Jun. 28, 2010

Cigarette packs get colorful for 'light' label ban

Goodbye, Marlboro Lights. Hello, Marlboro Gold Pack.

"Light" cigarettes are going up in smoke by the end of June, but their names and packaging are getting a colorful makeover.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says cigarette packs no longer can feature names such as "light," "mild," "medium" or "low," which many smokers wrongly think are less harmful than "full-flavor" cigarettes.

Cigarette makers are replacing those words with colors such as gold, silver, blue and orange on brands that make up more than half of the smokes sold across the country.

Anti-tobacco advocates say the colors are just as bad as the words, but tobacco companies argue they have a right to let smokers know which products are which.

Companies insist the words tell smokers about the taste, feel and blend of a cigarette, not health risks. The cigarettes usually feature different filters and milder-flavored blends.

Long years of advertising, however, emphasized measurements of lower tar and nicotine in "light" cigarettes, even though those were measured with smoking machines that don't mirror how real smokers puff. For example, smokers will inhale more deeply or smoke more cigarettes if they're not getting the amount of nicotine they want.

Studies show that about 90 percent of smokers and nonsmokers believe that cigarettes described as "light" or have certain colors on the packages are less harmful even though "all commercial cigarettes are equally lethal," said David Hammond, a health behavior researcher at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

Colors shape perceptions of risks on all products, Hammond said. For example, mayonnaise and soda usually use lighter colors on their packaging to distinguish between diet, light and regular products.

He called the removal of those few words on cigarette packs "necessary but not sufficient measures" to improve public health or reduce false perceptions.

"This is essentially mopping up the worst excesses of what the courts in the U.S. have judged to be deceptive advertising," he said. "Tobacco companies are going to need words to distinguish their brands; it's just a question of identifying what descriptors or words lead to false beliefs."

He suggested the FDA take the ban even further and restrict both color and words such as "smooth" and "slim."

Other countries are considering going even further. The Australian government proposed legislation last month that would make manufacturers sell cigarettes in plain, standard packaging, without colors and logos. More than 40 countries already have laws prohibiting terms similar to what the FDA is banning.

The idea of further packaging restrictions has the industry gasping for breath.

"Absent this information, massive confusion in the marketplace would result," James E. Swauger, vice president of regulatory oversight for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the nation's second-biggest cigarette company, wrote in a letter to the FDA.

Swauger warned that, if the FDA were to go as far as banning colors, consumers wouldn't be able to distinguish between brands, and manufacturers could be limited to one type of cigarette per brand because they'd have no other way to distinguish their products.

The company, owned by Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc., made slight changes to some of its brands' packs, but for some, it was simply removing the words like "light" on already colorful packages.

The nation's largest cigarette company, Philip Morris USA, made more than 150 packaging changes to comply. It also has included inserts in packs and displays at retail locations telling customers to "In the Future, Ask For..." the new name or color of their brand.

For example, the company is replacing its Marlboro Light cigarettes with Marlboro Gold Pack; its Marlboro Menthol Milds will be known as Marlboro Menthol Blue Pack. Philip Morris USA is owned by Altria Group Inc., based in Richmond, Va.

While customers may already see some of the new packaging in stores, calling their smokes by their old names may be a harder habit to break than smoking itself.

"I'll ask for Newport Light 100s, and I'll let them decipher it," said 52-year-old Joe McKenna, a teacher and longtime smoker from Pearl River, N.Y., whose brand made by Lorillard Inc. is now known as Newport Menthol Gold. "It's just kind of ridiculous in the sense that you know they're harmful for you."

Jun. 23, 2010

Carreras relaunches Youth Smoking Prevention campaign

CIGARETTE distributor Carreras last week relaunched its Youth Smoking Prevention (YSP) campaign with the support of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Child Development Agency (CDA).
The programme, which will run through August 2010, will cost the tobacco company $1.5 million to implement, according to Carreras' Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Manager Christopher Brown.
"We believe Carreras must ensure that it remains actively cognisant of the views and expectations of the broader group of stakeholders, not just those who consume the products, but also those who have become the eternal critics of the tobacco industry," Brown said at the launch.
Under the Child Care and Protection Act it is illegal to sell cigarettes to persons under age 18 and Carreras, with 99 per cent market share, is the largest distributor of cigarettes locally.
Brown explained that the company's trademark representatives had initiated ongoing dialogue with its 2,500 retailers to exercise greater vigilance in prohibiting the purchase of cigarettes by persons under 18.
He said retailers must verify the age of those who purchase cigarettes where possible through identification, and in cases when they are in doubt, they must not sell. Addressing the media at the launch, Brown said that those retailers found to be delinquent in abiding by this request would be penalised by having their distribution right revoked.
"Our objective is to effectively tackle underage access to cigarettes at the point of sale in 100 per cent of the 2,500 retail outlets islandwide which carry Carreras' tobacco products," said Brown. Carreras' outlets represent 40 per cent of the total number of outlets carrying tobacco products.
The rebranded effort, first launched in 2008, will now feature the logos of the MOE and CDA on all YSP point of sale communication materials, which Brown said would add credibility to the programme. A new logo that is easier to read sends out a direct message that: "I/We don't sell cigarettes to persons under 18. It's the Law."

Jun. 21, 2010

DNA and key enzymes being damaged by smokeless tobacco

According to a new research, adverse effects of smokeless tabacco are not limited just to the mouth it can also damage the normal functioning of the enzymes contained in the human body.

The enzymes are said to play an important role in the hormone production, namely, sex hormones, oestrogen and testosterone, production of vitamin D and cholesterol is also said to be affected.

Smokeless tobacco is also said to damage the genetic material contained in the kidneys, liver and lungs.

However scientists have little information on the adverse effects of smokeless tobacco on other parts of the human body.

But it is mentioned by colleagues and Krishna Khanduja that they have noted widespread recognition on the harmful effects of smokeless tobacco on the mouth which also include the risk of getting oral cancer and gum disease.

The chemicals and potential carcinogens contained in the extracts of smokeless products are absorbed into the blood stream and are circulated through the body. Laboratory rats were used for the evaluation of the changes in genetic material and enzymes by using the extracts if smokeless tobacco.

The study states that, "not only did smokeless tobacco damage the genetic material in DNA but also alters the function of the, family of enzymes called CYP-450."

The study also states, "worldwide use of products is noted but are most commonly used in places like, Southeast Asia, Northern Africa and the Mediterranean region,"

The study also adds, "the users of the smokeless tobacco products are highly unaware of the adverse effects, therefore, smokeless products are used to treat, headaches, toothaches and stomachaches.

This false impression increases the use of smokeless tobacco products among youngsters the use of these harmful smokeless tobacco products is increasing among children, teenagers and women apart from men. Immigrants from the South Asian region and other dental and medical students also have increased usage of these products."

The adverse effects of these products has been on the rise although the harmful effects are known to researchers.

The study has also been published in the ACS' monthly journal of chemical research in toxicology.

Jun. 18, 2010

Shaker Heights: One of the 'tobacco-free' school districts

haker Heights City School District has joined "The Movement," a 100 percent tobacco-free initiative for Cuyahoga County school districts.

The Movement is sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Comprehensive Partnership for Tobacco Reduction (The Partnership), and is under the direction of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH).

Funded by the Ohio Department of Health, the goal of The Movement is to encourage all 31 school districts within Cuyahoga County to enact a 100 percent tobacco-free policy.

To be considered 100 percent tobacco-free, a school district must prohibit the use of all tobacco products, such as cigarettes, chew, snuff, etc., by everyone (school visitors, faculty, students) on all school grounds, including school events, regardless if they are on school property or away.

With the addition of Shaker Heights, 19 school districts, approximately 61 percent of all the school districts, have such a policy in place and they include:

Bay Village, Beachwood, Bedford, Berea, Brecksville/Broadview Heights, Garfield Heights, Independence, Lakewood, North Royalton, North Olmsted, Olmsted Falls, Orange, Richmond Heights, Rocky River, Solon, South Euclid/Lyndhurst and Westlake.

The remaining 12 school districts that don't have a 100 percent tobacco-free policy are:

Brooklyn, Chagrin Falls, Cleveland Metropolitan, Cleveland Heights/University Heights, Cuyahoga Heights, East Cleveland, Euclid, Fairview Park, Maple Heights, Mayfield, Parma and Strongsville.

Jun. 3, 2010

Tobacco loophole in child health law costs $250M

WASHINGTON — A tobacco tax loophole in President Barack Obama's children's health insurance program cost the government more than $250 million in its first year, public health officials say.

The loophole allowed companies to avoid huge tax increases on loose rolling tobacco by relabeling their product as pipe tobacco. The simple marketing twist lets companies pay $2.83 per pound, rather than the $24.78 per pound levied on rolling tobacco.

That proved an expensive technicality in the way the government pays for health insurance for poor children. Almost immediately, tobacco companies ramped up production of pipe tobacco to record levels and curtailed production of roll-your-own tobacco.

Daniel Morris, who tracks tobacco production data at the Oregon Department of Health, first identified the loophole late last year. In November, The Associated Press highlighted the millions being lost, but it was unclear at the time whether that represented a short-term change in production or a long-term trend.

The trend has not changed. In March, the one-year anniversary of the tax change, companies produced more than 2 million pounds of pipe tobacco. It was a record month for an industry that steadily produced about 270,000 pounds a month before the tax changed.

In a memo to colleagues last week, Morris estimated the U.S. lost more than $250 million in tax revenue in the first year of the law. States are losing money, too, because many base their taxes for roll-your-own and pipe tobacco on the wholesale price, which includes federal taxes.

"The magnitude was larger than I initially expected," Morris said. "I was expecting that once the loophole was identified, there'd be action to fix it."

Such action has stalled. The Obama administration said last year it would release new rules for differentiating roll-your-own tobacco from pipe tobacco, but it has yet to do so.

"We're still studying, from a technical standpoint, how to distinguish between the two products," said Arthur Resnick, a spokesman for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

And on Capitol Hill, a bill to raise taxes on pipe tobacco to the same level as loose tobacco has yet to be debated.

"With the money we're losing, the deficits we have and the priority this administration and Congress have put on health care, to not find that revenue is just wrong," said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., who wrote the bill to close the loophole.

Pipe tobacco is normally too coarse and moist to roll into a cigarette, but nothing says it has to be. The administration says the only distinction between pipe tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco is how it's labeled.

Norman Sharp of the Washington-based Pipe Tobacco Council said the small, legitimate pipe industry supports regulations distinguishing between traditional pipe tobacco and roll-your-own tobacco, which he said is being mislabeled.

"It's not really a loophole. It's fraud," Sharp said.

Morris said pipe tobacco production, and the lost revenues that go with it, could climb even higher because of a similar technicality in another law. In trying to crack down on tobacco smuggling, lawmakers prohibited shipping cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco through the mail.

But the law didn't say anything about shipping pipe tobacco.

Jun. 1, 2010

‘No Tobacco Day’ sends message to youth

Health officials yesterday urged youths, especially females, to be wary of the harmful effects of smoking and tobacco use on their health and that of the community at large.

They were taking part in a one-day public seminar to mark the ‘World No Tobacco Day’ organised by the Supreme Council of Health’s Anti-Smoking Campaign Committee with a slogan: “Boys and Girls For Change: Tobacco Control Now”.
Observed around the world every year on May 31, ‘World No Tobacco Day’ is meant to encourage a 24-hour period of abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption across the globe.

The day is also to draw global attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and to negative health effects, which currently lead to 5.4mn deaths worldwide annually.

The World Health Organisation’s theme for the year is “Gender and Tobacco with an emphasis on marketing to women”.

Making a speech on behalf of the HE Minister of Public Health and SCH Secretary General, Abdullah bin Khalid al-Qahtani, assistant minister for Medical Affairs at the SCH, Dr Saleh al-Merri said that since July 2002, Qatar has adopted several important measures to prevent the use of tobacco and all its derivatives.

These include strict vigilance on the age of those buying tobacco products, banning of its sale to school-going students and penal action against those who violate the rules on smoking areas in public places and buildings.

He said the ministry has launched a large scale campaign against tobacco by publishing several leaflets and booklets highlighting the harmful effects of tobacco and its derivatives.

“One billion cigarettes are smoked a year in Qatar and while 40% of the smokers are adult, 22% are teenagers and the country’s smoking rates were found to be double of those in Europe,” he pointed out.

The official said that Qatar has spent more than $150mn a year on treating smoking-related diseases. “We have set up special smoking cessation clinics in Hamad Hospital and Al Khor Hospital and we have plans of opening three more to provide services on how to quit smoking to people,” he mentioned.

He mentioned that the country will also ensure that at least 30% of the cigarettes package shows dangers of tobacco.

Public Health department director Dr Mohamed al-Thani highlighted that every six seconds, one person dies because of smoking and one among every 10 adults dies due to smoking.

“Qatar has taken stringent measures to combat smoking and the use of tobacco and its derivatives,” he mentioned.

WHO regional office consultant Dr Ibrahim Kalatani urged youths to be ambassador for change by abstaining from smoking saying that minors and women were becoming more exposed to tobacco products both at home and in the public arena.

“The harmful effects of tobacco is not limited to cigarettes only but other products such as Shesha is also very dangerous to health and the unfortunate thing is many non-smokers are falling victims of passive smoking as they are being forced to inhale 4,000 chemical substances against their will,” he said.

Highlights of the event were exhibition of different smoking cessation techniques, distribution of information pamphlets and showcasing of prize winning entries of inter-school painting competition organised for students by Anti-Smoking Society Qatar.

Short documentary films packaged by the WHO were also featured during the event.