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Uruguay Presents Defense Against Philip Morris Tobacco Lawsuit

Uruguay has presented a 500 page document to defend itself against an international lawsuit challenging the country’s tough tobacco packaging regulations. The claim was brought by Philip Morris, the global tobacco giant, at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington DC…

On October 13, 2014, Paul Reichler, a lawyer with Foley Hoag, in Washington DC, responded on behalf of the Uruguayan government, citing the country’s obligations under the World Health Organisation’s 2005 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

We will fight because it is our right and duty as a government to protect our citizens’ health,” Silvina Echarte Acevedo, the legal adviser leading the Uruguayan ministry of public health’s case, told the Independent newspaper. “They are bullying us because we are small. This is like David and Goliath.” (Uruguay’s annual gross domestic product is $53 billion, less than that of Philip Morris which took in $80 billion last year)

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32 Schools “Free From Tobacco Money”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Megan Arendt

Office: 202-659-4310

Email: arendtm@ash.org

ASH CERTIFIES 32 COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES “FREE FROM TOBACCO MONEY”

In Honor of Their Divestment from Tobacco Interests

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 12, 2014 –Action on Smoking & Health (ASH) announced today that 32 colleges and universities are being certified “Free from Tobacco Money” in honor of their divestment from tobacco interests. This certification is also awarded in recognition of American Education Week.  For the full list of those being certified, please visit http://ash.org/tobacco-free-schools/Certification

In 2005, the tobacco industry spent more than $1 million a day sponsoring events and giveaways targeting college students. Tobacco companies heavily target young adults ages 18 to 21 through a variety of marketing activities—such as music and sporting events, bar promotions, college marketing programs, college scholarships, and parties—because they know it is a critical time period for solidifying a tobacco addiction. Clearly, it works – in 2010, 24.8% of college students categorized themselves as “current smokers,” far higher than the national prevalence for adults (18.1%).

Smoking continues to kill more Americans than alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined. Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death worldwide. Left unchecked, tobacco use will kill 1 billion people in the 21st century.

“Universities should not profit from tobacco addictions and death,” said Laurent Huber, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health. “The money students spend bettering themselves should not be invested in projects that have such a negative impact on the health of students and of people around the world. By divesting from tobacco funds, these schools are doing their part in the fight against tobacco.”  

ASH awards this certification in gratitude and acknowledgement of the commitment these colleges and universities have made to stand with health, and ASH encourages schools that have not divested to consider divestment as a way to fight the tobacco epidemic.

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ACTION ON SMOKING AND HEALTH
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is the nation’s oldest anti-tobacco organization dedicated to health for all. ASH was formed in 1967 in response to the U.S. Surgeon General Report in order to use legal action to fight tobacco and protect nonsmokers. Today, because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH uses global tools to counter the global tobacco epidemic. Learn more about our programs at www.ash.org.

Follow us on Twitter @ASHOrg and Facebook www.Facebook.com/ASHglobalAction

 

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Education before Tobacco Profits

The most recent data shows that the tobacco industry spent more than $1 million a day sponsoring events and giveaways that target college students. Tobacco companies heavily target young adults (ages 18 to 21) through a variety of marketing activities—such as music and sporting events, bar promotions, college marketing programs, college scholarships, and parties—because they know it is a critical time period for solidifying a tobacco addiction.

Clearly, this tactic works – many young adults start to smoke in college. Almost 40% of smokers either began smoking (11.0%) or became regular smokers (28.0%) after starting college.  In 2010, 24.8% of college students categorized themselves as “current smokers.” Read more here>and here>.

The awful part about this is that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death globally. In the U.S. alone, about 480,000 Americans are killed each year; this equates to more than 20% of all deaths.

Many Americans believe that the war on tobacco has been won, but the fact is, the number of smokers is climbing globally. Unless more is done, the tobacco death toll in the 21st century is expected to be 1 billion.

CertificationThere are several things colleges and universities can do to help combat the tobacco epidemic. ASH encourages universities to divest their funds from any tobacco interests. This means that no university funds are used to invest in companies that make money from tobacco.

Divestment is not an idea unique to colleges and universities. Seven states (Maryland, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, and California) have divested, as have many cities, towns, and counties. One country, Norway, even divested their entire government pension fund – a $2 billion investment. Read more about divestment at the state and local level in our Implementation Guide>.

Universities should NOT profit from tobacco addictions, diseases, and deaths. Aside from the public health implications stated above, the tobacco industry limits development, negatively impacts the environment, and utilizes child labor. The money students spend on their education should not be invested in projects that have such a clearly negative impact around the world.

ASH encourages schools that have not divested to consider divestment as a way to fight the tobacco epidemic.

ASH applauds the colleges and universities that are doing their part to protect the health of their students and the world by keeping their school “Free from Tobacco Money”!

See our list of certified “Free from Tobacco Money” colleges and universities here.

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Philip Morris sues the EU over Tobacco Products Directive

Subsidiaries of Philip Morris International Inc. (PMI) (NYSE/Euronext Paris: PM) today obtained a green light from an English Court to challenge the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Key questions regarding the Directive’s validity will be referred to the CJEU as ordered by Mr. Justice Turner during a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

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Two FCTC Parties emphasize trade over saving lives from tobacco

WTO members meeting as the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council on 28–29 October 2014 responded to the latest developments on plain packaging for tobacco products, exchanged views on innovation, and heard about plans to make it easier to make sense of the huge amount of information they have shared with each other in the WTO.

They also continued to discuss whether legal disputes should be heard on intellectual property issues when the agreement has not been breached — known as “non-violation” disputes. In this and some other issues their positions remained broadly unchanged.

Meanwhile, some called for a review of technical assistance that considers the actual impact of the assistance.

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In a first, Mass. town may prohibit tobacco sales

The Central Massachusetts town of Westminster would become the first community in the state, and perhaps the nation, to ban all tobacco sales under a proposal made public Monday that regulators say is designed to improve health, especially among the young.

Draft regulations posted on the town’s website would prohibit sales of products containing tobacco or nicotine, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and even electronic cigarettes, which use batteries to heat nicotine-laced liquid, producing a vapor that is inhaled.

The plan has infuriated local store owners, who are circulating petitions to block the action, saying it would drive them out of business and simply send people to nearby communities for their tobacco products.

A ban such as the one under consideration in Westminster represents the next frontier in the campaign to curb tobacco use, which is already prohibited in all Massachusetts workplaces, including restaurants and bars. It is already illegal to sell tobacco products to minors, and some communities have banned smoking in public parks.

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Results! Tobacco Treaty Success

The latest round of negotiations for the global tobacco treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), held in Moscow ended this past Saturday, October 18, 2014. Government Delegates from 178 countries and the European Union representing  nearly 90 percent of the world’s people gathered to confront one of the world’s deadliest ever epidemics. Tobacco use has killed 100 million people in the 20th century and, if trends do not change, will be responsible for the deaths of 1 billion people this century. Most of those projected deaths will occur in low and middle-income countries, where the tobacco industry has shifted its efforts to recruit new smokers. COP6-ash1

ASH played a major role in ensuring that these rounds of negotiations were successful by coordinating and leading the work of the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA), an alliance of more than 500 non-governmental organizations from more than 100 countries dedicated to ending the global tobacco epidemic.

The outcomes of the week in Moscow will save hundreds of millions of lives if governments work to implement them immediately.

A key outcome of the week was the adoption of guidelines that will assist governments in their efforts to apply taxes on tobacco products more effectively. It is generally accepted that raising the price of tobacco products, including through tax increases, is the most effective way to cut tobacco usage, and to discourage young people from trying smoking.

One recent study found that tripling the excise tax on tobacco worldwide would reduce smoking by 1/3, avoid over 200 million premature deaths, and raise US$100 billion more in revenue.

COP6-ash2The Guidelines that were just adopted recommend that countries establish coherent long-term policies on their tobacco taxation structure. They are based on the principle that countries “should implement the simplest and most efficient system that meets their public health and fiscal needs, and taking into account their national circumstances.”

ASH’s Executive Director, who also leads the FCA stated that at the end of the treaty negotiations “Countries that are Parties to the FCTC have been working on guidelines for four years. Meanwhile, South Africa, Brazil, France, the Philippines and the United Kingdom are just some of the countries that have raised tobacco taxes and reduced smoking and the diseases and deaths that it causes”.  He also added that, “Other countries must now follow suit, if we are to have any hope of the world reaching the 30 percent tobacco use reduction target by 2025.”

ASH will continue to coordinate the international coalition in order to accelerate the implementation of the global tobacco treaty in order to prevent millions of unnecessary deaths caused by tobacco.

For more information about ASH’s work around the treaty please visit http://ash.org/programs/tobacco-treaty/ 

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Malaysia Defends Tobacco Control in TPP & FCTC

Almost 200 countries signed the World Health Organisation’s Tobacco Control Convention and are obliged to take measures to curb tobacco use.

But the industry has hit back. A big tobacco company, Philip Morris, has taken Uruguay and Australia to tribunals under bilateral investment treaties, claiming billions of dollars in compensation for the two countries’ measures to have big warning signs and small or no brand logos on cigarette packets.

Under trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), companies can similarly sue governments, claiming loss of profits resulting from policy measures. At the World Trade Organisation, cases are also being taken against countries for their tobacco control measures.

Now for the good news. Many governments are fighting back against the Big Tobacco onslaught, with Malaysia taking a lead role on two important fronts: the Tobacco Control Convention and the TPPA.

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U.S. floats cutting tobacco from part of Pacific trade pact -sources

By Krista Hughes

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – The United States has floated excluding tobacco products from a key section of a 12-nation Pacific trade deal and signaled it may present a formal proposal to trading partners at talks in Australia, sources briefed on the negotiations said.

Dropping tobacco from the investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, section of the Trans-Pacific Partnership would prevent tobacco companies taking action against any TPP government under those legal protections, for example over health care measures.

Marlboro maker Philip Morris International is challenging Australia’s plain packaging laws, which ban branded cigarette packs, under the country’s investment treaty with Hong Kong, arguing that the laws breach intellectual property rights.

One source, who has knowledge of the negotiations but asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the discussions, said the United States had floated the idea of a carve-out for tobacco under ISDS among senior TPP officials.

No language had yet been circulated, but the United States signaled it could formally present a proposal during TPP meetings that are under way in Australia, the source said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative said it did not expect to present such a plan and countries were still debating how to tackle tobacco-related public health issues in the TPP.

“The United States has not tabled any new U.S. proposal on tobacco products and is still engaged on congressional and stakeholder consultation on an appropriate approach. We do not expect to table a new proposal in Australia,” he said.

An industry representative said a U.S. suggestion to carve out tobacco from ISDS had also been read by a non-U.S. TPP country to sources who are following the negotiations.

TPP chief negotiators, from countries including Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico and Malaysia, are currently gathered in Canberra and trade ministers will meet in Sydney for three days of talks starting Oct. 25.

Australia’s packaging laws, which also face a World Trade Organization challenge, are being closely watched by other countries, including Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which are mulling or introducing similar steps.

The United States said in 2013 it supported including a general exception for health regulations, including on tobacco, in the TPP and requiring government-to-government talks between health authorities before any ISDS challenge over tobacco.

A carve-out would strengthen those protections further, but stop short of a call by Malaysia and anti-smoking groups to completely exclude tobacco from the TPP. Excluding tobacco would allow countries to keep tariffs on U.S. tobacco products.

Any different treatment for tobacco risks a backlash in the United States. State lawmakers from Kentucky, a major U.S. tobacco-producing state, and the North Carolina Agribusiness Council have warned that excluding tobacco would hurt exporters, jobs and the regional economy.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had raised concerns with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman about the impact such an “unprecedented approach” would have on jobs, a spokesman for McConnell said. (Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

 

Michael F. Dolan, J.D.

Legislative Representative

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Desk  202.624.6891

Fax    202.624.8973

Cell    202.437.2254

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McConnell seeks to protect tobacco industry in trade deal

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pressing the Obama administration to protect his state’s tobacco industry in a trade deal.

McConnell is pressuring U.S. negotiators to ensure that tobacco companies can take part in the dispute settlement portion of the trade deal, with talks scheduled next week on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact with several countries in Asia and Latin America.

Read the full article here>

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Where do your candidates stand on tobacco contributions?

The ten campaigns that accepted the most tobacco money are listed below. These ten campaigns combined accepted over $500,000 in campaign contributions from tobacco corporations. As you can see, both parties and eight states are represented. This is a pervasive problem in politics. Want to read more about tobacco campaign contributions or curious where your representative’s stand? Read our blog>

or check out our 2014 Tobacco Campaign Contribution Map.

Rank Candidate Office Amount
1 Boehner, John (R-OH) House $110,000
2 Hagan, Kay R (D-NC) Senate $87,485
3 McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) Senate $62,450
4 Cantor, Eric (R-VA) House $44,400
5 Warner, Mark (D-VA) Senate $40,815
6 Barr, Andy (R-KY) House $37,610
7 Cornyn, John (R-TX) Senate $37,434
8 Posey, Bill (R-FL) House $31,362
9 McCarthy, Kevin (R-CA) House $27,500
10 Kingston, Jack (R-GA) House $25,350

**Data from Center for Responsive Politics, accurate as of Oct. 9, 2014**

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Tobacco Corporations Buy Political Influence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Megan Arendt

Office: 202-659-4310

Email: arendtm@ash.org

TOBACCO CORPORATIONS BUY POLITICAL INFLUENCE

Big Tobacco Contributes Over $1.6 Million Annually to Federal Candidates

WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 8, 2014 – The tobacco industry has always been a major player in congressional campaigns, but Action on Smoking and Health’s 2014 Campaign Contribution Map shows just how pervasive tobacco money is in politics. Action on Smoking & Health (ASH), an organization devoted to the fight against the domestic and global tobacco epidemic, produced the map, which allows you to click on your home district and see how much money your Member of Congress and Senators have accepted this election cycle.

Tobacco corporations contribute over $1.6 million annually to federal candidates. This money buys the tobacco industry access to government officials and influence over laws. This is a serious problem because there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests. The World Health Organization has discussed tobacco industry interference in the past. “Tobacco use is unlike other threats to global health. Infectious diseases do not employ multinational public relations firms. There are no front groups to promote the spread of cholera. Mosquitoes have no lobbyists.”

This is a problem across political parties and across states. Politicians on both sides of the aisle accept tobacco industry campaign contributions, and 46 states have federal candidates who accepted campaign funds from the tobacco industry in the 2013-2014 election cycle.  Dr. Alfred Munzer, Chairman of the Board of ASH said, “Industries that threaten public health should not control public health policy. No politician should owe favors to tobacco corporations.”

The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global treaty on public health, calls for governments to limit industry interference in public health policy. The guidelines for implementing FCTC Article 5.3 specifically suggest  “prohibiting tobacco industry contributions to political parties, candidates, or campaigns.”

“Even though the United States has not yet ratified the FCTC, ASH encourages politicians to voluntarily comply with the treaty’s life-saving guidelines. Refusing tobacco industry campaign contributions is one very important step that politicians can take in the fight against tobacco,” said ASH Executive Director Laurent Huber.

See which politicians have already taken this essential step and which politicians are still accepting campaign financing from the tobacco industry on ASH’s 2014 Campaign Contribution Map, available online today:

http://ash.org/map/

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ACTION ON SMOKING AND HEALTH
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is the nation’s oldest anti-tobacco organization dedicated to health for all. ASH was formed in 1967 in response to the U.S. Surgeon General Report in order to use legal action to fight tobacco and protect nonsmokers. Today, because tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, ASH uses global tools to counter the global tobacco epidemic. Learn more about our programs at www.ash.org.

Follow us on Twitter @ASHOrg and Facebook www.Facebook.com/ASHglobalAction

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USTR Informally Floats ISDS Tobacco Carveout With Some TPP Countries

U.S. trade officials have reached out to some other Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries to informally float the idea of excluding tobacco-related challenges from being brought under the deal’s investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, according to informed sources. This move signals the United States may be ready to bring its position on this issue closer to that of public health groups, which have demanded tobacco be completely carved out from the agreement.

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U.S. Campaign Contributions

Annually, the tobacco industry contributes over $1.6 million to federal candidates and spends approximately $16.6 million lobbying Congress.

This money buys the tobacco industry access to government officials and influence over laws. This is a serious problem because there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests. political map

This is not a problem for one party; politicians on both sides of the aisle accept tobacco industry campaign contributions. This is not a problem for just one state; 46 states have candidates who accepted some campaign funds from the tobacco industry. The only states that have no state level candidates that accepted funds from tobacco corporations during the 2013-2014 election are Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, DC. Industries that threaten public health should not control public health policy.

On a positive note, this spring, in honor of World No Tobacco Day, ASH certified 193 Senators and Congressman as “Free From Tobacco Money,” an award given to those representatives that have not accepted any campaign contributions from tobacco in the last 10 years. Read more here>

The tobacco industry has always been a major player in congressional campaigns, and tomorrow, the ASH Tobacco Campaign Contribution Map highlights just how pervasive tobacco money is in politics.

Check the ASH Tobacco Campaign Contribution Map to see how much your state representative has received from tobacco corporations in the 2013-2014 election, and then write, tweet or call your representative and tell them why it’s important that they refuse tobacco funding.

Not sure who your representative is? Find out here>

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Stubbing Out the Tobacco Industry’s Abuse of Trade Agreements

The tobacco industry has a long history of flexing its muscles, namely in the area of investor protection schemes, against governments in the name of protecting its own market. TTIP is an opportunity to set a good example for 21st century trade agreements by, at the minimum, recognizing the unique dangers presented by the tobacco industry, and ensuring that measures aimed at reducing the use of tobacco products cannot be subject to investor-state challenge.

Manufactured tobacco products are unique; they are the only consumer products that kill when used as intended. Without effective tobacco control policies to reduce consumption, tobacco products will kill one billion people in this century. No other consumer product kills 1 in 2 of its long-term users. That’s why 184 parties have ratified or signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – the world’s only public health treaty.

Countries across the globe are adopting tobacco control policies to protect their citizens’ health. In response, the tobacco industry is abusing investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions in trade and investment agreements to sue and threaten countries over lawfully adopted, non-discriminatory tobacco control policies. Uruguay and Australia are both defending such policies against costly industry investment disputes, even after the industry comprehensively lost domestic challenges. These cases undermine the right of nations to protect the health of their citizens, and bully other nations into inaction.

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In Putin snub, US will skip global tobacco summit hosted by Russia

In a shot at Russian President Vladimir Putin, the United States will not send a delegation to Moscow this month to participate in global health talks that hold major implications for the tobacco and burgeoning e-cigarette industries.

Hosting the World Health Organization summit is a point of pride for Russia, and it is widely rumored that Putin will launch the event with a speech during the opening session of the meetings.

The decision to sit out the weeklong Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) meetings is based on U.S. displeasure over Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine in recent months, said Bill Hall, director of the news division at the Department of Health and Human Services…

“There definitely is some concern,” said Chris Bostic, deputy director of policy for Action on Smoking and Health, a group that advocates for global tobacco controls. “It is a shame that they will not be there in person.”

Read more>

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Tobacco Deaths & Taxes

In the past, the United States has been a leader in tobacco control. For the last 15 years, though, the U.S. has been falling behind as other countries have moved to protect their people from tobacco addiction and death.

For example, when it comes to tobacco prices, there are huge inconsistencies in America. The average cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes in the United States is $6.36, but this varies widely by state. A pack of Marlboro’s costs $10.08 in New York, but only $4.20 in Georgia. See more about state tobacco taxes>.

There is a direct correlation between the price of cigarettes and willingness of children to take up the habit.WHO taxes

The 2014 Surgeon General’s report called for an increase in cigarette prices to at least $10 a pack. Only one state, New York, currently meets that goal. The World Bank recommends that at least 67% of the retail price of tobacco products comes from taxes. Even the highest taxes in the U.S., in New York City and Chicago, do not reach that goal. Taxes in those cities are about 65%, but the average in the U.S. is 44.2%. Read more here>

This issue is so important that the World Health Organization chose to focus on it for World No Tobacco Day 2014. Increasing the price of tobacco products is the single most effective way to prevent initiation among nonsmokers and to reduce consumption.

On average, raising tobacco taxes to increase retail prices by 10% is estimated to reduce tobacco use by 4% in high-income countries and by about 5% in low- and middle-income countries. WHO calculates that if all countries increased taxes on cigarette packs by 50%, there would be 49 million fewer smokers (38 million fewer adult smokers and 11 million fewer young future smokers), and this would avert 11 million deaths from smoking. To learn more read the WHO brochure on Tobacco Taxes>

The United States should learn from the best practices on tobacco taxes in other countries. In London, a pack of Marlboro’s costs $14. In Norway, it costs $15.11. In Australia, within the next five years, it will cost about $20 to buy a pack of cigarettes. The U.S. is lagging behind on tobacco taxes. See more about international tobacco taxes in the Tobacco Atlas>

Report CoverThis is an area where states and localities can take action – each government is responsible for the health of its citizens and should do its best to protect against the harms of tobacco. In order to meet the goals set out in the Surgeon General’s report and by the World Bank, and more importantly, in order to save lives, the United States should learn from international best practices and implement higher tobacco taxes.

To read more about the lessons U.S. states can learn from international best practices on tobacco control, please read our new report: The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: An Implementation Guide for U.S. State and Local Officials.

State and local officials interested in sample legislation and other tools can also visit our database at http://ash.org/usfctcimplementationguide/.

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Why I Fight: News/Talk Radio Host & Author Forrest Carr

My Great Cigarette Rebellion

How my mother’s simple request to run an errand changed my life.

My doctor doesn’t believe I’ve never smoked.

In January I was diagnosed with a relatively rare form of kidney cancer—Transitional Cell Carcinoma, which had begun in the kidney and then descended into the bladder. Thankfully, it had only just arrived in the latter when we caught it, otherwise I’d be of considerably less use to myself right now.   But the left kidney had to come out.

Right after delivering the news, my doctor—who is world renowned in his field—asked whether I smoked.  I assured him I didn’t.  Then he wanted to know when I’d quit.  I told him the stone cold truth: I’ve never puffed a cigarette in my life.  An eyebrow went up.  He didn’t quite say, “Uh, huh.”  But I could tell he wanted to.  He went on to explain that the disease I had was considered a smoker’s cancer. Kidney cancers are not particularly unusual, he told me, but my particular type is.

The next time I was in the office, we repeated the Q&A drill about my smoking.  It occurred to me that perhaps he’d forgotten my earlier answers, but I had a hard time believing that.  Smoking is an important part of any patient’s past history, and doctors take careful notes on that kind of thing.  It seemed much more likely that he just flat didn’t believe me.  I stuck to my story, and explained that both of my parents had smoked.  He seemed to accept the answer.

He hadn’t.  A little while later he found the opportunity to sneak out into the lobby and ask my wife how long it had been since I’d quit smoking.  When I found out that he’d checked up on me in this fashion, I tried not to be hurt about having my honesty questioned.  I can only assume that some of his other patients must lie like dogs about this kind of thing, perhaps not wanting to be told to quit.

To say I was around second hand smoke when I was a kid is like saying the average fish occasionally spends some time in a wet environment.  My mother spent every waking moment with a Kent III snugged between the middle and index fingers of her right hand.  A smoldering coffin nail could be found between my father’s yellowed fingers at every moment, period, waking or otherwise.  By the time I was 4 or 5, the hardwood floor by his side of the bed was covered with about a hundred black burn marks from cigarettes he’d dropped after drifting off to sleep.  Mom finally made him stop smoking in bed after he set fire to his second mattress.

I have several paperback books that used to sit on my bookshelf in my boyhood room.  The spines for all of them are yellow with nicotine.  Obviously, books don’t breathe.  If such discoloration can happen to books just from sitting there soaking in the ambience, can you imagine what my lungs must look like?  I lived with my parents for about 20 years.

As someone who’s always been interested in the news, by my teen years I was very aware of the dangers of tobacco.  I’d long since given up trying to shame my mother into quitting.  Her stated excuse was that when she’d started smoking as a teen (she never told me when, but I’m guessing she’d been smoking since about the age of 15), the dangers of tobacco weren’t known.   The actual fact is that she just didn’t want to quit.  And forget about Dad.  There was no arguing with him on any subject at any time about nuthin’ (a trait he passed on to me).

When I was 16, my parents bought me a very used Toyota Corolla so that I could drive to school.  It was only natural that they’d ask me to go run errands for them from time to time, which I did without complaint.  Until one day Mom asked me to go down to the neighborhood Git ‘n’ Go to pick up a carton of Kent III’s.

I said no.

Both parents knew how I felt about cigarettes.  Plus, what they were asking me to do was illegal, and the fact that a store manager friend of theirs was willing to slip me a carton under the counter to take home to them didn’t change that.  So when I balked, I really thought they’d quickly back down and withdraw the request.  But my father had commanded a platoon of tanks in World War II, and was not one to retreat in the face of any challenge, especially one to his authority.  Voices were raised.  Fingers were jabbed.  Threats were issued.  Dad told me that if I didn’t hop in the car and go get those cigarettes right that very moment, he would take my car keys away from me.  I assumed he was bluffing, since this would have entailed one of the two of them having to drive me to school.  But he wasn’t any less hotheaded than I was.  When I refused to give in, he demanded the keys from me.  I handed them over.

For the entire rest of the day and the first part of the following morning, Dad left me wondering what was going to happen next.  Just before the time I’d normally leave for school, he walked up to me and returned the keys without a word.  Nothing more was ever said about it.  And neither of them ever asked me to go on a cigarette run again.

It didn’t even occur to me until much later that I’d gotten off pretty easily.  At the time, I was attending an expensive private high school, driving a car that my parents had given me as a gift, and using their credit card to pay for the gas.  They could have taken any of that from me in a flash.  I’ve lived long enough and seen enough by now to know that plenty of other parents would have done just that, and would have proceeded to smack any little teen rebellion like mine down hard.  But I got away with it. 

Still, the incident helped kindle in me a life-long distrust of authority, and a willingness to stand up to it. At the age of 16, my parents were the main authority figures in my life, and I’d never challenged them before or defied a parental order in any way, shape, form or fashion.  In fact, I was a very respectful kid. But I knew cigarettes were wrong, and that any authority commanding me to participate in the purchase of them therefore must also be wrong.  Later it occurred to me that the government had to be wrong, too, for allowing cigarettes to happen (a view I have since softened).  This newfound distrust of power would guide my life in the world of journalism, sometimes to my detriment.  My Cigarette Alamo would not be the first time I’d stand up to authority, but little did I know at the time that I wouldn’t always get away with such things.  (And those are stories for another day).

Two years later, my grandfather began a long, slow, and final decline from emphysema (these days most often referred to as COPD).  Papa smoked until the day he died.  In fact, his last exhalation on planet Earth was filled with cigarette smoke.  My mother was holding the cigarette for him.  I had hoped that watching her father waste away before her eyes from the effects of a lifetime of smoking would finally convince her to give it up.  Nope.

About 20 years later, her brother, my beloved uncle who was also a lifetime smoker, suffered a major breathing crisis.  His doctor told him that he’d be dead soon if he didn’t quit.  He did, giving it up cold turkey.  What they don’t tell you is that when you quit at that stage, you don’t get better.  Instead, you get worse more slowly.  His sharply declining health finally killed him a few years later.

In his final year, my father had three different kinds of cancers competing to put him in the ground. Brain cancer won.

Still Mom did not quit.  She kept smoking those Kent III’s until she faced the same breathing crisis her brother had.  Only then did she stop—a feat, as he had done, that she accomplished cold turkey.  But she faced the same fate as her brother, and within a few short years COPD had killed her, too.  And like her father, she spent her final year wearing an oxygen tube.

If America’s Prohibition era of the last century, along with our current disastrous war on drugs, have demonstrated anything, it’s that you can’t separate people from their vices.  Ultimately, it’s always up to the individual to make a choice, or make a stand, as the case may be.

When I see kids hanging out in front of their high schools or the local convenience store smoking, I just want to scream at ‘em.  I hear that kids puff away because they think it’s cool to have a cigarette dangling from their lips, and stylish to be able to pose and gesture with one held between the fingers. One would hope for a bit more social consciousness.  At a time when some of our youth are crusading for government and business to think less about profits and more about the environment and other issues affecting the public good, these kids are forking over their money to greedy, lying, cynical, rat bastard corporations who sell them poisons and then feel good about it.  There is a word for this kind of consumer.  It’s called, “chump.”

If you smoke, I respect your right to make that choice.  What I don’t respect is the choice you made.  Still, if you think that whatever pleasure you’re deriving from the act is worth it, and you don’t mind dying in suffocating agony a bit further down the road, then go ahead, knock yourself out.  Certain corporate executives, tobacco farmers, and undertakers will thank you for it.

Smokers love to invoke their rights.  Of course, later some of them will be citing their right to have me help pay for their cancer, cardiac or stroke care.  Fine.  That’s the way the system works.  However, to steal a phrase, your right to swing your cigarette ends where my nose begins.  In particular, exposing kids to second hand smoke ought to be considered a form of child abuse.  No, I’m not seriously suggesting that children of smokers should be removed from the home.  But is it something a judge should consider in custody disputes?  Absolutely.

As for me, I’m not angry with my parents.  They raised me well and did a lot of good things to set me on the right path.  I thank and honor them for that.  I’m also grateful they helped inspire me to join a profession where I could challenge authority and speak truth to power for a living.  It’s a thankless job. But somebody—well, you get my drift.

And I’m not just blowing smoke.

###

I just had my second surgery for bladder cancer.  I’m publicly sharing what normally is a very personal detail so that others in this situation will know this happens to a lot of people, and it isn’t necessarily the end of the world.  This surgery had far fewer complications and residual pain than the first one.   It now seems likely that I’ll be getting this done every few months from now on.   Believe me, when it comes to tobacco-related cancers, there are far worse fates.

REPRINTED with permission from Forrest Carr who is a news/talk radio host and author. He writes “The Bashful Bloviator” bloghttp://thebashfulbloviator.blogspot.com/2014/09/my-great-cigarette-rebellion.html

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Statement from the Chairman of the ASH Board of Trustees

Al headshot

Dr. Alfred Munzer, MD

50 years ago the 1st Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health clearly established the terrible toll taken by tobacco on the health of smokers and set the United States on a public health campaign to rid the nation of the threat posed by the use of tobacco to the smoker and to those involuntarily exposed to second-hand smoke.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has been a part of that campaign from the outset.  But while the campaign has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the prevalence of tobacco use, far too many young people are still enticed into a life of addiction to tobacco and far too many Americans continue to suffer and die as a result of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke. 

In view of the global reach of the tobacco industry, ASH has played a key role for the past 15 years to extend the campaign to stem the epidemic of tobacco related disease beyond the United States to countries around the world through the development of the 1st treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Although the FCTC has been signed, but not ratified by the United States, it provides a useful pathway to states and localities to update their tobacco control efforts and to advance the public health campaign that was started 50 years ago.

As a physician who witnesses the pain and suffering caused by tobacco use day in and day out, I welcome the release of ASH’s report The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: An Implementation Guide for U.S. State and Local Officials.

I hope public health officials at all levels of government will measure their tobacco control efforts against the standards set by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. I also urge members of state legislatures to strongly consider motions expressing support for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and prod the federal government to ratify the convention.

Dr. Alfred Munzer, MD

Chairman

Board of Trustees

Action on Smoking and Health

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A Winnable Battle

The CDC identifies reducing tobacco as a “Winnable Battle” because tobacco is a public health priority with “large-scale impact on health and with known, effective strategies to address them.”

For ASH, the ability to significantly improve the protection of U.S. citizens from tobacco-related damage, disease, and death is the driver behind our work in public health. Eradicating the tobacco epidemic should be a major national priority because tobacco use is still the #1 preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing about 480,000 Americans each year. Tobacco use is responsible for over 20% of all American deaths.

But, as Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” That principle is what ASH stands by and that principle is what ASH hopes to inspire others to believe in when reading our latest report: The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: An Implementation Guide for U.S. State and Local Officials.

To combat the tobacco epidemic, countries around the world negotiated and implemented, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC, the world’s 1st international health treaty, is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health and includes measures that encourage nations to take an all-encompassing approach to effective tobacco policy.

The United States, unfortunately, is not a party to the FCTC, but the FCTC and its guidelines still provide excellent tobacco control strategies that can be implemented in American states, counties, cities, and towns.

Here at ASH, we are firm believers in the concept “change begins at home.” That is why we created this FCTC Implementation Guide for U.S. State and Local Officials. The guide illustrates how effective FCTC policies and useful strategies from other countries can be implemented by state and local officials in their home jurisdictions. The guide also provides model legislation and legal resources to assist local lawmakers in creating tobacco control policies.

Implementation of FCTC measures at the state and local levels would provide many more Americans with the much needed protection from the damage, disease, and death attributed to tobacco products and their use.

While ASH strongly advocates for U.S. ratification and implementation of the FCTC, national ratification is not a prerequisite for local action. This guide is intended to help U.S. state and local officials take steps toward making their communities increasingly free from tobacco.

For more information and resources please read the ASH WHO FCTC U.S. State and Local Implementation Guide and visit our database.

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Cigarettes, Unbranded

The products are virtually indistinguishable from one another, yet they retain more loyalty than Mac computers. And an expensive international legal battle is raging over them. Why? Because the products—cigarettes—are a recognized public health hazard, and governments around the world are trying to do whatever it takes to stop their citizens from lighting up.

“Whenever a country goes beyond the WHO tobacco control recommendations, tobacco companies sue,” says Chris Bostic, policy director for the nonprofit group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). “They do this not so much for a legal win, but to send a legal chill.”

Today, 18 per cent of US adults smoke, as some states levy high cigarette taxes and adopt aggressive laws against second-hand smoke. This shift is less evident in the South – home to Johnson – and the Midwest, so that in Kentucky, for example, the adult smoking rate is 30 per cent. And though the MSA bans advertising aimed at “youth”, Bostic says Big Tobacco targets the “young” market.

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South Korea seeks near-doubling of cigarette price

South Korea’s government has proposed nearly doubling the price of cigarettes to lower the country’s smoking rate.

Under its plan, the average price per pack would go up to 4,500 won (£2.70, $4.35) by the start of next year. It is currently 2,500 won.

But the proposal may undergo changes in parliament as it is facing significant opposition, reports Yonhap news agency.

The government is hoping to cut the smoking rate among men, which is among the highest in the developed world.

About 41% of South Korean men smoke, according to 2012 figures from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development - higher than the 26% OECD average.

South Korea’s overall smoking rate, at 23%, is also higher than the OECD average of 21%.

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‘Ban E-cigarette use indoors,’ says WHO

The World Health Organization says there should be a ban on the use of e-cigarettes indoors and that sales to children should stop.

In a report the health body says there must be no more claims that the devices can help smokers quit – until there is firm evidence to support this.

WHO experts warn the products might pose a threat to adolescents and the foetuses of pregnant women.

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FDA ‘Deeming’ Update

More organizations have revealed thecomments that they submitted to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on whether certain tobacco products should fall under the agency’s authority.

Aug. 8 was the deadline for interested parties to submitpublic comments to the FDA on the proposed tobacco “deeming” regulations–”Deeming Tobacco Products to Be Subject to the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act, as Amended by the Family Smoking Prevention & Tobacco Control Act; Regulations on the Sale and Distribution of Tobacco Products and Required Warning Statements for Tobacco Products” ( FDA-2014-N-0189).

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Big Tobacco Tries to Don A New Look: Are You Buying?

Big Tobacco wants to reclaim the hearts and wallets of most adult Americans by rebranding its tarred image — pitching “smokeless” e-cigarettes, embracing the mantra “harm reduction,” and funding science that could turn tobacco plants into life-saving medicine.

That tactical shift, not surprisingly, has cultivated cynics like anti-tobacco crusader Patrick Reynolds, grandson of R.J. Reynolds, who calls the moves mere “window-dressing PR campaigns.”

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