Tobacco Asia

Volume 19, Number 5

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10 tobaccoasia FRONT PAGE NEWS 卷首新闻 EU/Ireland Court Ruling Expected A landmark EU court ruling later this month will decide whether Ireland can go ahead with plans to outlaw tobacco branding. Tobacco companies claim the EU directive is against free movement of goods in the union and the principle of "subsidiarity", where issues are decided by states rather than by the EU. Philip Morris and British American Tobacco have brought proceedings in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over an EU directive, which will make health warnings cover 65% of cigarette packets, but Ireland plans to go further and bring in plain packaging on tobacco products. ECJ will give a preliminary judge- ment in the case against the EU directive on December 23. In most cases, the court's final decision follows few months after the opinion published by the advocate general. In April 2015, Japan Tobacco (JT) began a separate action against Ireland in the commercial court. JT claims Ireland, as a member of the EU, cannot unilater- ally introduce plain packaging on products and such a move would prevent trade between member states. The company adds that plain packaging imposes stricter rules than those necessary under the EU directive. The judge has indicated that if ECJ rules in favor of the directive, the state will win the case at home. Government ministers have faced pressure from businesses and campaign- ers to scrap plain packaging tobacco proposals. US congressmen have expressed that the plans would mark the "beginning of a troubling trend" of countries restricting the intellectual property of products. China Police Nab Racketeers After two years tracking a counterfeit cigarette gang, authorities swooped on sites in 11 provinces, arresting 41 suspects, according to mainland newspaper reports. Investigators believe the network was responsible for producing cigarettes valued at more than RMB120 million. The authorities said the gang was well organized, often switching phones and locations, making the raids extreme- ly difficult to mount, according to Chinese Business View. The underground opera- tion came to light in 2011, when officers arrested a retailer in a county in Shaanxi province, the report said. Based on further investigation in the county and Xian, the police launched a two-year undercover operation, which eventually led them to a second retailer, a woman, working out of the capital and trailed her for two years. She led them to supply chains in the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, and Henan earlier this year. The police said the suspects used sophisticated techniques to elude the authorities, including bank accounts under fake names, a coded language and constantly shifting drop locations. The arrests were carried out between September and December this year. China (Macau) Trade Reps Oppose Bill The proposed amendment of Macau's tobacco control law suggests a ban on displaying tobacco products in shops, a move that will further threaten the business of cigarettes and cigar sales. With this legal amendment, the government also proposes a ban on the setting up of tasting rooms for cigars at sales points. The suggested removal of the tasting rooms is going to harm the promotion of new products, the second permanent committee's president, Chan Chak Mo, told media citing the trade representatives. The proposed legal changes have incited strong opposition from tobacco and cigar trading companies. "Cigars, [like] other tobacco prod- ucts, ought to be displayed and present- ed to clients," Kenith Wong, regional director of the Pacific Cigar Company Ltd., told media after meeting the second permanent committee of the Legislative Assembly. "The tasting room as we call it is a very important facility for the sales process. So this aspect is really key for the operators to continue their business. The committee, which is currently deliberating upon the amendment of the tobacco control regime, has met Macau's Trade Chamber of Tobacco Companies and several cigar company representa- tives for discussion on the bill. Follow- ing deliberation by the committee, the bill will undergo a second reading by the general assembly. A ban would only further threaten the survival of the tobacco trade, as tobacco retailers have already suffered a 70% fall in sales turnover since the tobacco tax hike came into effect on July 14. Thailand Push for New Law Six key public health organizations and allies in Thailand recently vowed to support the new draft of the Tobacco Control Act and called on the govern- ment and the National Legislative Assembly to push this law through "to protect children and youth". They also called on the lawmakers to ignore facts provided by tobacco companies and not let them interfere in the legislation procedure. At an academic conference in Chiang Mai province, the group also said that their campaign had won more than 12 million signatures as of the writing of this article and their target for 15 million signatures would easily be achieved when the law deliberation is completed in six months. The organizations behind the campaign include the Thai Public Health Club, the Mohanamai Network Founda- tion, and the Health Professional Association of Thailand. CORRECTION In our previous issue 4 (Sept/Oct) 2015 we published a story titled "A Lot of Smoke over MRTPs?," which contained an image supplied by Brit- ish American Tobacco that had been captioned as "Two e-smoking devices under development at BAT." That cap- tion was incorrect and should instead have read, "Sample illustrations of bat- tery-powered and carbon fuel-based tobacco-heating devices." We apolo- gize to British American Tobacco and our readers for the error.

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