Telecoms is no Tobacco industry; be lenient with us – Sakyi-Addo appeals to NCA

Chief Executive officer of the Telecoms Chamber Kwaku Sakyi-Addo is unhappy with threats by the Communications Minister to suspend the licenses of telecom companies which fail to pay fines imposed on them by the National Communications Authority.
The regulatory body imposed a total fine of ¢1.2 billion on five of the telecom operators in the country for providing poor quality services to their clients.
Weeks after the imposition, only Tigo was reported by the Daily Graphic to have completed payment. MTN and Airtel had paid part with Vodafone and Expresso yet to make any payment.
Communications Minister Haruna Iddrisu at a Consumer Forum in Tamale described the delay by the companies in paying the penalties as a show of disrespect to consumers and to the regulatory body.
He directed the companies to pay up in 24 hours or risk losing their licenses.
The penalty and subsequent threat to suspend the licenses of the operators appear not to have gone down well with the Chief Executive of the Telecoms Chamber.
At a ceremony to officially launch the telecoms chamber, its CEO, Kwaku Sakyi-Addo minced no words in his appeal to the regulator and the sector minister to tread cautiously in taking punitive measures against the operators.
He argued the operators, sometimes through no fault of theirs, face serious challenges in deploying infrastructure that is expected to improve the quality of services.
He found it rather worrying that, in spite of those challenges coupled with a commitment by the operators to improve quality by deploying its infrastructure, the regulatory body would go ahead and slap punitive sums on the operators.
“…One of the longest running problems that is hurting telecoms companies are the cost and hurdles in deploying infrastructure and the complete absence of predictability in how our local authority determine business operating permits when it comes to mobile phone company.
“Do we want the mobile phone services in our communities or not. Do we want improvement in the quality of service or not. How do you expand broadband internet access and enhance quality if we obstruct the very infrastructure that delivers it.
“If we dissuade and hurt and punish the companies that want to deploy them, how? This is not a tobacco industry. Don’t we realize that this industry is a direct and visible enabler of economic and social activity and outcomes?
He said if the “strange” policy being implemented by the regulator makes sense then it should be applied across board – to the water sector as well.
Mr. Addo also took exception to the 20 per cent import duty on SIM cards based on a 2010 copy right legislation which claims the phone chip is a device for the storage of copyright materials, much in the same category as CD roms and , memory cards.
“…But your chip is not even capable of storing your own contacts. Who stores music or downloads a book on onto SIM cards,” he quizzed.
“Regulatory policy should be based on sound and efficient legal system that enables timely contract enforcement, adequate appeal processes and effective implementation,” he urged.
But the Communications Minister who was also present at the ceremony was unmoved by the passionate appeal by the Telecom Chamber’s CEO.
Whilst applauding the contribution by the operators in the infrastructure development in the country Haruna Iddrisu maintained the need for consumers to get quality service is non-negotiable.
“Yes you feed the NCA. They are building the HQ with funding from telecoms…. Consumers also feed you with funding. And consumers also demand that they want better quality of service. Between you and the consumer government would yield to the consumer. It is to them that we owe service to.”
He said telecoms today is no luxury but an essential duty and the operators are enshrined to provide quality services.
He repeated his threat to the operators to pay up the fines imposed on them or have their licenses suspended.
The chairman of the occasion Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panyin called for more collaboration between the two institutions, and also for amicable resolution of differences.
business.myjoyonline.com

Knight to challenge prison tobacco tax

Mass murderer Julian Knight has been given court approval to fight for cheaper cigarettes in prison.
Julian Knight applied to the Supreme Court to launch a legal challenge against a prison tobacco levy.
He is arguing the levy, which adds 10 per cent or more to the wholesale price of cigarettes, is unlawful.
The court heard the Department of Justice introduced the levy in 1993 to raise funds for health initiatives and anti-smoking programs, but there is no retail margin on tobacco sold in jails.
Knight is currently serving a minimum of 27 years jail for killing seven people and injurying 19 other in the Hoddle Street massacre in 1987.
As a vexatious litigant, he requires court approval to take any legal action.
Associate Justice Melissa Davy has ruled his case has merit.
It will return to court next year.
By Sarah Farnsworth
abc.net.au

Killer lights up tobacco challenge

Hoddle Street mass murderer Julian Knight spends at least $80 a week on smokes, but he hopes soon to spend less.
Knight was 19 when he shot dead seven people and injured 19 in the Hoddle Street massacre in Melbourne in 1987.
He has bought cigarettes and tobacco from prison canteens ever since.
In 1997, after a complaint about canteen prices, Knight became aware of a levy imposed on tobacco products in Victorian jails.
Since then he has made a number of complaints to the ombudsman and auditor-general and has now taken his fight to the Victorian Supreme Court.
Knight, who has been a regular smoker since the age of 16, estimates he spends about $80 to $90 a week on cigarettes and tobacco.
In 1993, an unknown officer of the Department of Corrections made the decision to add a 10 per cent levy to the wholesale cost of cigarettes and tobacco.
The money raised from the levy is used for the development and delivery of anti-smoking programs, the court heard.
Knight argues such a decision is not authorised under the powers given to the secretary or governor of a prison.
Knight has been declared a vexatious litigant and must apply to the Supreme Court for permission to start a legal action.
Yesterday, Associate Justice Melissa Daly allowed Knight to proceed with his case, saying it was not doomed to fail and was not an abuse of process.
She said there might be some issues about Knight’s standing in the proceeding and who should defend the case, but the issues could be dealt with before or during a trial.
One issue is whether G4S Custodial Services, which operates Port Phillip Prison, where Knight is housed, should be part of the case.
”In any event, these matters are outweighed by the fact that if there is at least a real argument that the secretary and prison governors are acting beyond their lawful authority in imposing and collecting the levy, then that argument should have the opportunity to be fully ventilated before the court,” Associate Justice Daly said.
She said it might be that the beneficial intent and impact of programs funded by the levy would influence a court to use its discretion to reject Knight’s case.
The case will be heard next April.
Knight was sentenced to a maximum of seven life sentences, with a non-parole period of 27 years. He will be eligible for parole in 2014.
BY DANIEL FOGARTY
canberratimes.com.au

54 p c of state population consumes tobacco

The use of tobacco in Bihar has assumed an alarming proportion. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS)-India, 54 per cent of the population in Bihar consume tobacco in one form or the other. The most common form being smokeless consumed by nearly 49 per cent of adults. India is the oral cancer capital of the world, 90 per cent of which are attributed to tobacco use. Smokeless tobacco use is the major cause of oral cancer in the country.
Under a grant from the Bloomberg Initiative (BI) to reduce tobacco use, an NGO Hriday (Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth) is implementing a project entitled, ‘Awareness to Action through Multi-Channel Advocacy for Effective Tobacco Control in India: Capacity Building in Five Indian States’. The states are: Bihar, Haryana, Orissa, Karnataka and Uttarakhand. Hriday has partnered with the Socio Economic and Educational Development Society (Seeds) and the State Health Society (SHS), Bihar, to implement the project in five districts of the state, Bhojpur, Darbhanga, Katihar, Samastipur and Vaishali, and two districts under the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP), Patna and Munger.
The collaborative effort has resulted in a number of positive developments in advancing tobacco control in the state. The state government has accordingly set up administrative infrastructure for an effective implementation of the Control of Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) provisions and NTCP objectives which includes appointment of nodal officers for tobacco control in all the 38 districts. SHS, Bihar, executive director (ED) Sanjay Kumar said, “The nodal officers will be responsible for coordinating all the tobacco control activities in their districts.” He has also given a directive to form a steering committee under the chairmanship of the DM of the district concerned.
The state HRD department has issued notification to the district education officers of all the 38 districts to declare action programme to make schools in their districts free of tobacco. The schools would have to ensure that apart from the schools concerned, the nearby areas are also free of tobacco as per the guidelines of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). That apart, principal secretary, health department, Amarjeet Sinha said that a State Tobacco Control Coordination Committee (STCCC) has been constituted for effective implementation of the programme.
Under the programme, the SSPs of the districts concerned and range DIGs have been entrusted to oversee that the COTPA is properly implemented, besides conducting surprise checks at hotels, restaurants, government/private buildings and public transport. Kumar said that civil surgeons in all the 38 districts have been directed to print slogan, ‘Choose Life Not Tobacco’, on all the OPD slips for raising awareness among people about tobacco control. For the first time in the state, a capacity building workshop for the state police officials would be held here on December 2.
timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Tobacco control can save states big money

A San Francisco economist says states are being shortsighted by shifting tobacco control programs to cut spending because smoking cessation saves so much money.
Sudip Chattopadhyay of the San Francisco State University and David R. Pieper at University of California, Berkeley, said funding tobacco control programs at recommend levels could save 14 to 20 times more than the cost of implementing the programs.
The study, published in the journal Contemporary Economic Policy, said the costs of smoking are felt by the states, mostly through medical costs, Medicaid payments and lost productivity by workers. The researchers used data from 1991 to 2007, when states paid for the tobacco control programs with the help of the tobacco taxes, public and private initiatives and funds from the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement between the nation’s four largest tobacco companies and 46 states.
State tobacco control programs have a “sustained and steadily increasing long-run impact” on the demand for cigarettes, Chattopadhyay and Pieper said, but in tough economic times, many states have turned to tobacco control funds and taxes to help balance state budgets.
Funding has dropped since 2002 and states, on average, spent 17 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended levels in 2010 for smoking cessation, state smoke-free laws, regulating tobacco products and advertising.
“Almost all states are facing financial crisis, and they are really diverting their funds,” the researchers said in a statement. “If tobacco control funding was restored, states “would save money in terms of reduced Medicaid, and reduced medical and productivity costs — costs that are only going to go up.”
upi.com

Hoddle St killer to fight tobacco levy

Hoddle Street mass murderer Julian Knight spends at least $80 a week on smokes but he hopes soon to spend less.
Knight was 19 when he shot dead seven people and injured 19 in the Hoddle Street massacre in Melbourne in 1987.
He has bought cigarettes and tobacco from prison canteens ever since.
In 1997, after a complaint about canteen prices, Knight became aware of a levy imposed on tobacco products in Victorian jails.
Since then he has made a number of complaints to the ombudsman and auditor-general and has now taken his fight to the Victorian Supreme Court.
Knight, who has been a regular smoker since the age of 16, estimates he spends approximately $80 to $90 per week on cigarettes and tobacco.
In 1993 an unknown officer of the Department of Corrections made a decision to add a 10 per cent levy to the wholesale cost of cigarettes and tobacco.
The money raised from the levy is used for the development and delivery of anti-smoking programs, the court heard.
Knight argues such a decision is not authorised under the powers given to the secretary or governor of a prison.
Knight has been declared a vexatious litigant and must apply to the Supreme Court for permission to commence a legal action.
On Tuesday, Associate Justice Melissa Daly allowed Knight to proceed with his case, saying it was not doomed to fail and was not an abuse of process.
She said there might be some issues about Knight’s standing in the proceeding and who should defend the case but the issues could be dealt with before or during a trial.
One issue is whether G4S Custodial Services, which operates Port Phillip Prison where Knight is currently housed, should be part of the case.
“In any event, these matters are outweighed by the fact that if there is at least a real argument that the secretary and prison governors are acting beyond their lawful authority in imposing and collecting the levy, then that argument should have the opportunity to be fully ventilated before the court,” Associate Justice Daly said.
She said it might be that the beneficial intent and impact of programs funded by the levy would influence a court to use its discretion to reject Knight’s case.
The case will be heard next April.
Knight was sentenced to a maximum of seven life sentences, with a non-parole period of 27 years.
He will be eligible for parole in 2014.
By Daniel Fogarty
news.smh.com.au

COA questions Abra’s use of tobacco excise tax share

The Commission on Audit (COA) has found lapses in the disbursement by Abra province of its share from the tobacco excise tax, noting, among others, that tobacco farmers’ groups were not given priority in the use of the fund.
The COA said P3 million from the tobacco excise tax was intended for financial assistance to Abra farmers in 2010. Of this amount, P2.7 million was distributed to various groups.
Abra has 43 registered tobacco farmers; organizations, but only two beneficiaries of the financial assistance were registered as tobacco farmers’ groups. Under the law, these registered groups should have been the fund’s primary beneficiaries, the COA said.
The province’s share from the excise tax is meant to help farmers in tobacco-producing provinces to become more self-reliant, as provided for under Republic Act No. 7171.
“Since RA 7171 was enacted purposely to advance the self-reliance of the tobacco farmers, these tobacco farmer’s organizations should have been given priority in the utilization of the fund,” the COA said.
It also questioned the legality and propriety of transactions funded by Abra’s share from the tobacco excise tax since the implementation of projects did not conform with the rules.
It said projects were not supported by proper documentation. For instance, P17.2 million worth of projects funded by the tobacco tax had no attached list of beneficiaries signed by the recipients of the projects.
The projects involved the procurement of water pumps, construction materials, fertilizer, hand tractors and sprayers.
“As a result, we were not able to confirm receipt of items reportedly distributed to tobacco farmers and whether the objectives of RA 7171 have been attained,” it said.
The COA further said that the purpose of the P1.98 million worth of cement and construction materials purchased was not even indicated. There was also no program of work and approved budget of the contract.
“The absence of indicated purpose hampered further verification and possible validation of its implementation,” it said.
The province failed to maintain a special account and separate depository account for its share from the tobacco excise tax, as required under the law, according to the COA.
Because of this, access to financial information and effective monitoring of the implementation of the fund’s purpose was difficult, it said.
“The creation of such special account solely for the share from tobacco excise tax will provide easier access to financial information to facilitate faster and more effective monitoring of the status of implementation and utilization of such fund,” it said.
Under RA 7171, tobacco-producing provinces get 15 percent of the excise taxes on locally manufactured Virginia-type cigarettes.
By Leila B. Salaverria
newsinfo.inquirer.net

Tobacco Control Cell seeks explanation over tobacco ads

Islamabad: The Tobacco Control Cell has sent an explanation notice to a tobacco giant for getting published advertisements in national dailies and magazines in violation of anti-tobacco rules.

The letter bearing signature of Director General, Tobacco Control Cell, Dr Assad Hafeez directed the Philip Morris International Pakistan to submit a written reply in seven day of the receipt of this letter under the relevant law, says a press statement on Saturday.
The letter was issued on November 22. The advertisements were published on November 13, November 20 and 21.
The letter reads: ‘reference to the government of Pakistan, SRO 882(1) 2007 dated 21 August, 2007 issued under section 7 of the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002 (hereinafter 2002 ordinance) wherein it was stipulated that with effect from May 2007 tobacco advertisement will not be more than one square inch.
It says the government in notification SRO F, 13-05/2003 H.E dated 25th October, 2003 issued under Section7 of the Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002 (hereinafter 2002 ordinance) wherein it was stipulated, association of tobacco advertisement intended for young people and advertising directed at young people is prohibited, health warning will be required on tobacco advertisement on all other readable materials.
“The marketing activities by Philip Morris International Pakistan Limited prima facie constitute the violation of aforesaid SRO 882 (1) 2007 dated 21st August 2007 and notification SRO F.13-05/2003 H.E dated 25th October, 2003 issued under Section 7 of Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002,” it adds.
It concludes in the view of the foregoing you (Philip Morris International Pakistan Limited) are hereby directed to submit a written reply in 07 days of the receipt of notice as to why necessary legal action under section 11(b) read with section 14 of the Prohibition of smoking and Protection of Non-smokers Health Ordinance 2002 may be initiated the responsible management of your company for aforesaid prima facie violation of law.
By Saher Afshan

Tobacco sellers fume over plain packaging

CIGARETTE retailers believe new plain packaging will increase the sale of illegal tobacco and won’t stop smokers from lighting up.
Last week, the Federal Government voted to support the changes, with all tobacco products sold in Australia to be in plain packaging from December 1 next year.
>> Do you think the new laws will discourage people from smoking? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
But Dandy Tobacco owner Mohammad Rahimi said the laws would make it difficult for him when selling or organising his stock.
“I’m not happy with that. The people will still smoke and (it will) also increase a lot of illegal tobacco,” Mr Rahimi said.
A Springvale tobacco retailer agreed the uniform packaging would make counterfeiting easy.
“From my perspective there’s a practical issue as well,” he said.
“When we receive the stock from manufacturers, it’s extremely difficult to distinguish between the different smokes. They look very
But Health Minister Nicola Roxon defended the move.
“We know that packaging remains one of the last powerful marketing tools for tobacco companies to recruit new smokers to their deadly products,” Ms Roxon said.
Quit executive director Fiona Sharkie said Quit backed any move to reduce the desirability of a product “that kills one in every two long-term users”.
Cigarette giant Philip Morris Asia Limited has begun legal proceedings against the Federal Government by serving a notice of arbitration under Australia’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Hong Kong.
PMA is seeking a suspension of the new legislation as well as compensation.
by Nicole Precel
dandenong-leader.whereilive.com.au

Stiffer penalties enacted as illicit trade increases

Singapore has approved stiffer penalties for those convicted of smuggling tobacco products, according to a story in the Straits Times relayed by the TMA.
First-time offenders now face a minimum fine of S$2,000, while repeat offenders face a minimum fine of S$4,000 and risk imprisonment if caught with more than 2 kg of tobacco products.
In addition, traders who provide incorrect information to third-party agents for making customs declarations will also be liable for prosecution.
The changes came after customs statistics indicated that tobacco-related offenses, including smuggling and buying, selling or possessing untaxed tobacco products, increased by 24 per cent from 2005 to 2010, and that the number of repeat offenders rose by more than six times during the same period.
tobaccoreporter.com