trillion yen this fiscal year.
Naoko Ogata, a senior researcher at the Japan Research Institute, a Tokyo-based think tank, predicts last-minute purchasing of cigarettes this month will boost consumer spending in the quarter ending Sept. 30 by 0.2 to 0.6 percentage points. With consumer spending accounting for about 60 percent of the nation’s economy, that results in a 0.5 to 1.4 percentage point increase to annualized growth in gross domestic product.
Post-Tax Slump
This isn’t the first time smokers hoarded before the government raised the levy. In June 2006, a month before the last time Japan raised the duty, spending on tobacco soared 49 percent from a year earlier, according to calculations made from statistics bureau data. The month the tax took effect, the figure slumped 40 percent.
Japan’s economy will expand at a 1.7 percent annual pace in the three months ending Sept. 30, according to 15 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Growth slowed to 1.5 percent annual pace in the previous period, the slowest pace in three quarters as consumer spending stalled, prompting Prime Minister Naoto Kan to propose a new 915 billion yen stimulus package this month.
Some households this quarter also rushed to buy a new car before a subsidy was withdrawn, prompting the government to cut the program short as allocated funds ran out.
‘Unbelievable Drop’
“With the cigarette tax and the end of the subsidies, we’re going to see a huge surge this quarter, followed by an unbelievable drop the next,” said Azusa Kato, an economist at BNP Paribas in Tokyo.
The long-term drop-off in tobacco demand will probably outweigh the temporary gain as the added costs encourage smokers to quit or cut back, said Japan Research’s Ogata. Cigarette consumption fell by about 20 percent after past levy increases, she said.
Some 10 percent of smokers said they would stop smoking if the price of a pack of cigarettes became 50 yen higher, a Kansai Institute for Social and Economic Research survey showed. Almost half of respondents said they would quit with a 200 yen increase.
Japan Tobacco may be looking abroad as it expects revenue in its home market to decline 16 percent this fiscal year because of the tax increase. The company said yesterday that demand in Russia, Ukraine and neighboring countries is recovering as the region emerges from the global recession.
Time to Quit
Still, analyst Mikihiko Yamato said the price increase will help Japan Tobacco’s profits hold up because of the additional 1.5 yen per stick for producers.
“No questions asked, I’d say ‘buy’ to the long-term investor,” said Yamato at Tokyo-based Japaninvest KK.
Meanwhile, smokers like Tomohiko Sato, 30, are stockpiling ahead of the deadline.
“This changes nothing,” said Sato, who saved up 20 cartons of Lucky Strikes. “I’m not going to quit, I’m not going to cut back. I love smoking.”
By Aki Ito

European Commission and Imperial Tobacco sign agreement to combat illicit trade in tobacco

Today the European Commission announced a multi-year agreement with Imperial Tobacco Limited (ITL) to work together in tackling the illicit trade in tobacco products. Under the legally binding agreement, ITL will work with the European Commission, its anti-fraud office OLAF, and Member States’ law enforcement authorities to help in the fight against contraband and counterfeit cigarettes. The Agreement includes substantial payments by ITL to the Commission and Member States, totalling USD 300 million (EUR 207 million1) over the next 20 years. It should make a significant contribution to the EU’s efforts to fight the illicit tobacco trade, which robs the EU and Member States of billions of euros every year.
Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: “I welcome this important agreement, which will help to protect the EU’s financial interests and strengthen our forces against contraband and counterfeit cigarettes.”
Commissioner for Taxation, Customs, Anti-fraud and Audit, Algirdas Šemeta said: “Contraband and counterfeit products cheat everyone: governments, consumers and legitimate businesses. Today’s agreement with Imperial Tobacco will send a powerful, deterrent signal to the criminals who smuggle cigarettes and vastly increases our chances of stamping out this illicit activity. ”
Fight against counterfeit and contraband
It is estimated that the EU and Member States lose up to 10 billion euro in unpaid taxes every year from counterfeit and smuggled tobacco products. In addition, counterfeit and other forms of contraband create a parallel illegal supply chain that undermines legitimate distribution channels and competes unfairly with genuine products distributed through legitimate channels. The illicit trade in cigarettes is often used to fund more sinister activities, such as terrorism and organised crime. For all these reasons, the Commission and the EU Member States have made the fight against counterfeit and contraband cigarettes a significant priority.
Over the last few years, despite the success of measures taken by the EU, Member States and the industry, the incidence of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes continues to diversify and grow. The Commission has therefore stepped up its efforts to combat the illegal trade in counterfeit cigarettes. These include working with Member State and third countries’ enforcement officials to investigate cigarette counterfeiting, targeting and interrupting the production of counterfeit cigarettes, and recording and pursuing seizures of counterfeit cigarettes in the EU to identify the source of the product and other relevant information.
An Agreement to improve the fight against contraband
Today’s agreement, which was initiated by ITL, reflects the fact that coordination and cooperation between EU law enforcement authorities and manufacturers like ITL can significantly contribute to the success in defeating the illicit trade in tobacco products.
The Agreement introduces strong provisions and procedures for cooperation and intelligence sharing, to allow law enforcement authorities to take more effective action against criminals in Europe and around the world. In addition, ITL will build on its existing supply chain controls, by strengthening its review process for selecting and monitoring customers, to enhance its capabilities to track and trace certain packaging, and to provide expanded support to European law enforcement bodies in the battle against the illegal trade in cigarettes.
Far-reaching product-tracking procedures are also included in the agreement, to enable enforcement bodies to determine the sources and destination of ITL brands and verify if they may be counterfeit. Consistent with the Agreement, ITL will mark certain packaging with information indicating the intended market of retail sale, mark “master cases”2 of cigarettes with machine-scannable barcode labels, and implement other procedures to improve the tracking and tracing of its products.
These obligations are consistent with the anti-contraband provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and will underpin the efforts of the EU to promote a strong Protocol to that Convention on Eliminating the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products.
In addition to the above benefits, the European Union and participating Member States will receive substantial payments from ITL over a number of years. ITL has committed to pay a total of USD 300 million (EUR 207 million) over 20 years.
The Agreement also includes a guarantee by ITL to make payments in the event of future seizures of its genuine products in the EU, above specified quantities. These payments will be available to all participating Member States.
In the negotiations with ITL, the Commission represented the European Union and the Member States. The Legal Service and OLAF conducted the negotiations for the Commission. On 9 July 2004, the EU and ten Member States signed an anti-contraband and anti-counterfeit agreement with Philip Morris International (IP/04/882). On 14 December 2007, the EU and 26 Member States entered into an anti-contraband and anti-counterfeit agreement with Japan Tobacco International (IP/07/1927). On 15 July 2010, the EU and 24 Member States entered into a Cooperation Agreement with British American Tobacco (IP/10/951). As of today, all 27 Member States and the EU are parties to the cooperation agreements with PMI and JTI.
For more details, see: MEMO/10/448.
For the Agreement, see:
1 :
Based on the conversion rate of 12th January 2010, when the Commission and Imperial Tobacco initialled the Co-operation Agreement.
2 :
“Master case” means packaging for approximately 10,000 cigarettes.

Athletes attacked for smoking habits

When footballer Wayne Rooney was spotted having a cigarette on several occasions during his break between the World Cup and

England and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney
England and Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is one of the sport's most high-profile young stars
the start of the Premier League season, there was outrage.
As a top-flight footballer, he is expected to treat his body with respect at all times, even during the close season.
Rooney is not alone. Other athletes including footballer Zinedine Zidane and basketball player Michael Jordan have all been photographed smoking.
But should they be setting a better example?
Athletic heroes
Around 6% of 11-to-15 year-old pupils admit to being regular smokers, and statistics show those who start smoking before 16 find the habit hardest to break.
Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, said athletes, particularly footballers, are seen as heroes and that this status means they also need to be positive role models.
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Any negative role modelling, including that by sports stars, could have a detrimental effect”
Jean King

“Young people are very taken with sport and there is a link with it and glamour, she said.
“Some young people will start smoking because they have seen their hero smoking.”
Anna Gilmore, professor of public health at the University of Bath, agreed that athletes have a responsibility to their fan base to be ‘responsible role modes’.
“We know that children are greatly influenced by the people around them – children growing up with parents or siblings who smoke are 90% more likely to become smokers.
“We also know that tobacco sponsorship of sport influences children’s smoking. So any negative role modelling, including that by sports stars, could have a detrimental effect.”
Health impact
But she said athletes should also be thinking of the effect that the nicotine is having on their own health and performance.
“Smoking has a very detrimental effect on health and would affect one’s ability to function as an athlete,” she said.
Ian Hooton/SPL Young people are influenced to smoke by their heroes
“It has significant impacts on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, which are essential to athletic performance.”
By smoking regularly, athletes – among others – face a decrease in lung function, which is vital for exercise as stamina and performance are affected as the body gets inadequate oxygen.
Smokers also tend to suffer from shortness of breath more often than non-smokers, as their muscles and heart demand more oxygen than their lungs are able to supply.
Smoking also has its effect on heart and circulatory health and can even reduce the ability to recover from injury.
Peer pressure
But Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said blaming high-profile athletes for youth smoking rates was misplaced.
“Research suggests that it is mainly peer pressure and the influence of family members that encourages young people to smoke,” he said.
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They are entitled to smoke without being targeted by the finger-waggers’ alliance”
Simon Clark Forest

“Pictures of celebrities or athletes smoking have relatively little impact.
“The responsibility for young people smoking lies primarily with those who supply tobacco to underage users. We should crack down on them and leave people like Wayne Rooney alone.
“Rooney and other high-profile athletes are adults. They are entitled to smoke without being targeted by the finger-waggers’ alliance.”
Amanda Amos, professor of health promotion at University of Edinburgh, stressed though that it is documented that role models do play their part in encouraging smoking.
“Role models in the media also have an influence. Several studies have shown that exposure to smoking images in films increases the risks of young people becoming smokers.
“It is also likely that other media images of ‘heroes’ smoking are likely to be influential such as in magazines, TV and the internet.
“In research that I have done with young people they have no problem in citing celebrities that they know who smoke.
“I think that over the past few years some sections of the media, such as young women’s magazines, and some celebrities have become more aware of their possible influence.
“Thus these mags, but but not others, now rarely show positive images of smoking and certain celebrities seem to avoid being photographed smoking.
“However, positive images of smoking celebrities are still widespread in the media.”

Greeks fume over smoking ban

For the fourth time in a decade, Greece’s government has imposed a sweeping smoking baninfosmoking ban, determined to wean its nicotine-needy nation from cigarettes. Almost instantly after it came into effect on Sept. 1, ashtrays vanished from closed offices, cafés and restaurants. No-smoking signs donned on walls. And scores of green-capped municipal officers fanned out to inspect public premises while countless smokers dutifully took their burning butts outside – the only place where smoking is permitted.
The warm weather had helped. But in Greece, bad habits die hard, and a backlash is planned for when the temperatures drop in winter. Enforcement is already ailing.
“What happens when winter comes along?” quips Alexis Avramidis, a bartender at a café north of Athens. “Once I seal the glass front of the café terrace, business here is going to plummet. And this, on top of a 20 per cent drop caused by the financial crisis.”
Most nightclub owners vow to defy the ban. Others, though, are considering innovative alternatives like parking smoke buses outside bars and restaurants, or converting their establishments into members-only clubs to keep police away. At the swanky Balux House Project lounge, owners have already propped up smoking tents.
Less than a month since the ban went into effect, officials in Athens – home to half of country’s population of 11 million – say no citations have been issued against any offender. In fact, local authorities policing the ban want to delay enforcement until 2011, hoping to win extra resources and manpower from the federal government.
“I have 780 municipal police officers minding the entire city,” deputy mayor Andreas Papadakis says. “Only 50 of them will be assigned exclusively to this task. And yet, how can they alone monitor 18,000 licensed operations and millions of smokers?”
Peel away from Athens and the situation gets worse. In the suburbs, municipal police number less than half a dozen in each district. The number drops drastically in rural areas. And on hundreds of sun-kissed islands, municipal police is non-existent. Mr. Papadakis takes to the Health Ministry to convince officials to either intensify a public awareness campaign or commit additional resources, enlisting, also, the support of the national police force.
Greece is the last of the original 12 countries in the European Union to enforce such a smoking ban. For a country of smokers – about 42 per cent light up every day, making them Europe’s most nicotine-loving people – the ban is draconian, covering nearly every place where Greeks light up: stadiums, schools, theatres, taverns, public transport and prisons.
With the European Union targeting the hazards and costs of smoking like never before, successive governments in Athens have faced mounting pressure to clamp down on public smoking.
But Greece is different. This tiny country teeters awkwardly between European modernity and a Balkan mindset, struggling for decades to find a balance. The smoking ban debate illustrates that.
“We’re difficult people,” says café owner Nikos Louvros, taking a drag on his fifth Gauloises in less than an hour. “We are free-willed, not because we like being unruly but because we need to be convinced of the need to comply, first.”
Take the Athens 2004 Olympics, he explains. Greeks dashed to complete preparations after realizing the international shame they faced if they failed to do so.
Now, Mr. Louvros argues, “Greeks are defying the smoking ban because they have yet to be convinced of the necessity to quit smoking.”
Until they do, Mr. Louvros, the bespectacled owner of the Booze Co-operative in central Athens, has registered his café as the headquarters of a newly formed Smoking Party to evade smoke police.
“Smoking doesn’t kill,” he says, flashing his tobacco-stained teeth. “It’s the stress and junk food. Convinced?”
Anthee Carassava

NYC tapes illegal cig sales on reservation

NEW YORK – New York City investigators secretly videotaped cigarette dealers on a Long Island Indian reservation illegally selling untaxed smokes for re-sale at city bodegas, officials said Thursday.
The sting operation – during which one seller says on tape “the less I know, the better” – is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg ongoing fight to stop reservations from selling untaxed cigarettes that end up in New York City. He has long complained the practice cheats the city out of tax revenues.
Native Americans are allowed to buy untaxed cigarettes on reservations, but only for personal use and not for resale.
In an effort to prove shops are flouting the law, Bloomberg’s administration sent undercover investigators to the Poospatuck reservation last week.
The investigators, who wore hidden cameras, told two separate sellers they were buying cigarettes to sell in New York City, and were able to purchase 60 cartons of untaxed smokes.
“I have to do a re-sale, you know, in Brooklyn,” said one investigator who bought 30 cartons of Newports.
“I don’t want to know any information that you’re talking about because our cigarettes are for personal use,” the saleswoman told him. “Should I know that you’re going to resell them, I can get in trouble. So the less I know the better.”
In the other videotaped sale, the investigator told the saleswoman: “I have to resale, I have to make, basically, you know some money on it.”
Unkechaug Nation Chief Harry Wallace suggested in a statement that the tape was edited and said the tribe does not support breaking the law.
“Our goal is to protect the lawful retail trade of tobacco for personal use,” he said.
Wallace, along with the Oneida Nation on Thursday, also blasted Bloomberg for his remark last month that the governor should get “a cowboy hat and a shotgun” and enforce the state tax law.
“Now the mayor is retaliating instead of apologizing for his indefensible statements,” Wallace said.
Some of the largest shops on the Mastic, N.Y., reservation have been effectively shut down by a federal judge who ordered them to stop selling tax-free cigarettes to customers who weren’t members of the tribe.
Those stores, however, have been replaced by new shops not covered by the court order.
State records show that cigarette sales on the reservation have dropped, but business continues to be robust. The city has accused several merchants who were covered by the court order of secretly reorganizing and continuing to do business through relatives or front companies.
“We will keep the heat up on smoke shops who make illegal deals with traffickers,” Bloomberg said. “Let this be a warning to anyone selling bootleg cigarettes – it is time to clean up your act. We are not going to stand around and do nothing.”
New York’s Indian tribes say treaty rights exempt them from having to pay the state’s $4.35-per-pack sales tax on cigarette purchases from wholesalers.
For decades, state authorities have hesitated to enforce it out of deference to their sovereignty claims.
Gov. David Paterson announced the state would begin collecting the tax, but the effort was delayed after some tribes sued in federal court in Buffalo.
An appeals court this week declined to block the enforcement of the new law, giving the go-ahead to the state to begin collecting the tax.
By Sara Kugler Frazier

Pop Culture References May Lead Youth to Smoke

A study by the city of Berkeley released last week found that about half of popular song lyrics and music videos contain smoking references, possibly reflecting an increase in the popularity of smoking in a younger generation.
The study, which came from a project by the city’s Tobacco Prevention Program, showed that 51.3 percent of the top-played songs on local radio stations popular amongst 12- to 24-year-olds featured smoking imagery in their videos. Songs were evaluated by high school students in the Berkeley Unified School District.
District spokesperson Mark Coplan said the district has the lowest tobacco usage in the state, as was shown in the 2008 California Healthy Kids Survey.
Although tobacco usage is low, drug and alcohol rates in the district are nearly double the national average, according to the survey and another study by the city’s Joint Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Task Force.
Coplan said funding for tobacco and alcohol prevention programs in the district has been “drying up” over the past years, causing the district to cut hours for at least one employee who leads the district’s prevention programs.
Officials from the city’s Public Health Department also showed concern that “a number of contemporary artists mention and glamorize tobacco use, including cigars, blunts and cigarettes in their song lyrics and videos” because of the “serious health impacts” that could be caused by this imagery.
According to the study, 30 percent of music videos show smoking scenes, even though the songs themselves make no reference to tobacco use.
“(Drug references) could influence kids because the artists are role models,” said UC Berkeley sophomore Konnor La.
He said while most people “don’t take advice from people on the street,” the widespread appeal of artists such as Tupac Shakur and Bob Marley – whose music popularized the use of marijuana – could easily influence youth.
“Research has determined that viewing even a modest level of music videos may result in substantial exposure of glamorized depictions of tobacco and alcohol use,” according to the department’s press release for the study. UC Berkeley junior Claire Seifert said song lyrics do not necessarily make people want to smoke and use drugs, but instead cater to a population that already engages in those activities.
Berkeley Health Officer Janet Berreman said the study confirmed what other regional and national studies have previously shown about the influence of popular culture on youth.
“We know that kids spend a lot of time listening to their music and watching videos,” she said. “The more glamorized images of tobacco use that teenagers see, the more they are going to smoke. These (issues) are real and very much present in our local community for our youth.”
In the upcoming months, the program hopes to determine what kind of policies could be created to counteract the influence of these images, Berreman said.

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

Senecas, NYS resume smoke tax fight

The Seneca Nation of Indians has collected slightly more than $45 million in fees related to tobacco sales since 2006, with the bulk of that money going to underwrite health and education programs on its reservations and for tribal members.
The fees come from surcharges connected with the Indian nation-generated tax stamps placed on “imported” cigarettes and other tobacco products. Locally made cigarettes — produced from one of three area manufacturing plants owned by private citizens who are members of the Seneca Nation — are exempt from state tax collections.
The issue of fee collection proved to be one of the central points during more than two hours of testimony given Tuesday morning by Robert Porter, Seneca Nation senior policy advisor before U.S. Federal Court Judge Richard Arcara.
Porter is the first of seven witnesses the Seneca Nation and New York state are expected to call during the next few days. The two sides are continuing their complex legal battle over whether New York has the right to collect $4.35 per pack in new taxes for cigarettes sold on Seneca Nation sovereign territory to non-Native Americans. New York state has tried to collect the surcharge since Sept. 1 but has been rebuffed by Seneca Nation legal efforts including a temporary restraining order Arcara put into place two weeks ago.
“What we collect allows for the benefit of Senecas who may not be in the cigarette business,” Porter said.
For the most past, Seneca retailers respect and honor their own surcharge, which was put into place in 2006. Violation fees peaked at $518,000 in 2006 and dropped to virtually nothing last year.
“The law works,” Porter said.
Porter said the Seneca Nation has a good working relationship with federal officials when it comes to cigarettes and tobacco sales. Relations with New York state are more strained. In 1997, then-Gov. George Pataki attempted to collect sales taxes on cigarettes sold on sovereign territory and was meet with a violent reaction.
Gov. David Paterson hopes to collect $110 million from the just-imposed Indian cigarette sales taxes.
Under questioning from Robert Siegfried, assistant New York state attorney, Porter said he believes the Seneca Nation is protected by treaties negotiated with the federal government that supersede state law.
“American law recognizes Seneca Nation sovereignty,” Porter said.
It is expected Arcara may review all the testimony before deciding on the issue.
By James Fink