Tobacco facts

Tobacco has been a grate and powerful industry in Virginia since the days of the Jamestown colony. It is no less influential today as Henrico County-based Philip Morris USA and its parent firm, Altria, play shell games about the risk of their products, it makes part of their affair.
Just before Christmas, and right in time for the 2012 election year, Altria gallop out a new Web site called “Citizens for Tobacco Rights” that seems designed to write some of the anti-government, anti-regulation fervor of the Tea Party movement to impel its top line for to make it more recognizable.
The company says that it is offering the Web site so smokers know their rights and privileges. It has a lot of information about local and state laws limiting smoking, taxation and other government efforts to restrict tobacco use in any form, which is one of the largest health problems in the United States.
In 2008, the firm ramifies itself into two parts. Philip Morris International, focused on Lausanne, Switzerland, was open to make cigarettes with much higher quality of the addictive tar and nicotine content as ones made in the United States and market them in some Third World countries.
What makes this Web site strange is that it goes against the low profile that Philip Morris has generally been keeping since it was one of four cigarette makers for $206 billion by 46 states in 1998 because of health hazard. On the other hand, he took far more being approach from its new center in Richmond, hang to a gradually decrease base of people that smoke, telling them they shouldn’t smoke. Smokers are more close to different kind of diseases than people that do not smoke.
The statement is on one part of the corporate Web site. For an entirely different view, however, click on the new “Citizens for Tobacco Rights” page on another part. One gets the impression that ordinary cigarette users are having their God-given rights trampled upon by vicious do-gooders and government regulators. Let’s wave the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Invite Sarah Palin to speak!
The firm complains that it has been under heavy pressure since federal excise taxes were boosted in the late 1990 year, and many states, cities and localities have banned cigarette smoking in public and well known places. One is New York City, from which Altria retreated its headquarters to Richmond. Another reason for the Web page could be that it’s been a long time since the 1998 health general aspects.
One can only speculate as to why Altria is trying this gambit at this particular moment. An obvious possibility is that the firm’s propagandists want to tap Tea Party sentiment to boost sales. In 2010, the firm reported net revenue of $24.3 billon, a 3.4% increase over the previous year.
In Virginia, Altria is considered a sacred cow. It employs about 6,000 people and is one of the leading donors to universities, the arts and research. Its impact is especially strong in Richmond, where it operates its last large cigarette manufacturing plant in the country and funds everything from chairs at Virginia Commonwealth University to the Richmond Symphony.
Don’t think that the generosity doesn’t come without strings, though. When an artist wanted 400,000 cigarettes for a piece of artwork that was to be displayed at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Philip Morris said no even though it is a immense sponsor of the museum. VMFA public relations people were attentive to use down the issue.
The new Web site emphasizes, once again, the hypocrisy, contradictions and other major problems of Philip Morris USA and Altria. They encourage people to stand up for their rights while warning them its products kill goes beyond routine shamelessness.

Kennesaw Smyrna to join Acworth in allowing Sunday sales

Stores in three Cobb cities will be able to sell alcohol on Sundays on New Year’s Day, but some merchants aren’t anticipating a flood of business.
“There was a little sales boost, but not a lot,” said Anand Patel with Acworth Tobacco and Liquor off Cowan Road in Acworth, where Sunday sales have been allowed since Dec. 1.
On New Year’s Day, Kennesaw and Smyrna will join Acworth in allowing Sunday sales. Voters in each of the three cities approved their respective measures on Nov. 8.
Voters in unincorporated Cobb and the cities of Austell, Powder Springs and Marietta will cast their ballots on the matter in the presidential primary election on March 6.
The new law allows grocery stores, gas stations, liquor stores and drug stores to sell packaged alcohol between 12:30 and 11:30 p.m. on Sundays if approved by voters.
The extra day of sales hasn’t yet boosted business as much as Patel had hoped, however.
“I expected it to be a little busier,” Patel said. “We are getting there though. The more people that start to know about it, the more it’s going to help us, I guess.”
One thing that Patel said he has noticed since Sunday sales went into effect is an increase in new customers.
“We’ve been really seeing a lot of new faces,” he said. “I haven’t seen any of them before.”
The Acworth store is open on Sundays between 12:30 and 7:30 p.m.
One Smyrna store plans to test Sunday sales for a month, but won’t start immediately. Dustin Desautell, a cashier with Smyrna Liquors off Spring Road in south Cobb, said the store will try opening on Sunday for the month of January, but not until Jan. 8 so that employees can have New Year’s Day off.
“We’re not sure how well it’s going to do because we predicted that it will take away from our Saturday sales,” he said Wednesday. “We’re not even sure if we’ll sell enough products to even be open on that day.”
Desautell said the store owners will determine if the sales numbers are worth opening the extra day each week when the month-long trial is over.
“We’ve heard from other counties … that it’s diminishing their Saturday sales,” he said. “(Customers) think about Sundays so they don’t come in on Saturdays as much.”
Craig Maske, a general manager with Sherlock’s Purveyor of Fine Wines, Spirits and Beers, said he is in favor of whatever voters decide in regards to Sunday alcohol sales.
The company is already selling alcohol on Sundays at its store in Decatur, where the law went into effect Nov. 27, and expects to start at its Atlanta location Sunday. It has two locations in unincorporated Cobb County, near Kennesaw and Marietta, and another in DeKalb County. Maske said all three of those locations would sell on Sundays if voters approve the changes in their counties.
However, Maske said he isn’t sure the extra day will translate to more business.
“(Approval) has happened during the busiest season of the year, so it’s hard to say what it’s done,” he said about the Decatur location. “The newness is going to wear off. From what I’ve read and researched, generally there hasn’t been a growth in business if alcohol can be sold on Sundays. I haven’t seen any compelling information.”
Cobb County commissioners, with the exception of Woody Thompson because he was absent, voted unanimously on Nov. 8 to put the referendum on the spring ballot. If approved, it would start June 1.
Austell’s city council voted 5-0 on Dec. 5 to place it on the ballot. If approved, Sunday alcohol sales in Austell would begin March 18.
Powder Springs’ council voted 4-1, with councilwoman Nancy Hudson opposing on religious grounds, on Nov. 21 to place the referendum on the March ballot.
City clerk Dawn Davis said Sunday alcohol sales would become effective when the elections superintendent certifies the election results, which is usually within the week after the election.
The Marietta City Council voted unanimously on Oct. 12 to place the question on the primary ballot. If passed, it would take effect in the city on March 18.
There are 23 businesses eligible to apply for the license in Kennesaw, 25 in Acworth and 47 in Smyrna. If voters approve the change, 253 businesses will be affected unincorporated Cobb County; 6 in Austell, and 85 in Marietta. Numbers for Powder Springs were not available by press time.
A Sunday alcohol sales license for the City of Acworth costs $100 each for liquor, beer or wine, $300 in Kennesaw and $500 in Smyrna. Costs for the county and cities that will be considering the vote in March have not been determined.
By Lindsay Field
mdjonline.com

Tobacco growing districts to get Rs236m uplift fund

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will spend Rs236.5 million tobacco cess proceeds on development projects in seven tobacco growing districts of the province.

The decision to spend the cess funds on improving infrastructure facilities in the tobacco growing districts was made at a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, says a handout on Wednesday.
It said that Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda, Buner, Nowshera, Malakand and Mansehra districts would get funds in accordance with a resource distribution formula developed last year.
These districts would get funds in accordance with their share in tobacco yield recorded last year.
The meeting reviewed the use of tobacco cess funds generated last year. According to the handout, the chief minister expressed satisfaction over the results of the last year`s tobacco cess-funded development schemes in the seven districts.
Provincial agriculture minister Arbab Ayub Jan and MPAs, including Pervez Khan, Sikandar Irfan, Ahmad Khan Bahader, Qaiser Wali Khan and Syed Rahim attended the meeting in addition to administrative secretaries of finance, planning and development, local government and excise departments.
The handout claimed that the incumbent provincial government had streamlined the use of tobacco cess on development schemes in the tobacco growing districts. It said that previously the funds used to be spent even in non-tobacco growing districts.
Speaking on the occasion, the chief minister claimed that the provincial government had ensured the funds use on the welfare and development of areas with tobacco yield.
Meanwhile, Mr Hoti expressed satisfaction over the pace of rehabilitation activities to resettle people affected by the last year`s floods.
He was briefed about the rehabilitation activities, reconstruction of infrastructure, funds availability and problems confronted in implementing the development works in the affected areas. The meeting reviewed details of development projects concerning health, education, communication, irrigation and drinking water.
Speaking on the occasion, the chief minister appreciated the work done for early rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure in the flood-affected parts of the province.
dawn.com

Tobacco Can Help Cure Malaria

It sounds like one of those diseases that should have been wiped out long ago, but malaria, unfortunately, is alive and well, especially in Africa and other tropical, third world locations. Battling malaria is complicated for numerous reasons, among them the difficulty of creating drugs to battle the disease. Now, however, Hebrew University researchers have come up with a novel method of producing the medicine that can treat malaria – using common, everyday tobacco plants.
Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via mosquitoes. Symptoms of malaria include fever, headache, and vomiting, and usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. If not treated, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. Over 3 billion people are at risk of malaria. Every year, this leads to about 250 million malaria cases and nearly one million deaths. People living in the poorest countries are the most vulnerable. Malaria is especially a serious problem in Africa, where 20% of childhood deaths are due to the effects of the disease and every 30 seconds a child dies from malaria.
The main source of anti-Malarial drugs is based on a substance called artemisinin, a natural compound from Artemisia annua (sweet wormwood) plants, which is difficult to synthesize and expensive to obtain. Scientists have tried hard to artificially synthesize this substance, but despite extensive efforts invested in the last decade in metabolic engineering of the drug in both microbial and heterologous plant systems, production of artemisinin itself has never been achieved.
Now, Yissum Research Development Company of the Hebrew University., the technology transfer arm of the University, introduces a novel method allowing artemisinin production in a heterologous (that is, other than A. annua) plant system, such as tobacco. The method was developed by Professor Alexander Vainstein from the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University, and sponsored by a fellowship of Mr. Isaac Kaye. It was published under the title Generation of the Potent Anti-Malarial Drug Artemisinin in Tobacco in the latest issue of the prestigious publication Nature Biotechnology.
Professor Vainstein and his graduate student Moran Farhi have developed genetically engineered tobacco plants carrying genes encoding the entire biochemical pathway necessary for producing artemisinin. In light of tobacco’s high biomass and rapid growth, this invention will enable a cheap production of large quantities of the drug, paving the way for the development of a sustainable plant-based platform for the commercial production of an anti-malarial drug. The invention is patented by Yissum, which is now seeking a partner for its further development.
Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum said, “Professor Vainstein’s technology provides, for the first time, the opportunity for manufacturing affordable artemisinin by using tobacco plants. We hope that this invention will eventually help control this prevalent disease, for the benefit of many millions of people around the globe, and in particular in the developing world.”
israelnationalnews.com

HU: Tobacco plant can produce anti-malaria drug

Hebrew University researchers used plan to produce an effective anti-malaria drug; combating malaria is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Although tobacco in the form of cigarettes is generally recognized as being a killer of millions, the plant has been used by Hebrew University researchers to produce an effective anti-malaria drug.
A genetically engineered form of artemisinin, a natural compound that produces large quantities of the anti-malaria drug – was announced Sunday by the Yissum Research Development Company – the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s technology transfer company. The biosynthesis method – a novel way of producing Artemisia annua, which is naturally produced by sweet wormwood plants – was developed by Prof. Alexander Vainstein and the research was published as a letter in the latest issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Combating malaria is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals described in the UN Millennium Declaration signed by all UN members 11 years ago. An important way to control the deadly parasitic disease that affects mostly the Third World is prompt and effective treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapies.
But low-cost artemisininbased drugs are in short supply because of the high cost of obtaining the natural or chemically synthesized drug. Despite extensive efforts made in the last decade in metabolic engineering of the drug in both microbial and heterologous plant systems, no one has been able to produce artemisinin itself.
Malaria, caused by the Plasmodium parasite, is transmitted via mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, headache and vomiting, and they usually appear between 10 and 15 days after the mosquito bite. If left untreated, malaria can quickly become life threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. Over three billion people are at risk of malaria, and about 250 million new malaria cases occur each year, causing nearly a million deaths, mostly of people living in poor countries.
Vainstein and graduate student Moran Farhi developed genetically engineered tobacco plants carrying genes encoding the entire biochemical pathway needed for producing artemisinin. In light of tobacco’s high biomass and rapid growth, this invention will enable a cheap production of large quantities of the drug, paving the way for the development of a sustainable plant-based platform for the commercial production of an antimalarial drug, said Yissum, which patented it and is now seeking a partner for its further development.
Yissum CEO Yaacov Michlin said Vainstein’s technology provides for the first time, the opportunity for manufacturing affordable artemisinin by using tobacco plants.
“We hope this invention will eventually help control this prevalent disease, for the benefit of many millions of people around the globe and in particular in the developing world.”
By JUDY SIEGEL
jpost.com

Tobacco stocks provide haven

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Tobacco stocks provided a haven on Monday as the FTSE 100 recorded its sharpest fall in three weeks.
Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco closed near record highs as eurozone uncertainties triggered another wave of risk aversion.
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“In current market conditions, one’s call on tobacco is a proxy for one’s call on the market,” said Investec Securities analyst Martin Deboo. “Downgrade risk is as about as de minimis as it gets near term … The tobaccos are the closest thing one can get to a bond in the equity market.”
Imperial closed 0.5 per cent higher at £23.63, helped by an appeals tribunal overturning a £112m Office of Fair Trading fine, while BAT held steady at £30.00,
Investec was cautious on valuation, noting that BAT had risen to a 28 per cent premium to the FTSE 100 against a traditional discount of 18 per cent. Imperial, meanwhile, was trading at parity to its long-term multiple but had outperformed since mid-September, the broker told clients.
“Both UK stocks look like crowded trades,” Investec said. “We would be wary of arguing for an upward rerating from this level … But neither do we see much risk of a derating either.”
Risk-off mode in the wider market left only six blue-chip risers, with the FTSE 100 losing 1.8 per cent or 101.35 points to 5,427.86. Lloyds Banking Group lost 8.6 per cent to 24½p and Royal Bank of Scotland fell 6.5 per cent to 20½p.
ENRC was the sharpest faller in a weak mining sector, losing 7.4 per cent to 634½p, on news it had been co-operating with the Serious Fraud Office over allegations of bribery at some of its mines. The SFO has confirmed it has not opened a formal investigation.
Precious metals miners dropped in tandem with gold, which fell below $1,700 a troy ounce. Fresnillo dropped 6.5 per cent to £16.54 and Randgold Resources was off 3.1 per cent to £66.55.
African Barrick Gold lost 7.2 per cent to 472¼p in the wake of Friday’s cut to production guidance, which it blamed on power shortages in Tanzania.
A Citigroup downgrade to “neutral” on valuation grounds helped send Royal Dutch Shell lower by 1.3 per cent to £23.25.
Indian energy group Essar Energy sunk 8.5 per cent to a record low of 204p after India said factory output had fallen for the first time in more than two years. The stock has tumbled 54 per cent since its flotation last year.
Separately, India’s federal investigation agency reportedly charged Ravi Ruia, Essar Energy’s chairman, and several others over alleged wrongdoing during the 2008 auction of mobile phone licences. After the close, Essar Energy said the reports did not relate to its business operations and pledged to update shareholders if there were any implications.
Inmarsat lost 5.3 per cent to 401p on a further setback for Lightsquared, the fledgling broadband provider that is its key US customer. Lightsquared’s network interferes with three-quarters of global positioning system receivers tested in a draft government study, Bloomberg reported.
Intel’s warning that hard drive shortages would continue into the first quarter sent Pace , the set-top box maker, lower by 6.2 per cent to 67¼p.
CSR bounced 9.8 per cent to 183p after the chipmaker said it would close the TV operations of Zoran, the US peer it bought four months ago for $485m. CSR said the closure would help save $60m a year.
Mothercare jumped 4.6 per cent to 168p on reports that it was attracting predatory interest from private equity groups including Cinven. Analysts were cautious ahead of Christmas, and on concerns that UK leaseholds may prove too expensive to ringfence.
“While shareholders may not offer too much resistance to an approach, we don’t think that private equity will offer a material premium to the current share price, given the costs involved in fixing the business,” said Banco Espirito Santo.
London Stock Exchange lost 4.9 per cent to 780p after agreeing to buy the 50 per cent of the FTSE International index business it does not own for £450m — about double analysts’ valuation of the business.
By Bryce Elder and Neil Hume
ft.com

Tobacco tax increase ‘too little’: associations

The tobacco tax will more than double, from MOP 4 to MOP 10, according to a government-proposed draft law recently sent to lawmakers’ approval.
Local anti-smoking associations regard the MOP 6 raise as too low, while Hong Kong-based World Health Organisation (WHO) senior policy advisor Judith Mackay says it is still “inadequate”.
The secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam Pak Yuen had promised to raise the tobacco tax last month at the Legislative Assembly.
The tax will increase by MOP 0.5 for each cigarette, in order to be in line with the ban on smoking in public places that comes into effect from January 1.
In Macau the tobacco tax was last updated in 2009 and is currently set at MOP 0.2 per cigarette or MOP 4 per 20-cigarette pack.
Currently the average price of a cigarette pack is MOP 20, while in Hong Kong it costs up to MOP 50 after a 41.6 percent increase set in June this year.
Local anti-smoking associations and lawmakers were calling for an increase similar to Hong Kong.
“We are very disappointed. We hope that the government will consider matching the tax with Hong Kong because tobacco prices continue to be very cheap in Macau as compared to Hong Kong,” Smoking and Healthy Life Association of Macau director-general Samuel Chan told Macau Daily Times.
Chan does not think the tax increase goal is in line with the new law. He said a bigger raise would be more adequate to protect residents’ health.
“The man is usually the smoker in a family. If he cannot smoke outside, he may start smoking more at home and more second-hand smoke will impact women and children,” he added.
The tobacco tax should be set at 70 percent or more of the retail cost of a packet of cigarettes, according to a goal set by WHO. If the government proposal is passed, the local tobacco tax duty will be only 38 percent of the retail cost, while in Hong Kong it is closer to 70 percent.
The chairman of Hong Kong anti-tobacco pressure group Clear the Air shares Chan’s view. James Middleton said that the increase is “manifestly inadequate”. However he believes that Macau should not follow Hong Kong’s footsteps and look at Singapore instead.
“The retail prices of a packet of 20 cigarettes [cigs4us.biz/marlboro-cigarette] overseas as of now are: HKD 117 in New York, HKD 94 in Ireland (and increasing next year); HKD 88 in England and increasing in 2012; HKD 85 in Australia (adjusted since they sell in packets of 25) and increasing in 2012; HKD 72 in Singapore for the past four years; and HKD 50 in Hong Kong,” he said.
Middleton urged the Macau Government to set the tax to match Singapore levels. “Adults would still be able to afford it, many would quit and for sure it would put the cost of cigarettes beyond reach of the youth which is the object of excise taxation,” he stressed.
He slammed Macau for having “one of the least effective anti-tobacco laissez-faire attitudes” even though it has the largest casino-betting turnover in the first world.
Thereby Middleton went on to say that the MSAR fails in its duty of caring for the Macau public and youth. “Without replacement smokers [youth] their business is over,” he stressed.
‘Step forward’
WHO’s Mackay said the MOP 6 tax rise is a “good step forward, but still inadequate”. “Everyone working in public health knows that tobacco taxation is the most effective measure in reducing tobacco use among youth. The reason is very simple – it makes them too expensive for youth to purchase.”
“If the Macau government is serious about reducing tobacco use, especially among the young, then tobacco taxes should be regularly and robustly raised. Macau is also, via China, a party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Thus it has international obligations in terms of tobacco control legislation and taxation,” she said.
Despite the low increase, the Smoking Abstention and Good Health Association director-general says it is “a very encouraging policy”.
“This is a very good step. On January 1 we will have the new law that will make prevention more effective,” Johnny Au remarked, adding that it will have a significant impact on low-income people and students.
Nonetheless, Au urges the government to keep an open mind for further increases in the future. “We suggest that the government should not revise the law on just one occasion, but from time to time,” he said.
Following the WHO recommendation Au also calls for restrictions on tax-free cigarettes coming from different places.
Speaking to Portuguese-language newspaper Ponto Final, pan-democrat lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong said the increase is still very low.
macaudailytimes.com

Tobacco Shops Under Fire For Offering Customers Automated Cigarette-Making Machines

The Big Cat’s Smoke Shop in Bristol opened seven weeks ago with two roll your own cigarette machines that allows their customers to purchase cigarette wrappers and tobacco and rent their machine to roll 200 cigarettes in 8 minutes at a cost of $39.99. The state is looking into making those machines illegal. Andre Sevigny, Plainville, is a regular customer and here dumps tobacco into the top of one of the machines. In the background is Sharon Catlin, of Berlin one of the partners in smoke shop.
At least four roll-your-own tobacco shops that offer premium cigarettes at half the price of a carton of brand-name cigarettes have opened around the state in the past year. Customers save money by rolling their own cigarettes on an automatic cigarette-rolling machine that produces 200 cigarettes in about eight minutes.
Typically, customers pay about $40 for 8 ounces of loose tobacco, 200 hollow cigarette tubes and the use of the machine. Employees tell customers how to operate the computerized rolling machines.
“We just talk the customers through the process,” said Michael Horak, general manager of the Tobacco Place in Wethersfield, which has two of the machines. Tobacco Place opened two weeks ago.
The machine, which costs about $40,000, automatically fills each tube with tobacco and then ejects the finished cigarette into a collection bin, an eight-minute process that produces the equivalent of a carton of cigarettes —10 packs of 20.
But state officials say operating the machines without a cigarette manufacturer’s license is illegal.
In August, Attorney General George Jepsen, on behalf of Kevin B. Sullivan, state commissioner of revenue services, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Hartford against Tracey’s Smoke Shop and Tobacco LLC for illegally manufacturing cigarettes at its two stores in Norwalk and Orange.
Tracey Scalzi, the stores’ owner, said she owns four of the machines at the two stores, which opened about a year ago.
The Department of Revenue Services claims the machines are commercial cigarette-making machines and retailers who operate them must obtain a cigarette-manufacturing license and pay the associated fees and tariffs, including Connecticut’s cigarette tax, which adds $3.40 to a pack of cigarettes.
“We don’t see ourselves as manufacturers; the customers make them themselves,” Horak said.
The attorney general’s office would not comment on the lawsuit because the matter is pending, awaiting the court’s decision.
If the court finds in the agency’s favor, those who continue to operate the machines could face potential arrest, hefty fines and loss of their existing tobacco sales licenses, DRS spokeswoman Sarah Kaufman said.
Despite the pending lawsuit, two tobacco shops that offer customers the use of the machines have opened in Bristol and Wethersfield.
Store owners say the machines are roll-your-own devices that only produce enough cigarettes for personal use.
“You can go next door to the gas station and buy tobacco. You can buy the [cigarette] tubes, and you can buy the roll-your-own machines — I sell a couple models here, a $49 machine and an $8 machine. The only difference is my machine is bigger,” said Michael Hatzisavvas, who opened Big Cat’s Smoke Shop in Bristol seven weeks ago.
“We don’t do the manufacturing. I don’t touch the machine,” Hatzisavvas said. Like the other stores, Big Cat’s four employees tell customers how to operate the machines.
Hatzisavvas, a former restaurant owner, said he’s aware of the lawsuit, but decided to open a store anyway.
“I am worried. It crosses my mind that they’ll shut me down. But how can they do this? I thought this was a state that liked small business,” Hatzisavvas said. “Why would they want to shut a business that’s providing work for local people?”
The machines, made by RYO Machine LLC, a Cincinnati company, began appearing making a few years ago. Bryan Haynes, an attorney representing the company, which was founded in 2008, said RYO’s machines are not in the same league as commercial cigarette-making equipment.
“The advanced machines used by companies like Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds will produce 20,000 cigarettes in a minute,” said Haynes, a partner at Atlanta-based Troutman Sanders LLP.
“We’re talking about horses and buggies vs. fighter jets.”
courant.com

Alcohol, tobacco tax hike sought

Cobb officials pitched recommendations to the county’s legislative delegation Thursday ranging from increased alcohol and cigarette taxes to a higher reimbursement from the state for jail inmates.
The county’s alcohol sales tax is too low, said county Support Services Director Virgil Moon, who asked the state to allow Cobb to raise it. The cap on the tax has remained the same for 30 years, with the county collecting 0.417 cents per ounce, or five cents for a 12-ounce beer and 22 cents per liter of liquor or wine.
“Obviously, the price has gone up substantially in the past 30 years,” he said. “We’d like to revisit that cap.”
Moon’s proposal, made at the county’s annual legislative breakfast at the Cobb Safety Village, called for a 50 percent increase in taxes to 0.6255 cents per ounce, or 7.5 cents for a beer and 33 cents for a liter of liquor or wine.
Though the money from alcohol taxes goes to the county’s general fund, Moon said it can help benefit county law enforcement, courts and other programs that see cost increases because of alcohol abuse.
“We’re trying to find revenue sources that make sense rather than (increasing) property taxes,” he said.
Dr. Dan Sabbarese, an economics professor at Kennesaw State University and chair of the university’s Econometrics Center, said higher taxes on alcohol do not generally decrease consumption.
Moon wasn’t the only one calling for a higher “sin” tax. Dr. Dan Stephens, chairman of the Cobb & Douglas Public Health board of directors, said the state should look into raising its tobacco tax by a dollar per pack of cigarettes. Currently, Georgia’s cigarette tax of 37 cents per pack ranks 47th in the United States.
Stephens said the state could raise $500 million in revenues in early years of the tax and have $1.8 billion in long-term health care savings.
“This is not questionable or arguable data,” he said. “It is factual, and with what has happened in some other states, the billions and tens of billions of dollars that have been saved in these states in health care expenses has been well-documented, not to mention the improvement in the health of citizens.”
But Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb) said the word in the Capitol is that tobacco tax legislation is “dead.”
“First of all, I don’t think there are going to be any new taxes, period,” said Cooper, chairwoman of the House’s Health and Human Services Committee. “I think there are people that are dead set against the tobacco tax.”
Court fees are another revenue source Moon asked to increase. With declining property tax revenue, more than $5 million in technology upgrades have been put off since 2008, Moon said. He asked for legislation that would allow each court to set a technology fee of between $5 and $15 per case to be added on to fines in civil cases in state court, mostly traffic violations. Moon said the money would go toward a separate fund just for technology upgrades.
Each court’s judge would have the right to set a fee amount. Moon said that for every $5 of fines, $1 million a year could be raised.
“The recession has gotten us further and further behind,” Moon said.
As for sales taxes, Moon said the county is losing out on revenue because areas near Cobb’s borders are in ZIP codes in cities in other counties, such as areas of northeast Cobb that are listed as Roswell, as well as areas around the Cobb Galleria Centre that have Atlanta addresses.
Moon said these areas can cause confusion about which county a store is in, which leads to $2.5 million in lost income for the county annually.
Moon said the distribution of sales tax revenue would be more accurate if the state Department of Revenue used the “ZIP + 4” numbers, instead of just the five-digit ZIP codes. This could improve the distribution to 99.5 percent accuracy, up from the current 95 percent.
As for zoning cases, the county’s population growth is poised to increase costs for Cobb, so Moon also asked lawmakers to change what’s known as the “Steinberg Criteria,” which requires counties with populations greater than 625,000 to hire an appraiser to review every zoning application to the county. Moon said this could cost Cobb thousands per case.
Cobb County has about 688,000 residents, according to the 2010 Census.
The county has successfully lobbied the state to raise the minimum population to follow the law twice before, after the 1990 and 2000 Census results were released, Moon said. Currently, Fulton and DeKalb counties are the only counties that have to follow the Steinberg Criteria. But Cobb’s population growth would require it to fall under the law if it isn’t changed. So the county is asking the law to be changed to apply only to counties with at least 735,000 residents.
“It can be pretty significant and time-consuming,” Moon said of bringing in appraisers. “We’re trying to cut costs, not increase costs.”
Regarding the jail, housing state inmates is a drain on Cobb’s finances, Sheriff Neil Warren said, seeking a greater reimbursement for daily expenses.
The Cobb Adult Detention Center currently has 386 inmates that belong to the state, with 250 of them ready to be picked up. But the state is only reimbursing the jail $22 a day per inmate if they stay in the jail more than 15 days, while it costs more than $50 a day to house each inmate. Inmates in the county jail less than 15 days receive no reimbursement.
“I don’t have a problem if it takes them four or five days, 10 days (to pick up an inmate),” Warren said. “It seems like the last 10 to 15 years, they don’t want to build more prisons. But I just don’t think the local government should be responsible.”
Warren said Cobb is also picking up the tab for the state because it has to fund much of the training at the North Central Georgia Law Enforcement Academy, while the state pays for all the training at the state’s other six law enforcement academies. He requested that legislators fund the academy for $500,000 annually.
In addition, the sheriff requested changes in the state’s driving without a license law, which allows for offenders to be found not guilty if they produce a license in court. Warren wants to see the law changed to prohibit people who get their license after they are charged from getting out of a conviction.
Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) introduced legislation changing the driver’s license law in the 2011 legislative session. The bill was introduced during the 2011 legislature and passed the Senate, but wasn’t taken up in the House after items dealing with the sale of license tags was added. He plans to fight for the legislation again in 2012.
“I think the course of action would be to go back to the original bill,” he said.
As to how the legislative wish list was compiled, Chairman Tim Lee said he discussed the items that would go before the legislative delegation with County Manager David Hankerson and Moon, who had gotten input from department heads. Lee said the suggestions have never been voted on by the full Board of Commissioners in the past, and weren’t this time, but the ideas are taken to them for suggestions. He said commissioners have never rejected any of the proposals.
“The fact is that the state needs to address health care, the state needs to address funding for law enforcement training,” he said. “That’s more important than how the list is put together.”
Commissioner Helen Goreham concurred with Lee, saying the board has never voted on whether or not to support a legislative item during her nine years as a commissioner. She said she was pleased with all the recommendations made to the legislative delegation and wasn’t aware of any problems commissioners had with them.
“I’m sure if any of us had an issue, it could have been brought to the attention of the others and placed on the agenda,” she said.
But Commissioner Bob Ott said he was disappointed that the board wasn’t involved more in determining what legislative items went before the delegation. Instead he said he got the agenda for the meeting less than a week before the breakfast and had to request a fact sheet in order to get more information on the proposals.
He would have liked to have been able to ask more questions, particularly about Lee’s proposal for a partial-penny SPLOST that can be share with the Cobb school district.
“I would have preferred some sort of discussion, maybe walking the halls to see what we wanted,” he said.
Regardless of the issues, Ott sees the legislative breakfast a good opportunity for county and state elected officials.
“The best part is that all the elected officials from the county come together with the state senators and representatives and have dialogue,” he said.
by Geoff Folsom
mdjonline.com

Regulatory Chill and Challenges to Tobacco Packaging Laws

On November 21, the Australian Parliament enacted the world’s first tobacco plain packaging law. This groundbreaking public health legislation requires that all tobacco products sold in Australia as of December 1, 2011, be in plain packages with no industry logos, promotional texts, brand imagery or colors.
It also requires that all cigarettes be sold in drab, olive green packages and include expanded graphic health warnings covering 75 percent of the front of the pack and 90 percent of the back. Upon the legislation’s passage, the Australian Minister of Health and Ageing stated, “Today, one of the most momentous public health measures in Australia’s history has been delivered by the Australian Parliament — legislation requiring the plain packaging of tobacco products.”
Although applauded by the public health community in Australia, the plain packaging legislation was greeted by swift and much anticipated legal action by tobacco giant Philip Morris which had long threatened legal proceedings if the plain packaging legislation was adopted. On the same day the legislation was promulgated by the Australian Parliament, Philip Morris Ltd. initiated legal proceedings against the Australian government on behalf of its Australian subsidiary to block the legislation from coming into effect. In addition, just one hour after the legislation was adopted, Philip Morris Asia Ltd. Hong Kong- based company, served a notice of arbitration under Hong Kong’s Bilateral Investment Treaty with Australia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has long called upon countries to ban advertising and promotion of tobacco products to stem the growth of the world tobacco epidemic, which now kills an estimated six million persons per year. Pursuant to the 2003 WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first treaty adopted under WHO auspices, states party to the Convention are called upon to “undertake a comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.” The Convention defines promotion and sponsorship as “any form of commercial communication, recommendation or action with the aim, effect or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly.” With 174 state parties, the FCTC is one of the most widely subscribed to treaties in history and as more states have moved to fulfill their legal commitments under the FCTC to ban tobacco advertising and promotion, the tobacco package is taking on ever more importance as a mechanism to promote smoking amongst current and potential smokers. The tobacco industry has long understood the powerful marketing significance of cigarette packaging. It is widely recognized that the tobacco industry treats cigarette packaging as a critical marketing spot and invests significant research dollars to make their package design appealing to specific demographic groups, especially young people.
As noted by the distinguished scholar Simon Chapman in the British Medical Journal, “neutering the appeal of the once glamorous cigarette package has become a powerful weapon in tobacco control’s arsenal.” Instead of the traditional “glamorous” cigarette package, smokers in almost 50 countries today have to pull cigarettes out of a pack that contains large pictures of a diseased organ, a dissected lung or a limp penis. As Chapman notes, such graphic health warnings are part of a process of “denormalisation” of tobacco products. Plain packaging is the crowning next step in the “denormalisation” process by, as Chapman describes, “sending an unambiguous message that tobacco is unique in the marketplace as an exceptionally hazardous product.”
Although phrased as an investment dispute unrelated to health issues, the PMA investment dispute is at its core a clear effort to restrict the plenary authority of a sovereign nation to protect the public health of its population. PMA’s investment dispute claims that Australia is in breach of the Australia-Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty [PDF] because the mandated plain packaging:

  • Constitutes unlawful expropriation of PMA’s investments and intellectual property without compensation (Article 6.1);
  • Fails to provide for equitable and fair treatment to PMA’s Australian investments (Article 2(2));
  • Unreasonably impairs PMA’s investments in Australia (Article 2(2));
  • Fails to provide full protection and security for PMA’s investments in Australia (Article 2(2));
  • Breaches Australia’s international obligations in relation to PMA’s investments (Article 2(2)) by violating the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property and the WTO Agreements on Technical Barriers to Trade.

PMA’s use of the dispute resolution provisions of the Australia-Hong Kong Bilateral Investment Treaty is the newest piece in an emerging pattern of the tobacco industry invoking the international investment rules of bilateral investments treaties (BITs) to challenge the authority of governments to protect public health through measures designed to restrict cigarette marketing. In February 2010, Philip Morris alleged that Uruguay’s new tobacco regulations, which mandated that health warnings cover 80 percent of the package, violated several provisions of the Switzerland-Uruguay BIT and filed a request for arbitration with the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Notably, in 1994, RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) threatened to bring a claim against Canada’s proposed plain packaging legislation under the investment chapter of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Although the plain packaging initiative in Canada ultimately failed in 1995 when the Supreme Court of Canada invalidated the Canadian Tobacco Products Control Act, it is widely believed that the RJR NAFTA threat deterred the Canadian government from instituting plain packaging before the Court ruling and had a chilling effect on the public health regulatory ambitions of other countries.
As Australia is the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging, the legal dispute with PMA under the Australian-Hong Kong Investment treaty will be closely followed around the world, especially in countries such as the UK, Canada and New Zealand, which have been considering measures to severely limit cigarette branding to protect public health. It is of significant concern that the mere fact of this arbitration as well as the potential negative outcome will induce “regulatory chill” in other countries, especially in low-income states that do not have the resources to battle the tobacco industry. PMA is, undoubtedly, seeking to advance this “regulatory chill” by publicly announcing that it expects the arbitration to take several years and result in billions of dollars in compensatory damages.
The use of BIT investor-state arbitration provisions to dampen governmental efforts to regulate the marketing of tobacco products, including plain packaging, is a troubling development for national and global tobacco control. Countries need to redouble efforts and develop new strategies and measures to ensure that these agreements are not manipulated by the tobacco industry and that states retain the right to protect their populations. Unlike relevant WTO agreements, including TRIPS, bilateral investment treaties do not generally include provisions that provide states with flexibility to protect public health. In addition, despite the compelling public interest in this case, the Australian arbitration hearings, which PMA has requested be held under the rules of the UN Commission on International Trade Law, may be conducted in private, outside of Australia and by an ad hoc tribunal. Further, the proceedings may be completely lacking in transparency with neither the pleadings nor the final award ever made public.
Australia has announced that it will oppose the inclusion of investor-state arbitration in future free trade agreements, in part because of the challenges posed by the tobacco industry to its plain packaging legislation. It has also been widely recommended that Australia terminate or renegotiate existing bilateral treaties that have the potential to be manipulated by the tobacco industry. In light of the emerging trend of the tobacco industry to use BITs to block include national public health measures, all states should strongly consider the need to renegotiate investment treaties to include exceptions for the protection of public health as well as eliminate investor-state arbitration provisions.
Allyn Taylor is a Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center and an Adjunct Professor in International Relations at Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She is also a faculty member of Georgetown’s O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. She has served in many international organizations including as senior legal adviser to the WHO for the negotiation and the adoption of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
jurist.org