Cigarettes Are Enlisted to Test Ways of Quitting

When a truck recently delivered 45,000 cartons of cigarettes to a research company in North Carolina, it was a turning point in the government’s war on smoking.

These were no ordinary cigarettes, but experimental ones, made of genetically altered tobacco to lower the nicotine content by 97 percent while preserving all the other tastes and smells and rituals for smokers of conventional cigarettes.

Researchers had been seeking a new and bigger supply because shortages had limited previous studies to just dozens of people. The experimental cigarettes are produced by a Massachusetts company, the 22nd Century Group, which holds 98 patents for genetic manipulation of tobacco plants to reduce or increase the amount of nicotine in cigarettes.

The National Institutes of Health bought nine million of these cigarettes, marked “for research purposes only,” from the 22nd Century Group as part of a broadening scientific effort to find ways to regulate cigarettes so that they are nonaddictive. The Spectrum brand test cigarettes have eight different levels of nicotine for research, from a nicotine content of 3 percent to 100 percent of the nicotine in the  Marlboro Gold though a 97 percent reduction is the most common level.

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the N.I.H., which oversees the work, called the delivery crucial for the new federal research projects. These include last month’s award of $2.5 million for the first year of a planned five-year series of studies into threshold levels of nicotine addiction and the possible impact of a sharp reduction in nicotine on smoking and public health.
One study of the test cigarettes will follow about 500 smokers over six months to determine whether they are more likely to quit if they switch to those cigarettes quickly or gradually. The research, led by Dorothy K. Hatsukami, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, and Eric C. Donny, associate professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, will use about 1.5 million of the recently acquired cigarettes.
For researchers, the availability of a new supply of test cigarettes is “a game changer,” said Mitch Zeller, co-chairman of the Tobacco Harm Reduction Network at the National Cancer Institute and a consultant on nicotine replacement products. “It’s still all about the nicotine. Only now we have the power to do something about it.”
At the same time, officials in the $80 billion tobacco industry have warned of unexpected side effects from addiction withdrawal and black market products, complex issues the Food and Drug Administration will have to study in considering regulation.
Under a 2009 law giving the F.D.A. authority over tobacco products, the agency cannot ban nicotine, but can require that it be reduced to extremely low levels if that is proved to benefit public health.
“We really need to have good science to determine whether this might be a product standard, and to have good science, we need reduced-nicotine cigarettes,” said Dr. Hatsukami, who is also a member of the F.D.A. Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee. Her work stalled when companies stopped making very-low-nicotine cigarettes. “In the middle of a study, we don’t have the cigarettes,” she said.
Dr. Neal L. Benowitz, another researcher and member of the federal committee, had received specially manufactured low-nicotine cigarettes from Philip Morris, a division of the Altria Group, makers of Marlboro cigarettes. When he went back for more, Philip Morris had stopped making them. Dr. Benowitz is also relying on the new supply, which the government will give to researchers without charge.
The 22nd Century Group is also applying for F.D.A. approval of its own test cigarette, called “X-22,” as a prescription-only smoking cessation device.
“No one has ever sought F.D.A. approval of a cigarette as a medical device,” Joseph Pandolfino, the founder and chief executive of 22nd Century, said in an interview. Preliminary studies show smokers can have an easier time quitting if they taper off the nicotine while still being able to do all the other things they do with cigarettes, he said, but larger studies are needed.
Another cigarette in testing, called “Brand B,” has tobacco that was genetically modified to have high levels of nicotine. The company hopes it will be approved by the F.D.A. as a “modified risk” tobacco product — a safer cigarette because users would take fewer puffs to get the same amount of nicotine.
The growing industry of quit-smoking products — patches, gum, lozenges and pills — has not further dented the rather steady rate of smoking recently in the United States, which has stayed at about 20 percent since 2004 after years of notable decline. A new crop of electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products seem aimed more at getting smokers through smoke-free times rather than quitting.
Earlier this month, the F.D.A. and N.I.H. also announced they were starting a $118 million study to track about 44,000 people over five years to assess usage trends, risk perception, quit-smoking attempts and the possible impact of new tobacco regulations. In 2006, a federal judge found that tobacco companies had designed cigarettes to precisely control the amount of nicotine and provide doses sufficient for addiction, while concealing much of their nicotine research. They marketed so-called light cigarettes, which delivered a lower dose to smoking machines because of holes in the filter, but the same dose or worse to smokers who compensated by covering the holes with their lips and drawing harder.
In two small studies by Dr. Hatsukami and Dr. Benowitz, the genetically altered cigarettes were found to defeat the phenomenon of smoker “compensation.” But researchers said they needed much more evidence.
Tests so far on the experimental cigarettes are encouraging enough that Dr. Hatsukami is going into a Phase 3 clinical trial. That means Phase 2 trials have proven effectiveness on humans. Phase 3 measures both effectiveness and safety. 22nd Century is also planning to start Phase 3 trials next year.
The studies are examining gradual or rapid reductions of nicotine. In a regulated marketplace, the government could set limits on nicotine and ratchet down. And teenagers could still experiment with cigarettes, as they are wont to do, without getting addicted.
“It’s a hot topic,” said Clifford E. Douglas, director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network. “But as difficult as menthol has been, nicotine will be more difficult, because it’s not 15 million smokers, it’s every smoker in the United States.” The F.D.A., under its new authority, has focused on Congressional mandates over menthol-cigarettes-brands, dissolvable products and graphic warning labels on cigarette packages, each a contentious issue of its own with tobacco companies challenging science and policy.
The F.D.A.’s advisory panel has not put nicotine on its agenda yet, which is why Dr. Gregory N. Connolly, a Harvard professor of public health and antismoking advocate, said he resigned from the F.D.A. panel in December.
“After 50 years of knowing cigarettes cause cancer, it’s nice to know we have a supply we can investigate,” Dr. Connolly said. “But the real issue is the F.D.A. should have begun a process two years ago to see if we can eliminate nicotine in cigarettes, at least for children. If we can put a man on the moon, we can get rid of nicotine.”

Should cigarettes be linked to CPI?

Most economics textbooks say that governments cannot cut down the smoking rate through price adjustments because demand of the unhealthy products is not reflective of the cigarettes costing more.
Basically, a vast majority of smokers keep smoking despite a spike in price per pack since it is an addiction similar to illicit drugs.
Yet, experts point out that common sense in economics does not apply to the real world a full 100 percent and the correlation between prices and smoking rates is quite strong.
This means that Korea is required to come up with an alternative strategy to reduce the number of smokers ― instead of focusing merely on the expansion of no-smoking areas and carrying out anti-smoking campaigns. It has to push up the cost for smokers through heavier taxes.
Asia’s fourth-largest economy raised taxes on cigarettes by 500 won per pack in 2004 and prices have nearly stayed the same since.
“The smoking rates are closely correlated to cigarette values as demonstrated by the data of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),’’ professor Lim Byung-in at Chungbuk University said.
“The economic logic that lower prices lead to stronger demand works in the tobacco markets. In order to slash social expenses associated with smoking, Korea needs to lift the amount of won spent to light a cigarette.’’
Among the 30-plus OECD members, Korea ranks 30th in cigarette prices to be burned with the 7th highest smoking rate of 25.8 percent as of the end of last year.
Mexico has a similar problem as the Central American country ranks 28th in tobacco price and third in smoking rates.
In contrast, Ireland sells the most expensive tobacco products and ranks 11th in smoking.
“According to a report from the World Bank, non-price measures would cost 7.8 to 155.8 times more compared to fiscal measures in achieving the same effect on the war against smoking, which will eventually burden taxpayers,’’ a Seoul analyst said.
“The report also says that every time the price of tobacco products rises by 10 percent, the smoking rate drops by 4 percent. In addition, the World Health Organization claimed that the most effective way to curb smoking incidence is to raise costs for smokers through higher taxes.’’
Cold turkey vs gradually
Prof. Lim contends that the Seoul administration government has actually decreased the tobacco value over the past several years because the tax scheme has remained the same since 2004.
Earlier this year a pair of global brands hiked the price of their products by 200 won per pack. The remaining brands are available here at the same price tag of 2,500 won for a package of 20 cigarettes.
“In consideration of inflation, tobacco prices are cheaper now than in 2004 in real terms. As a result smokers are encouraged to continue their habits,’’ Lim said.
“Furthermore, as people’s incomes go up, the proportion of smoking costs in their overall expenditures go down. They hardly have any financial reason to stop smoking. We need to change this incentive system.’’
Then, there would be two options when ratcheting up taxes, either slowly or all at once. Experts argue that the former would be the better way because a sudden sharp increase would invite a backlash such as illicit trading including tobacco smuggling as well as great resistance from the public.
Happy medium ― CPI-linked taxation system
To phase in taxes, Lim suggests that cigarette prices should be aligned with the consumer price index (CPI), which he says worked effectively in such countries as Australia.
In 1983, Australia introduced the CPI-linked taxation system, under which tobacco taxes are adjusted in February and August every year to reflect the rise in consumer prices.
A survey conducted there every three year shows that smoking dipped to 16.6 percent in 2007 from 21.8 percent in 1998 and the size of the tobacco market shrank to 22.7 billion cigarettes from 27.5 billion during the same period.
Deterrents in introducing the CPI-linked taxation system are that the Lee Myung-bak administration has tried to seek policies benefitting the lower class and is concurrently grappling with high inflationary pressures.
“The incumbent administration has sought to avoid the image of being friendly to the haves rather than have-nots. Accordingly, it would be difficult to raise the price of tobacco as smoking is more common among the middle and lower classes than the rich,’’ Lim said.
“It also worries about the soaring inflation rates of late. Topping other things off, however, the government should think of high social costs caused by smoking. It has to put first health of the general public rather than political and economic causes no matter what they are.’’
By Kim Tae-gyu

Health officials wary of dissolvable tobacco

Health officials are manning the school ramparts for a fresh tobacco assault they feel sure is about to happen, if it hasn’t started already.
They just can’t prove it.

It was May when the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco company introduced its new “dissolvable” products into Colorado as a test market. Those products include Camel Orbs, pellets roughly the size of breath minds; Camel sticks, twisted sticks the size of a toothpick; and Camel strips, similar to breath strips. All are made from finely ground menthol-cigarettes-brands and are designed to melt in the mouth.

Tobacco is tobacco, even if it is smokeless, and it’s illegal for vendors to sell the products to minors.
It’s also a violation of the state’s Tobacco-Free Schools Act for students to bring these items onto their campuses. Indeed, as far as state officials know, no Colorado student has yet been caught sneaking a tobacco orb, strip or stick into his or her mouth at school.

But health officials feel it’s just a matter of time, given the allure of the product.
“They only started testing this product in Colorado a few months ago. We haven’t had time to track its usage,” said Bob Doyle, executive director of the Colorado Tobacco Education and Prevention Alliance, a statewide coalition of organizations committed to reducing tobacco use. “But we’re trying to get ahead of this before it happens.”

State Board of Health wants product out of Colorado

Last month, the Colorado Board of Health unanimously approved a resolution calling on RJ Reynolds to stop the test marketing of the candy-like products in the state until the federal Food and Drug Administration decides whether to regulate them or not. The FDA will report to Congress next March the results of its study of the health effects of dissolvable tobacco.
The health board also called on officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to alert school officials, parents and young people to the threat posed by the new tobacco products.
Since then, Cherry Creek and Aurora school board members have seen presentations on dissolvable tobacco during the public comment section of their meetings, and information about dissolvables has gone out to health staff and teachers in Steamboat Springs.
In addition, information about dissolvables will be included in the November issue of Thrive, a parent newsletter for Boulder Valley schools.
This is just the beginning, say health officials.
“We can’t say what the timeline might be at this point until we sit down with Department of Education folks,” said Stephanie Walton, Youth Tobacco Specialist in the Prevention Services Division of CDPHE. “Right now, I’m not sure how aware school districts even are about these things.”

Officials struggle to track incidents in schools

Meanwhile, Doyle is urging all schools to provide fact sheets about dissolvable tobacco to staff and parents, and to monitor whether the products have appeared on their campuses. If so, he’d like to know.
“Please pass the information on to me so we can keep track,” he said.
He’s also encouraging parents to sign an online petition calling for the end of the test marketing of these products in Colorado, and he’s asking school boards and other organizations across the state to draft similar resolutions.
Despite the lack of hard evidence that teens are using products that makers say are clearly meant for adults, health officials point to some troubling circumstantial evidence:
There’s brand loyalty, for one thing.

“We have research that shows that youth smokers are very brand loyal,” Walton said. “We know that Camel with teen smokers, so anything marketed under the Camel brand will appeal to young people. We have a study that shows established youth smokers are most likely to smoke the same brand as the first cigarette they tried. So if they’ve tried a Camel, they may be more likely to try these products.”

There’s also the sneakiness factor. These are products that can easily be brought into a classroom, and just as easily be mistaken for mints. And unlike other forms of smokeless tobacco, they won’t have to spit it out afterward.
“I could have 10 of these orbs in my mouth at once, and you wouldn’t know it,” said Doyle. “I could be getting a very large dose of nicotine and you wouldn’t even know it. This really facilitates addiction.”

Flavor and price are two more teen-friendly aspects of the dissolvables. Their mint flavoring makes them more attractive to youngsters. And at a cost of about $2.50 per pack, the price fits more easily into teen-age budgets than a $5 pack of cigarettes.

“Youth are price-sensitive tobacco users, so this is an easier entry point for them,” Walton said.

Finally, there’s product placement. Two other dissolvable tobacco products – Stonewall and Ariva – have been on the market for some time without much furor. That’s because Stonewall is typically sold in tobacco stores, while Ariva is more likely to be sold in drug stores, next to nicotine replacement products.
“But we’re finding Camel Orbs in convenience stores and gas stations, stores where you typically see cigarettes sold,” Walton said.

Makers defend product as intended for adults

Despite all this, tobacco-product manufacturers point out that the products really do fill a niche, that they provide adults with tobacco options that don’t involve second-hand smoke or cigarette butts, that they carry the same warnings as other tobacco products, and that it’s the opponents who repeatedly refer to these products as “candy” who are really causing the problem.
And, as Thomas A. Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, told members of the board of health at an August hearing, the vast majority of tobacco vendors refuse to sell their products to minors.
“From Aug. 30, 2010 to June 20, 2011, 99 percent of 989 Colorado retailers successfully refused the sale of tobacco products in compliance checks conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment,” Briant said. “Only nine out of 989 retailers received a warning letter from the FDA alleging a sale of tobacco products to a minor, and even some of these nine locations were not retail stores.”

Across the state, the rate of smoking among teens has steadily fallen in the last decade. According to the most recent data, the 2008 Healthy Kids Colorado Tobacco and Health Survey, 37 percent of teens reported ever having smoked, down from 54 percent in 2001.

“The trendline is going down, though the decrease has slowed,” Walton said.
The data on smokeless tobacco is less clear. Figures on that form of tobacco use aren’t even available before 2006. According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly 17.7 percent of high school students in Colorado identified themselves as smokers, versus 16.8 percent who used smokeless or spit tobacco. Nearly all of the spit tobacco users were, not surprising, male.

The new dissolvable tobacco products aren’t like to gross out girls the way spit tobacco does, health officials predict.

Oneidas’ won’t sell brand-name smokes, boosts other stores

VERNON — The smokers are coming back!oneida store
Local gas stations and convenience stores appear to be experiencing an uptick in sales over the last couple of weeks as the Oneida Indian Nation’s supply of mainstream brand cigarettes dwindles.

In June, a New York state law that ensures that taxes are paid when Indian retailers sell popular brands of cigarettes went into effect.

The state’s Indian nations had not been charging the tax, which enabled them to undersell non-Indian retailers on popular brands such as Marlboro, Camel and Lucky Strike.

Now, tribes such as the Oneida Indian Nation have opted to sell only Indian cigarette brands because they don’t want to pay the taxes.That’s sending smokers back to the non-Indian stores.
“I don’t like the brands they are selling,” said Sue Fort, who was buying a pack of USA Gold Lights at FasTrip, a Mobil gas station with a convenience store outside Vernon. “I won’t buy there anymore.”She’s not the only smoker who has shifted her buying habits.

Paul Badhan, who owns FasTrip, said he started noticing the change around two weeks ago.
“It was hurting us real bad,” he said of the Oneidas’ cigarette selling. “Gas and cigarettes are our main business. We think it’s going to be better for us now.”
Years in the making New York state and its municipalities lost millions in tax revenue as Indian tribes grew their retail cigarette business.

And the governments weren’t the only ones who lost out.
Gas station and convenience store owners have pointed to drops in sales of gas and other goods. That’s because smokers often buy other things at the same time they pick up their cigarettes.
“Now people come in and then we sell a lot more stuff,” Badhan said.
Though Indian tribes are required to pay taxes on cigarettes and other items sold to non-Indians, they did not do so despite the efforts of a succession of state governors.

Cigarette wholesalers operating in the state have long had to pay certain cigarette taxes up front rather than having retailers pay them.
Indian tribes have maintained that wholesalers who sell to their retailers should not pay the tax. Many wholesalers sold cigarettes to Indian retailers without charging for the tax. That has meant the Indian stores had a price advantage.

In summer of 2010, New York state decided to crack down on the policy, but the tribes sued. In June, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state.

Many of the tribes, including the Oneidas, manufacture their own cigarettes and will be selling those exclusively when they run out of their supplies of mainstream brands.

“Our customers are able to purchase lower-cost cigarette brands manufactured by the Nation in its own factory on Nation lands,” Oneida Nation spokesman Mark Emery said. “Other cigarette brands not manufactured on Oneida Indian Nation homelands will be available to our customers as long as the current supply in our stores lasts.”

Is it working?
Robert Batson, Albany Law School’s government lawyer in residence, said the law appears to be having its intended effect.
“It’s cutting off their access to out-of-state manufactured cigarettes,” he said. “The wholesalers are complying with the law.”
James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, said the impacts on convenience stores would be positive but wouldn’t completely solve the problem of cheap Indian cigarettes.
He said anecdotal evidence across the state shows sales increases in some, but not all, non-Indian stores.

“In some cases, the improvement has been significant, but it’s not universal,” he said.
Calvin also said many people now are smoking the cheaper Indian-brand cigarettes.
“Those products are still being sold in huge quantities at the SavOn stores and other tribal stores in New York,” he said.
Many smokers say they won’t make the switch, even if the Indian cigarettes are cheaper.
Mike Collins of is one of them. He likes his signature red-pack Marlboro and had been buying them at a SavOn.

But now, there are none there to be found, he said.
“My wife likes the Indian cigarettes, but I don’t like the taste,” he said as he prepared to drive away from Badhan’s FasTrip. “I’m going to have to pay the tax.”
And what about the SavOn?
“I don’t even go there to buy gas,’ he said.

Kentucky lawmaker to propose statewide smoking ban

FRANKFORT, KY. — Backed by a coalition of health and anti-smoking groups, Rep. Susan Westrom said Wednesday that she plans to file a bill for the 2012 legislative session to enact a statewide smoking ban in public places.
Testifying before the interim joint Health and Welfare Committee, the Lexington Democrat said she believes it’s time for lawmakers to adopt a statewide law similar to ordinances already enacted in some localities, including Louisville and Lexington.
“Those of you who have some concerns, think about the tax consequences,” Westrom said, referring to the public health costs associated with smoking.
Kentucky continues to have one of the nation’s highest rates of adult smoking, at 26 percent.
But Westrom said attitudes about smoking have changed — particularly regarding exposure to secondhand smoke — and she believes public support is growing for such a ban.
“Take time to talk to your constituents,” she said to lawmakers on the panel. “You’ll be absolutely stunned.”
Among those speaking in support of a statewide law were David Adkisson, president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, who said a majority of business owners the chamber surveyed back such a measure. He said employers are increasingly concerned about the health costs and lost productivity associated with smoking.
“Smoking is not only killing us, it’s bankrupting us,” Adkisson said.
Also speaking in support were Dr. John Johnstone, a Madison County cardiologist, and Scott Lockard, public health director of the Clark County Health Department.
“I have seen personally the ravages of tobacco smoke,” Johnstone said, adding that that includes people exposed to secondhand smoke. “There is no safe level of exposure to smoke.”
Westrom’s measure also has the support of a group called Smoke Free Kentucky, which plans to work on behalf of the bill during the 2012 session, said Amy Barkley of with the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
Westrom said she plans to file the bill before the legislature convenes in January. It would ban smoking in enclosed indoor public spaces, such as offices or other workplaces, stores, restaurants and shopping malls.
It would not extend to outdoor areas, such as parks, she said. But communities could pass even stricter requirements.
No one spoke against the measure at Wednesday’s hearing.
Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, and Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, the committee co-chairmen, both spoke in favor of it.
“We do have a right to clean air,” Denton said. “I would like to see your bill pass.”
Burch said attitudes about smoking have changed since he introduced a bill some 25 years ago to restrict smoking in public.
It was assigned to the tobacco-friendly House agriculture committee. When Burch came forward to present the bill, he said, “every member of the committee lit up cigarettes.”
At that point, Burch said he told supporters, “I think the bill is in trouble.”
Smoking wasn’t restricted in all public parts of the Capitol and the Capitol Anex until 2004, when lawmakers banned smoking in legislative areas, including committee meeting rooms.
By Deborah Yetter, Courier-journal
(502) 582-4228.

Japan Tobacco Privatization a Threat

Far from the economic rationale in favor of full privatization of Japan Tobacco Inc., the world’s third-biggest cigarette maker, one group fears for its future: the country’s tobacco farmers.
About 400 farmers from across the nation gathered and then staged a demonstration Thursday, marching around Tokyo’s Nagatacho-district, the center of Japan’s government, to urge the case against selling off its 50% stake in the company, conceived as part of potential program of fund-raising to help the country cover the cost of restructuring after the March 11 disasters.
Japan Tobaccco, known universally as JT, itself has long expressed a desire to become a fully private company to better compete with its bigger global rivals — Philip Morris International Inc. and British American Tobacco PLC.
But farmers are strictly against the government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which plan to transform JT eventually into a fully privatized entity within 10 years. They also showed strong opposition to plans for another round of tobacco tax hikes, adding another ¥2 per cigarette.
Current law requires the government to hold at least 5 million JT shares, or 50%, of the shares outstanding, and any share sale will require a law change, which in turn would be smoothed by cooperation from the Liberal Democratic Opposition party. The latter, though, has close ties with the tobacco lobby.
Tobacco farmers remain suspicious that any decline in the government’s stake in JT would be accompanied by the scrapping of the current tobacco sales framework here, under which the farmers have long been protected via an arrangement under which JT buys all tobacco leaf produced in Japan.
Any change in that poses a threat to future livelihoods, tobacco farmers say, because JT may buy larger amounts of cheaper tobacco leaf elsewhere.
“I have sons aged 19 and 17 but I can’t tell them to take over (my farm),” said Masakatsu Sakai, a farmer attending the gathering from Kumamoto prefecture in western Japan, the biggest tobacco producing prefecture in the country.
“If the government unloads its entire stake in JT, I have no doubt that JT would increasingly be driven in pursuit of profits, more than ever,” said Mr. Sakai, putting downward pressure on the price of tobacco leaf in Japan.
The potential change in JT’s shareholder structure comes amid increasingly uncertain times for Japan’s tobacco industry, with the number of smokers in the country having slid to a record low of about 21.7% of the population. Compared with a decade ago, the number of tobacco farmers in Japan has almost halved to 10,801 for this fiscal year.
The tempo of decline accelerated with lean harvests in recent years. A major tax hike — ¥3.5 hike per cigarette — implemented by the government in October last year led to a hike of close to 40% in the price of a pack of cigarettes.
Earlier this year tobacco farmers found about 40% of them have already decided to discontinue tobacco farming next year, according to JT and farmers.
“I’ve lost many fellow farmers…they decided to quit because of inability to make a living and no prospect for the future,” said Mr. Sakai.
One point of optimism for the farmers — privatization still has a very long way to go before becoming reality.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is already struggling to cope with what’s called in Japan a “twisted parliament.” While the DPJ controls the lower house of parliament, after a defeat in national elections last year, the ruling DPJ lost its majority in the upper house of parliament.
And that means the government could be dependent on the cooperation of the opposition parties like LDP to enact any law to change JT’s shareholding structure, cooperation that may be a long way off.
By Hiroyuki Kachi

Senators urge baseball to ban chewing tobacco

WASHINGTON – Four U.S. senators and health officials from the cities hosting the World Series are urging the baseball players union smokeless tobaccoto agree to a ban on chewing tobacco at games and on camera.
The senators, including No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois, and health officials from St. Louis and Arlington, Texas, made the pleas in separate letters, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The World Series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals begins in St. Louis Wednesday night.
“When players use smokeless tobacco, they endanger not only their own health, but also the health of millions of children who follow their example,” the senators wrote to union head Michael Weiner. In addition to Durbin, the signers were fellow Democrats Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Senate health committee chairman of Tom Harkin of Iowa.
The senators noted that millions of people will tune in to watch the series, including children.
“Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products,” they wrote. Smokeless tobacco includes chewing tobacco and dip.
With baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expiring in December, the senators, some government officials and public health groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids want the players to agree to a tobacco ban in the next contract.
“Such an agreement would protect the health of players and be a great gift to your young fans,” the senators wrote.
Commissioner Bud Selig endorsed the ban in March, but the players union hasn’t committed to one. Weiner, who said in June that a “sincere effort” will be made to address the issue, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Some baseball players interviewed by The Associated Press last month were receptive to the idea, but others viewed a ban as an infringement on their freedom.
Meanwhile, the health officials from St. Louis and Arlington wrote in a letter to Weiner that with tobacco companies banned from advertising on TV, they “literally could not buy the ads that are effectively created by celebrity ballplayers using tobacco at games.”
The officials, Dr. Cynthia Simmons, the Public Health Authority for Arlington, and Pamela Walker, the St. Louis interim health director, urged players in the World Series to voluntarily abstain from using tobacco, in addition to calling for a permanent ban.
The Centers for Disease Control says that smokeless tobacco can cause cancer, oral health problems and nicotine addiction, and stresses it is not a safe alternative to smoking. Despite the risks, the CDC’s most recent survey found that in 2009, 15 percent of high school boys used smokeless tobacco — a more than one-third increase over 2003, when 11 percent did.

Facebook campaign may herald deeper changes in Bhutan

For a sign of things to come with isolated Bhutan’s young democracy, look no further than a draconian smoking law, some bar talk, and a Facebook page.
For decades, Bhutan has been the world’s most reclusive kingdom, with conservative villagers living under an absolute monarch. The introduction of parliamentary democracy in 2008 by the then-king was forced on many reluctant subjects who still look to the monarch as the final arbiter of justice.
But earlier this year Kinley Tshering, then a media consultant in the capital, Thimphu, discussed with friends over drinks the jailing of a Buddhist monk for three years for possessing $3 worth of tobacco, one of the first to be prosecuted under a new law banning public smoking.
More than 50 people have been jailed over the law, which allows police with sniffer dogs to raid homes in search of illegally imported tobacco and makes holding as much as a carton of 200 cigarettes a jailable offence.
Angry, Tshering decided to form a Facebook page, a digital protest unheard of in this Himalayan kingdom of 700,000 people wedged in between India and China.
Within months, the page had several thousand followers and was the talk of the town, signaling how a younger generation is embracing social media and democratic rights, confidently challenging an established order of elderly and mostly conservative leaders.
“Facebook was important. It opened the floodgates for open criticism of the government,” said opposition leader Tshering Tobgay. “People feel the need to be more vocal. Only two years ago, criticism – constructive or not – was quite anonymous.”
It is not just social media but traditional newspapers – the first private ones appeared in 2006 – that are becoming increasingly aggressive in probes into the government.
No one expects any revolution in Bhutan, where the king is revered. There is broad support for the kingdom’s cautious embrace of globalization and its philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), the idea that personal well-being and the environment are as important as GDP.
But, tentatively, Bhutan is becoming a country where its first-ever democratic government – elected in 2008 – may have to increasingly take into account its people, especially its younger and modern, urban and wired generation.
For decades, criticism and grievances were aired among families and close friends.
“There are a lot of speeches about GNH. It sounds like we are doing a lot,” said Tashi Choden, a senior researcher at the Center for Bhutan Studies in Thimphu. “But there is a different reality on the ground. The youth are increasingly alienated. We could lose what we have if we are not careful.”
The predominantly Buddhist Bhutanese are mindful of the fate of other Himalayan kingdoms: the monarchy in Nepal was abolished after a civil war, Sikkim was absorbed by India and Tibet by China.
The marriage of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck on October 13 to a young student may cement the future of the popular monarchy that acts as the checks and balances on an unsure democracy, funneling grievances through the ancient rights of subjects to appeal to the king.
But there is far more skepticism about its elected leaders.
“The next election (in 2013) will be fascinating,” said Francoise Pommaret, a French anthropologist and historian who has lived in Bhutan for three decades. “I have no idea what will happen, but there are profound social changes. Our leaders will have to listen to a new generation.”
Bhutan’s government faces a slew of challenges.
Most glaringly, there is a massive generation gap between an elderly conservative elite and young people who pose problems for the government that range from unemployment, urban gangs and drug abuse.
There is also a growing disparity in wealth. Bhutan is not one of the world’s poorest countries – its GDP per head puts it in the league of lower middle-income nations – and yet more than a fifth of the population lives on less than $0.70 a day.
Increasing expectations of better lives are fed by television, which was only introduced to the country in 1999, as well as the ever-more-frequent sight of expensive land cruisers plying Bhutan’s roads.
“Is there is one thing that keeps leaders awake at night, it’s the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots,” said one senior government official, who asked to remain anonymous.
It is a change that goes to the far reaches of a kingdom roughly the size of Switzerland.
In the south, lower-caste villagers with historical Hindu roots are suing their upper-caste neighbors for discrimination, saying it is illegal under the new constitution. Pommaret calls it “a landmark in Bhutan’s history.”
In Thimphu, some 200 people carried out Bhutan’s first-ever street protest in 2009 against the slow official reaction to the drowning of seven youngsters in a monsoon-swollen river.
A highway through a national park connecting eastern Bhutan with the central part of the country has sparked national debate on television, and protests to the prime minister.
The new taste for popular debate is not restricted to an urban, educated elite: village migrants studying in college towns are embracing Facebook. And the government is smoothing the way, setting up computer centers in many rural areas.
Dupthob Tashiyangtse, a lawmaker from a remote rural region in the east, recounted how, after he was elected, villagers started making all kinds of demands including asking him to charge their mobile phones or pick up their groceries.
“When we campaigned we told them we were here to help them,” Tashiyangtse said. “They took us literally. People are now coming forward. They are more demanding.”
And everyone talks about the Facebook page.
“People are coming out,” said Tshering, who is now managing editor of Business Bhutan, a newspaper that has spearheaded investigations into the government. “We were really surprised by the reaction, quite scared actually. We were unsure what the government would do.”
In fact, the prime minister signed up on the Facebook page, a signal that the leaders of this country may see the tide cannot be turned.
But it is not without tension and fear.
Organizers say the street protest was photographed by plain clothes police. A normally assured prime minister angrily accused a newspaper of playing to foreign interests over an investigation into a state lottery scandal.
There is a long way to go. Many people are still reluctant to talk openly. Change will probably come hesitantly.
Asked if he had any more plans for protests, Tshering smiled, and said: “That was enough, for now.”
By Alistair Scrutton

Multi-pronged plan to tackle tobacco menace in offing

PUNE: The state government is set take on tobacco menace, a major preventable cause of death and disease among adults worldwide, with a multi-pronged political and administrative strategy. The move comes against the backdrop that civic organisations and women groups in the state have joined hands to bring tobacco addiction to the political agenda ahead of the elections for the 27 zilla parishads and 10 municipal corporations scheduled for the next eight months.
In a high level meeting in Mumbai on Thursday, Satej Patil, minister of state for home and food and drugs administration initiated the amendments in the Shop Act, ordered introductions of new norms in FDA and most importantly, said his party (the Congress) will take a stand against tobacco.
“We have drafted a strategy to tackle alarming levels of smoking, and consumption of tobacco and gutkha in the state. The state has taken serious cognizance of rising level of tobacco consumption and smoking among schoolchildren and college youths. We will tackle this problem at administrative and political levels,” said Patil while speaking to TOI on Friday.
“Sale and consumption of tobacco is banned within 100 yards of premises of schools and colleges but the idea of tobacco-free campuses has remained only on paper. An alarming number of vendors are found selling cigarettes and other tobacco products outside schools and colleges across seven divisions of the state.”
The minister added: “We will now initiate legal steps to empower headmasters of schools and principals of colleges to take action against the shopkeepers and vendors who sale tobacco products. As of now, they have very limited rights in this regard. Also, we are amending the Shop Act which will put a pre-condition for any commercial establishments around schools and colleges not sale tobacco products, and if they breach the condition, their licences will be cancelled.”
Patil said the home department has already asked the urban development department to start procedure for this amendment. “As of now, there are no strong legal provisions against shopkeepers who sell tobacco products around school and college premises,” said Patil.
FDA commissioner Mahesh Zagade, who was present at the meeting, told TOI that the government will take steps to increase the number of food inspectors in the state to launch a sustainable campaign against tobacco. “As of now, the FDA has just 60 inspectors, which is a very small number considering the population of the state. Even police sub-inspectors are authorised to take action against those who sale tobacco in educational premises, but they are busy in their work. Hence, the FDA will increase its staff,” said Zagade.
Tobacco kills nearly 5.7 million people worldwide each year. According to the World Health Organization, smoking is the world’s leading cause of preventable death. It causes 1 in 10 deaths among adults worldwide. At the current rate, the death toll is projected to reach more than 8 million annually by 2030 and a total of up to one billion deaths in the 21st century.
Recently, NGOs and activists working in campaign against tobacco had demanded that the state handle the issue at political level.
“According to estimates, three crore people in the state will die prematurely in the coming decade if we do not impose a ban on tobacco today. There is nothing more urgent than this. We had taken this issue to the FDA minister and the state government,” said Pankaj Chaturvedi, associate professor, Tata memorial hospital.
“We will take a political stand on this issue. In fact, in my assembly constituency in Kolhapur South, I recently announced that the party will avoid nominating candidates in forthcoming local elections if they are tobacco addicts. We have to take stand on this issue as it is question of lives of thousands of people,” Patil said.
It is interesting to note that Patil’s home district, Kolhapur, has 1,500 hectares of land under tobacco cultivation, while neighbouring Sangli has 450 hectares. The annual tobacco production in the state is over 2,200 tonnes with some other parts of the state contributing to the production.
The stand taken by the Congress minister is likely to make the Nationalist Congress Party ministers in the state cabinet unhappy. The NCP, alliance partner of the Congress, has repeatedly gone on the defensive on the issue since one of their leaders has interests in the tobacco industry.
“It’s high time that the links of politicians and tobacco industry come to the fore. Let people understand who are the people involved in the business and who benefit from it. Anti-tobacco campaigns will succeed only when we track the flow of money involved in it, Vilas Baba Jawal, an anti-tobacco activist based in Satara, said.Killer Facts.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s ‘Cancer associated with the use of tobacco’ report, nearly 44.4% of all cancers in men in Kolkata are because of tobacco, followed by Chennai (41.4%), Delhi (39.4%) and Mumbai (39.2%)
Besides the four metropolitan cities, the burden of tobacco associated cancers is acute in other cosmopolitan cities like Bangalore and Pune.
According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, 21% of Indian population is addicted to smokeless tobacco alone and another 5% smoke as well as use smokeless tobacco.
Around 75% of the 275 million Indians consume smokeless tobacco products
In India, more and more women are now taking to smoking. According to the Tobacco Atlas, the country ranks third in the top 20 female smoking populations across the globe. With around a crore female smokers in India, only the US with 2.3 crore female smokers and China with 1.3 crore female smokers, are worse off.
The World health Organization figures indicate that 33% adult Indian males and 18.4% adult Indian females use smokeless tobacco. Among the youth, 19% males and 8.3% females use some forms of tobacco.
According to the India Cancer Initiative report, more than 4,000 different chemicals have been found in tobacco and tobacco smoke. More than 60 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer (carcinogens).

Senate delay in tobacco plain packaging law

HEALTH Minister Nicola Roxon has been embarrassed by delays to her tobacco plain packaging legislation caused by a government attempt to bring on the carbon tax debate in the Senate earlier.
Ms Roxon issued a strongly worded media release mid-afternoon yesterday lashing opposition senators for their “delaying tactics”, saying they had “played into the hands of big tobacco”.
“The opposition has twice chosen to stall the bill by choosing to debate procedural, administrative issues, playing into the hands of the tobacco companies,” Ms Roxon insisted. “Despite Tony Abbott saying he supports this legislation, the opposition continue to effectively block it.”
But the opposition has fired back, saying debate was delayed by government attempts to start debate on the carbon tax bills immediately, rather than in the extra sitting week next month arranged in the September sittings to debate the legislation.
The plain packaging legislation was passed by the House of Representatives on August 24 and the government has had ten sitting days since to get the matter through the Senate.
In a letter to Ms Roxon yesterday Liberal Senator Fierravanti-Wells said she had consulted with Coalition senators yesterday at the request of the minister asking them to reduce the time they would speak on the bill to speed its passage through the Senate.
A number of them agreed to do this.
“In light of your media release, I would assume my efforts have been in vain,” Senator Fierravanti-Wells said in her letter.
“Indeed I question the bona fides of your call to me this morning,” she said.
Debate on the plain packaging bills commenced in the Senate on Tuesday but Senator Fierravanti- Wells was able to speak for just seven minutes before Senate question time intervened.
The Senate did not return to the matter yesterday.
Although the bill was listed for debate by the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Bill Ludwig called for debate on a change to the hours and a variation in business early yesterday.
“The Senate has failed to debate the plain packaging legislation because the Gillard government has failed to bring it forward. Today it abandoned debate on other matters to bring forward the carbon tax bills,” opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said.
“The government decides the order of business in the Senate,” he said.
He said Ms Roxon “had form in failing to get her legislation through parliament in a timely fashion and then turning around to blame everyone, but herself or her shambolic government”.
The Coalition has pledged to support the plain packaging legislation that will replace branded tobacco packets with a uniform dirty brown packet covered in health warnings.
By Christian Kerr and Sue Dunlevy
From: The Australian