Tobacco Asia

Volume 19, Number 1

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22 tobaccoasia • Double your resource value • Use 100% expanded fine- cut for MYO and RYO • Untouchable product quality • Impex – pressure/vacuum technology • DIET - Dry Ice Expansion Technology AircoDIET has supplied more than 55 DIET plants worldwide, many of which have been turn-key. We continuously develop and refine the DIET process and our DIET plants have above 95% uptime with a dry yield better than 98.5% through the plant. Over 100% tobacco expansion expansion expansion expansion Needless to say, representatives of the tobacco manufacturers, consultations with whom would have benefited an event like this tremendously, were nowhere to be seen. This perhaps should come as no surprise following WHO director-general Dr. Marger- et Chan's opening speech, in which she threw down the gauntlet in no uncertain terms. "I have never shied away from embracing WHO's position as the tobacco industry's number one enemy. I regard this as a badge of honor," she said, adding that while the tobacco industry says that it "can and should be a part of this debate and possible solu- tions," her answer is "No way. As I have said before, giving any tobacco company a place at the negotiating table is akin to appointing a committee of foxes to take care of your chickens." At least in the past two decades, the tobacco industry has extended an unparalleled level of cooperation with various governments while simultaneously strictly adhering to ever more stringent legislation. The idea behind this cooperation was that a clear demonstration of good will by manufacturers of perfectly legal products will eventually result in a certain amount of trust and will drastically improve both policies and public health in general. What happened at COP6 pretty much puts a nail in the coffin of any vestiges of hope that the tobacco industry may have harbored – such cooperation, alas, seems to be unwanted and actually next to impossible. The Outcomes So, what of the actual policies, rulings, and recommendations that have resulted out of this meeting? One of the first decisions approved by the parties was on the Article 6 guidelines, devoted to tax measures. In fact, unsurprisingly, taxation was among the central issues discussed. The guidelines include recommendations on the tobacco taxation systems, (including which types of taxes to apply, the level of taxes to apply, and the need for a similar tax burden for all tobacco products), tax administration, the use of revenues to finance tobacco control, and tax-free and duty-free sales. The guidelines also provide for tax rates to be monitored, increased, and adjusted annually, taking into account inflation and income growth. At the same time, all tobacco products should be taxed in a comparable way to prevent substitutions of the use of one product with another. Participants almost unanimously voted to increase the excise tax share of the cost of a pack of cigarettes to 70% (excluding VAT), with representatives of Guatemala, Macedonia, and Kyrgyzstan voting against the measure. When reached for comment, Alexander Lyuty, director of corporate affairs for BAT Russia , said he believed the increase in excise duty would cause illegal market products to skyrocket. "International experience shows that a sharp rise in prices with no corresponding increase in income of the population leads to the development of black markets for illicit products, a weakening of the legal industry, and a decrease in tax revenues," he said. Another myopic resolution was the adoption of the decision on electronic nicotine (and non-nicotine) delivery systems (ENDS), a.k.a. electronic cigarettes. The decision basically urges countries to consider banning ENDS, taxing ENDS, and/or imposing other unwarranted regulations, including banning or restricting promotion, advertising, and sponsorship of ENDS. The document claims that many non-tobacco products widely used in Southeast Asia are smokeless tobacco products, lists the risks of smoke- less tobacco products, (yet failing to acknowledge the scientific evidence that smoke- less tobacco products are less hazardous than regular cigarettes and have helped many smokers quit), urges the parties to consider banning "the import, manufacture, and sale" of smokeless tobacco products, and to tax smokeless tobacco at the same rate as cigarettes or at 70% of the price of smokeless tobacco. Gerry Stimson, emeritus professor at Imperial College, London and visiting pro- fessor at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, as well as co-director of Knowledge-Action-Change (KAC) published a statement in which he strongly rebukes this decision: "In a meeting tainted by the exclusion of the public and a ban on all me- dia representatives from attending, the WHO FCTC seems unashamedly indifferent to the endemic disregard for evidence and the harmful unintended consequences of the kind of actions that have been agreed in Moscow. […] The ultimate irony has success- fully managed to take the public out of public health."

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