Mar. 29, 2010

Cigarette Cartoons Are "Uncool," AG Says

Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds will pay Connecticut $150,000 to settle a lawsuit over an advertising campaign in Rolling Stone Magazine.

The 2007 spread for Camel cigarettes violated a master tobacco agreement banning the use of cartoons in cigarette advertising, according to state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

"This campaign improperly employed cartoons to sell cigarettes, enticing kids into addiction, illness and early death", Blumenthal said in a news release.

The ad appeared in the Nov. 15, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone, and included a four-page fold out poster."These ads hark back to the insidious and disingenuous 'Joe Camel', the cute and cool cartoon character designed to appeal to kids", Blumenthal said.

R.J. Reynolds denied the ad campaign violated the agreement, and paid the $150,000 to cover the state's legal costs.

Mar. 15, 2010

Man admits to scheme in Stafford smuggling case

One of the 14 people charged in a major contraband cigarette probe started by the Stafford Sheriff's Office was convicted yesterday for his role in a murder-for-hire scheme.

Xing "Andy" Xiao, 32, of Fairfax pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and other charges yesterday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Xiao and 13 others were arrested in November following a 14-month investigation that began after a Stafford detective got information about an illegal cigarette-trafficking business in the area.

The investigation, which included federal agencies, revealed the purchase of 388,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes that were sold or destined for sale in New York. The cigarettes were valued at $77 million.

More than $8 million in cash, nearly 40 firearms and drugs--including 32,000 hits of ecstasy--were used to purchase the cigarettes.

Most of those arrested have already pleaded guilty to various charges.

According to court records, Xiao purchased or traded for 15,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes in May 2009. The cigarettes were kept at a storage facility in Stafford.

Xiao told undercover officers that the cigarettes were stolen from the facility and he had hired a hitman to kill the man he suspected of the theft. The man's wife was also to be killed.

Xiao was in jail from June to September, but an associate of his provided information regarding the couple's New York residence and paid an undercover agent posing as a hitman $7,000.

The hitman was to receive another $8,000 when the job was done.

Chen X. "Jay" Jiang, 21, of Brooklyn pleaded guilty recently to his role in the murder plot. Xiao will be sentenced on May 21.

Stafford Sheriff Charles Jett said his officers and others put their lives in danger to stop the criminal organization.

"This was a very dangerous criminal enterprise," Jett said. "The citizens of this region can be proud of [the officers'] efforts."

Stafford authorities said the 32,000 ecstasy pills are a record amount for the area. Each pill has a street value of between $15 and $25, court records state.

The conspirators also sold or traded more than 275,000 fraudulent Virginia and New York State cigarette tax stamps between July 2008 and October of last year.

In New York, the stamps are worth $4.25 a pack.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Fairfax County Police Department were among those involved in the probe.

Mar. 10, 2010

Saudi Arabia mulls anti-smoking law

DUBAI - Saudi Arabia is considering an anti-smoking law that will ban the cultivation of tobacco, penalise people for smoking in public areas and increase duties on cigarette imports, Arab News reported on Tuesday.

The Shoura Council, an appointed consultative body, discussed a draft law on Monday, the newspaper said.

The Saudi move follows a recent decision by the UAE government to ban smoking in most public areas, part of legislation aimed at stemming the rising number of smokers in the Gulf state.

The UAE anti-smoking legislation, whose implementation has been delayed as officials work on the details, also requires all tobacco products carry health warnings, bans their advertisement and makes selling products to anyone under 18 illegal.

Smokers in Saudi Arabia spend some $2.13 billion on cigarettes every year and number around six million people or a quarter of its population.

Mar. 1, 2010

British American Tobacco slips after results

British American Tobacco, maker of Dunhill and Lucky Strike, has raised a note of caution this morning about unemployment hitting its sales but posted a sharp rise in 2009 earnings and reported signs the global economy is recovering.

The cigarette maker has recommended a final dividend of 71.6p, which together with the interim dividend, will take 2009 dividends to 99.5p, an rise of 19%. The rise in earnings came as BAT reported a 17% rise in in revenues to £14.2bn.

But the shares were down 2%, or 43.5p, at £21.87.5 in late morning trading after a strong recent run. The wider FTSE 100 was flat at 5343.

Chairman Richard Burrows sounded a note of cautious optimism about the outlook:

"There are signs that the global economy is beginning to improve, although unemployment, which is an important influence on our business, may continue to rise in developed markets. We have a very clear strategy and excellent management, with a well balanced portfolio of brands. Our unrivalled geographic spread mitigates risk for shareholders and will help us maintain sustainable growth and build shareholder value."


Around the world, BAT saw variations in sales, with Russia particularly tough. BAT said tobacco industry declines in both Russia and Japan knocked sales volumes for its Kent brand by 4%. But Dunhill rose by 9% and Lucky Strike volumes were up 4% with growth in Germany, France, Italy and Chile, partially offset by declines in Spain, Japan and Argentina. Pall Mall saw the strongest growth, up 10%.

Analysts were largely positive about the results. Chas Manso de Zuniga at Evolution Securities highlighted that margins were better than expected across geographies barring Western Europe and maintained a "buy" recommendation and £22.50 price target on the shares.British American Tobacco, maker of Dunhill and Lucky Strike, has raised a note of caution this morning about unemployment hitting its sales but posted a sharp rise in 2009 earnings and reported signs the global economy is recovering.

The cigarette maker has recommended a final dividend of 71.6p, which together with the interim dividend, will take 2009 dividends to 99.5p, an rise of 19%. The rise in earnings came as BAT reported a 17% rise in in revenues to £14.2bn.

But the shares were down 2%, or 43.5p, at £21.87.5 in late morning trading after a strong recent run. The wider FTSE 100 was flat at 5343.

Chairman Richard Burrows sounded a note of cautious optimism about the outlook:

"There are signs that the global economy is beginning to improve, although unemployment, which is an important influence on our business, may continue to rise in developed markets. We have a very clear strategy and excellent management, with a well balanced portfolio of brands. Our unrivalled geographic spread mitigates risk for shareholders and will help us maintain sustainable growth and build shareholder value."


Around the world, BAT saw variations in sales, with Russia particularly tough. BAT said tobacco industry declines in both Russia and Japan knocked sales volumes for its Kent brand by 4%. But Dunhill rose by 9% and Lucky Strike volumes were up 4% with growth in Germany, France, Italy and Chile, partially offset by declines in Spain, Japan and Argentina. Pall Mall saw the strongest growth, up 10%.

Analysts were largely positive about the results. Chas Manso de Zuniga at Evolution Securities highlighted that margins were better than expected across geographies barring Western Europe and maintained a "buy" recommendation and £22.50 price target on the shares.