Saturday, April 30, 2011

County Accepts $150,000 Grant For Cigarettes Control

he Fond du Lac County Board of Supervisors has voted 15-1 to accept a Tobacco Control and Prevention Grant of $149,980 for fiscal year 2011.

The Fond du Lac County Health Department will act as agent for the continuation of a multi-jurisdictional cigarettes coalition that provides support to Fond du Lac, Washington, Green Lake, Waushara and Marquette counties.

Some of the support is to assist workplaces with smoke-free implementation; developing and maintaining a youth tobacco prevention and advocacy group; and performing tobacco retailer compliance checks.

Sandy Bernier, who is based in Fond du Lac, is coordinator of the five-county coalition.

"We are still fielding a fair number of questions with regard to the law," said Fond du Lac County Public Health Nurse Diane Cappozzo, who added that business owners are asking about required signage and rules regarding outdoor smoking cigarettes structures.

Supervisor Jim Kiser, who voted in opposition, said he's been against the growth of the tobacco control program.

He asked about the funding and whether it came from an increase in the tobacco tax.

Cappozzo thinks most of the funding is from settlement of an earlier tobacco company lawsuit.

Supervisor Tom Dornbrook asked whether a "relaxation" of some of the tobacco control rules is expected with a new Legislature and new governor.

Cappozzo said local businesses in Fond du Lac County seem to be complying with the laws.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Local Hospitals Don’t Plan To Follow National Trend On Hiring Smokers

Smokers: No need to apply for work at hospitals. That’s the message more hospitals and medical businesses in many states are sending to prospective employees.
The New York Times reported this week that hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas stopped hiring smokers in the past year. Some are even making employees submit to urine tests to ensure they’re nicotine-free.
But that’s not a policy the two La Crosse hospitals are even thinking about, now or in the future. “We don’t look at smoking cigarettes as a hiring criteria, and we have no plans to make it a criteria,” said Janine Luz, Gundersen Lutheran’s human resources operations director.
“We look at qualifications for the job and don’t ask if someone smokes or not,” she said. “We don’t have to cross that line.”
Some hospitals say no-smokers policies increase worker productivity, reduce health care costs and encourage healthier living.
Others say the policies are discriminatory.
More than half the states have passed laws rejecting bans on hiring smokers.
“It’s not against the law in Wisconsin to ask applicants if they are smokers, but we don’t ask the question,” said Trisha Wieser, a Franciscan Skemp employee representative.
“Our concern is to make sure we find the right person for the job,” Wieser said. “What they do with their health outside of work is their own business.”
Franciscan Skemp and Gundersen Lutheran offer smoking cigarettes cessation programs for their employees. Both hospitals adopted a no-smoking cigarettes policy on their grounds in 2007.
“We’ll continue to promote nonsmoking cigarettes for our employees,” Luz said. But it won’t determine whether someone gets a job.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cigarettes Ban For MLB Teams

Televisions on Thursday will broadcast the usual iconic images of baseball's opening day: fans cheering from the stands, umpires making close calls at the plate, and players in the thick of the game, spitting cigarettes juice.

With smokeless tobacco use spiking among high school boys - a reported 36% increase since 2003 - public health officials are targeting their role models to set a healthy example, and calling for a ban on tobacco at major league ballparks.

Tobacco use was banned in baseball's minor leagues in 1993. But a ban in the major leagues would have to be negotiated with the players union during collective bargaining - something Commissioner Bud Selig said Wednesday he intends to pursue as talks get under way for a new contract, effective in 2012.

Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder, who occasionally chews tobacco during games, said he understands the reasoning behind a tobacco ban, but isn't sure he wants to give up the right to chew.

"I get it," Fielder said. "I understand what they're saying. You don't want kids watching you and doing it. So, I really do get it. But that's a tough one. I'm sure we'll talk about it, but (banning tobacco) is a big move. In the off-season, I don't do it. Just during the season. My kids have never asked me about it. It's not that it's not important, but I just don't know about (banning it)."

Use frowned upon

Major League Baseball discourages the use of tobacco. Clubs provide alternatives such as chewing gum and sunflower seeds, prohibit tobacco companies from providing free tobacco products to players in the clubhouse, and prohibit clubhouse employees from purchasing tobacco on behalf of players. The league also established the National Spit Tobacco Education Program in 1994 to try to curb player use.

Players say they take the health risks seriously. And the players union says it has worked to educate players about the risks of tobacco use, including oral cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, heart disease and gum disease.

But it appears unlikely the players union will agree to a ban.

"I think that would be difficult," said veteran Milwaukee Brewer Craig Counsell, a member of the players union executive council who chews tobacco on occasion. "We've always championed the fact that we're adults who can make their own choices."

Top public health officials in 15 Major League Baseball cities - including Milwaukee - earlier this week joined the call to ban tobacco from baseball. In a letter to Selig and Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the health officials wrote, "we know that baseball is important to civic life and that ballplayers are local heroes. They should provide positive role models and not associate themselves with a product that causes disease and death."

The letter from city health officials followed a call in November by the chief executives of 10 major medical and public health groups, who wrote a letter to Selig and Weiner, seeking to ban use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, by players, coaches, managers and other team personnel at all major league ballparks.

"I am personally committed to the fight against smokeless tobacco in baseball," Selig said Wednesday. "I am proud of our longtime ban on smokeless tobacco in the minor leagues."

Kids are watching

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a nonprofit advocacy group, contends that too many kids pick up the cancer-causing habit from watching their idols chew and spit. "Baseball players are heroes to kids," said spokesman Dan Cronin. "I learned how to kick dirt from Billy Martin."

A spokesman for the players union declined to comment on whether baseball players should be expected to serve as role models of good health.

"We most certainly take the issue seriously and agree there are serious health risks involved with tobacco," said spokesman Greg Bouris. "That's why we do what we can to educate players."

Tobacco use among baseball players has declined significantly over the last 20 years, according to Dan Halem, senior vice president and general counsel for Major League Baseball.

The hope in prohibiting tobacco in the minor leagues "is that players won't use it anymore," he said. "The tobacco cessation programs we run definitely are utilized."

The NCAA and National Hockey League prohibit tobacco use.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Study Finds Poor Diet, Excessive Drinking, Smoking Biggest Issues In Lincoln

Many Lincoln and Marathon county residents still drink too much alcohol, are too fat and smoke cigarettes more than they should, according to a report released this week.

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute's 2011 county health rankings underscores the cultural issues that local health officials are continually trying to combat in an effort to make central Wisconsin healthier.

Lincoln County fell from 39th in 2010 to 47th this year, while Marathon County held onto its spot as the 20th most healthy county of the 72 in Wisconsin. Ozaukee is the healthiest and Menominee is the least healthy county.

Officials in both Lincoln and Marathon counties said long-term issues such as obesity were known to still be a problem, but unemployment and a stagnant economy have put additional strain on each county's overall health.

"Economic (issues) trickle down to everything else, such as eating healthy," said Shelley Hersil, director of Lincoln County Health Department. In February, unemployment rates were 11.8 percent and 8.5 percent in Lincoln and Marathon county, respectively.

But the report, released annually, sheds light on nagging problems that central Wisconsin shares with much of the state and country.

The percentage of people who smoke, drink excessively and are fat, is above the national average in both Lincoln and Marathon counties.

Joan Theurer, health officer for Marathon County Health Department, said the deeply entrenched cultural issues such as unhealthy eating and drinking are complex, difficult problems to tackle, but over time, she expects to see an improvement.

She pointed to cigarettes use, which still is a problem but has declined in Wisconsin adults. According to one state report, cigarette use decreased from 25 percent in 1990 to 22.5 percent of the more than 5.5 million Wisconsin residents in 2009.

One of the most noticeable issues is binge drinking. Twenty-five percent of each county's population is guilty of excessive drinking, the report shows. That equates to about 33,000 people binge drinking at some point in Marathon County and 7,200 in Lincoln.

"In terms of excessive drinking, I think we're starting to take the initial steps (to address) what the impact of excessive drinking has not only in individuals and families, but the community as a whole," Theurer said.

One initiative to address alcohol abuse is BRAVO, formed in 2003 by Healthy Marathon County. BRAVO promotes legislation that targets responsible use of alcohol and also implemented the "social norms" campaign to change youths' perception of alcohol use. The group also educates adults about responsible drinking.

While officials would like funding for more programs, initiatives in both the public and private sector are in motion to address these problems.

For example, the Aspirus Health Foundation has used a $59,000 grant from Kohl's to create an online program designed to help children make healthier eating and lifestyle choices. The program helps children track their success along with their parents.

"It has to start with our children," said Kalynn Pempek, the foundation's executive director. "When they come home from school they try to hold their parents accountable for some of those things."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sheboygan Council Clarifies 'smoking' Rooms

The City of Sheboygan is easing its restrictions on enclosed public smoking cigarettes areas at businesses such as bars and restaurants, though an official said the city ordinance still would be in compliance with the statewide smoking cigarettes ban.

The Common Council Monday night approved increasing the amount of wall space in a smoking cigarettes area from 50 to 75 percent of the confined surface area, which places the minimum open space area at 25 percent. Businesses that already have been approved for permits are grandfathered in.

“Anecdotally, we’re getting complaints from certain bar owners that certain other bars aren’t in compliance with their (smoking cigarettes) rooms,” said Chuck Adams, assistant city attorney.

Adams said the city is finding that since the smoking cigarettes ban became law last July, noise complaints and disturbances outside bars have increased, “because people are basically being pushed outdoors to smoke.”

Police officials, in turn, were concerned that they didn’t want the restrictions on smoking cigarettes areas so tight that no tavern owner would want to construct one, Adams said.

“Ideally, you’d like to have these people congregating in a place that has some semblance of control,” Adams said.

The council’s Law & Licensing Committee backed the ordinance change.

“By having people smoke cigarettes on the street was causing problems, it’s better for the safety of the citizens to have smoking cigarettes rooms,” Ald. Mark Hanna said.

Adams said the changes also make the city ordinance clear that smoking cigarettes areas need to be separate from the primary serving area of an establishment.

“We were hearing complaints that there were some smoking cigarettes areas inside bars that everybody had to walk through, and obviously that was not provided for in the statutes,” Adams said.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bartenders Feel More Healthy After State Smoking Ban

Wisconsin bartenders who don't smoke cigarettes feel healthier since the state went smoke-free in July, according to a new study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Urban Initiatives and Research.

The study surveyed 531 bartenders in urban and rural areas in the two months before the law took effect and three to six months after. There was a 36 percent decrease in smoking cigarettes-related respiratory health symptoms, such as wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and sore throats.

The study surveyed only bars that allowed smoking cigarettes before the law.

Some Marshfield-area bartenders and bar owners, however, question the legitimacy of the survey. They say they haven't seen changes other than the odor, and the ban has cost them money.

Someplace Else, on the outskirts of Marshfield, was one of the few bars in the Marshfield area to allow smoking cigarettes before the ban. The city was smoke-free before the statewide ban.

Owner Myron Keding said his employees haven't noticed improvements in their health, but the business has seen a 25 percent profit loss. Keding said he doesn't smoke, but most of his employees do.

Keding is losing money, he said, because his bartenders now have to take more smoking cigarettes breaks, and some of his customers have stopped coming all together. This is despite the fact Keding built a $15,000 smoking cigarettes room for customers to use during the winter.

The study is part of a series that is meant to show the benefits of smoke-free air. Wisconsin is among 29 states with comprehensive statewide smoke-free air laws for bars and restaurants. The study collected information on the number of hours bar workers were exposed to secondhand smoke, prevalence of upper respiratory tract symptoms, attitudes toward smoking cigarettes in bars and restaurants and perceptions of risk related to secondhand smoke cigarettes exposure, as well as bartender smoking cigarettes.

Susan Hansen, an owner of Archie's Cocktail Lounge in Stevens Point, doesn't smoke. She said she thought she'd see a difference in her health after the ban.

"I have worked here for 33 years and I was kind of disappointed because I thought perhaps I would feel different, and I felt no change," she said. "All I could think of was perhaps that one builds up some type of immunity."

Hansen questioned the legitimacy of the survey, because all variables must be considered. For example, did the bartenders come from families that smoked? she asked. What quality ventilation systems did the bars have?

"A study to me, I challenge them all lately," Hansen said.

Mark Wanta, administrator of Moose Family Center 1572 in Stevens Point, said he doubts that since July 2010 anyone has seen any real benefits of the ban. It's too soon to tell. The only thing that has changed for him is that he goes home without a heavy cigarette smell on his clothes.

"Do I think it's helped anybody? It's helped the carpenters," he said referring to the many smoking cigarettes areas that have been built for bar customers. "I can't imagine anybody that was exposed (to smoke) for five, 10 years to say 'Oh, I feel better.'"

Wanta said he can't gauge whether the ban affected his business because the economy also is poor.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cigarettes For Sale Untaxed

cigarettes for sale
Slow government response to repeated complaints of illegal cigarettes sales has cost the state and legitimate distributors millions of dollars, according to longtime Oklahoma City cigarette wholesaler Alan Beck.For six years, Beck has complained to the Oklahoma Tax Commission and elected state officials that certain distributors were illegally selling huge volumes of untaxed cigarettes for sale products in Oklahoma.

Beck, 53, says he never saw much response to his complaints until April 6 when a 59-count federal indictment was unsealed that accuses three Edmond men of profiting from the illegal cigarette sale of more than $3 million worth of untaxed cigarettes for sale and smokeless tobacco products.“What took them so long?” Beck asks. “I’m hoping they’ll indict a bunch more people. There’s a lot of other people cheating.”U.S. Attorney Sandy Coats said he couldn’t comment on the likelihood of additional indictments.

However, Coats said he believes criticism of the Oklahoma Tax Commission for failure to take action on complaints is unjust.“Any suggestion that the Oklahoma Tax Commission might have been negligent in its efforts is incorrect,” Coats said. “They were a critical partner in this important investigation.”Coats said it was at the request of investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other federal agencies that the Tax Commission delayed enforcement action for years.

A regional, and “in some ways nationwide” investigation of companies allegedly involved in the illegal sale of untaxed cigarettes for sale products could have been compromised if Oklahoma Tax Commission officials had failed to cooperate, he said.Beck says the cost to the state of the drawn out investigation has been great.He estimates the sale of unstamped cigarettes for sale by rogue distributors has been costing the state between $1 million and $2 million a month in lost tax revenues — which would amount to between $72 million and $144 million over the six years he has been filing complaints with the Tax Commission, governor, attorney general and anyone else who would listen.Tax Commission officials questioned whether state tax losses have been that large, but declined to provide their own estimate.

The cost also has been great for legitimate wholesalers who have been trying to do things right, Beck said.Beck, who operates a wholesale business at 2305 S Agnew Ave., said he has been doing about $15 million a year in sales in recent years and believes sales will jump to $70 million or $80 million a year if tax cheaters are shut down. He estimates his lost profits at more than $1 million a year.Alleged illegal cigarettes product sales by Prime Distributors LLC and its successor company, Prime Time Distribution LLC, led to the recent indictments of the three Edmond men, Khawer Saeed Ghill, Ahsan Ullah and Asmat Ullah.

Ghill and Ahsan Ullah have pleaded not guilty, while authorities were still searching for Asmat Ullah late last week. One source said the suspect was in Pakistan on a trip, but a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office said he didn’t know the fugitive’s location.Documents provided by Beck show that as far back as Aug. 29, 2005, he had an attorney write a letter to the Tax Commission’s legal division alleging that Prime Distributors was engaging in illegal cigarettes sales.

The letter was specific, stating that Prime Distributors was receiving shipments of about 600 rolls of chewing cigarettes for sale at its warehouse on Pennsylvania Avenue “each Tuesday at approximately 10 a.m.” Beck alleged in the letter that company officials were not reporting the total or net receipts derived from the sale of those products and not remitting the total tax due on those receipts.Beck said he followed up with many more complaints to tax officials, the attorney general, governor and others over ensuing years.“You should understand that in the four weeks since I contacted you, the criminal enterprises which the Oklahoma Tax Commission is allegedly investigating have distributed over $5 million in untaxed goods,” Beck said in a Dec. 19, 2008, letter to then-Gov. Brad Henry. “The OTC knows the exact locations of these operations but has allowed them to thrive for nearly four years.”In the letter, Beck alleged that his company and other “legitimate competitors” were being harassed by Tax Commission audits, while Prime Distributors, Prime Time Distribution and five other companies he listed were being protected by not being properly investigated.

According to the indictment, Prime Distributors surrendered its license in 2006 after state Tax Commission auditors caught the company selling untaxed cigarette products, but the company was immediately replaced by a company called Prime Time Distribution. That company, operated by a relative of the original company’s owner, allegedly continued to make illegal cigarette sales from the same location.Paula Ross, spokeswoman for the Tax Commission, said her agency has closed every one of the five other violators except one, and an action is pending against it.Beck claims those enforcement actions have been largely ineffective, with illegal operators sometimes not paying fines and reopening businesses under other names. He believes criminal prosecution of violators would be more effective.

Undercover federal ATF agents set up an undercover operation and used it to sell 32 shipments that included millions of contraband cigarettes for sale to Prime Time Distribution over two years beginning in 2007, the indictment said.Beck questions whether that many transactions were needed, considering the financial hardship being inflicted on the state and legitimate operators.Coats said all three indicted individuals face up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine if found guilty of the tobacco-related counts against them. The government intends to seek restitution, which would include payment of taxes owed to the state, he said.According to the indictment, some of the profits from allegedly illegal operations were transferred to Pakistan, which could complicate efforts to obtain restitution.

“We have a unit devoted to finding every nickel that can be found,” Coats said.Ross said commission employees investigate every complaint they receive.“Since 2005, the OTC has conducted in excess of 35 hearings to revoke cigarette and/or tobacco licenses of wholesalers and retailers for violations such as contraband cigarettes sales, improperly stamped cigarettes, unstamped cigarettes and untaxed cigarette products,” she said.She said the commission also has implemented a stringent cigarettes wholesaler application review process.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Discount Cigarettes Smuggling

discount cigarettes smuggling
A recent wave of state discount cigarettes tax increases, designed to pump revenue into cash-strapped local governments, is inspiring an increasingly dangerous cigarette smuggling industry where big profits lure violent criminal gangs and drug traffickers into the booming illegal market, according to law enforcement officials and court records.

Larry Penninger, acting director of the discount cigarettes diversion unit of teh Bureau of Alcohol, discount cigarettes, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), says investigations and prosecutions involving discount cigarettes trafficking have been increasing as smugglers flood high-tax states with cigarettes from low-tax states.

From 2007 to last year, 27 states raised their cigarette taxes, according to Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which closely tracks discount cigarettes tax rates across the country. Mackinac describes discount cigarettes smuggling as an “unintended consequence of high cigarette taxes.”

There is so much illicit money to be made, Penninger says, that some drug and weapon trafficking organizations are adding discount cigarettes to their product lines to boost profits. For example, in low-tax states such as Virginia, where cigarettes cost about $4.50 a pack, smugglers can sell a truckload (typically 800 cases) in New York at $13 a pack. New York is the highest discount cigarettes taxing jurisdiction in the country.

Smuggling costs states and the federal government about $5 billion, according to U.S. government estimates. "Everybody out there (involved in illegal trafficking operations) is tapping into discount cigarettes," Penninger says.

Since 9/11, much of federal law enforcement has focused on terrorism, but discount cigarettes smuggling is attracting fresh interest.

• Last year, the ATF reported 357 open cases involving discount cigarettes smuggling, compared with a handful a decade earlier.

• During the 2010 fiscal year, the Justice Department reported 71 new prosecutions referred by the bureau, a 39% increase from the year before, according to records compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University in New York.

• Seizures of cash and property also have been rising, from $11 million in the 2007 fiscal year to $31.5 million in the 2009 fiscal year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cigarettes Tax Cut

cigarettes tax cut
During a floor debate in the Legislature last month on lowering the New Hampshire cigarettes tax, Rep. Patrick Abrami, R-Stratham, said the move was necessary to help small businesses rebound and strengthen a competitive advantage in lower cigarette taxes with neighbor states.

"We have reached the tipping point," Abrami said about the sizeable increase in cigarettes taxes that had taken place since 2006. "We are hurting our merchants. We are losing sales on our borders."

According to the New Hampshire Grocers Association, cigarettes sales topped more than $755 million in 2010 and the prevailing theme among supporters of a measure to cut the cigarettes tax is a reduction of 10 cents a pack, from $1.78 a pack to $1.68 per pack, is appropriate, and other cigarettes-related products should be reduced by an average of 17 percent, leading to greater state revenues.

Buoyed by a recent Southern New Hampshire University study that estimates that decreased cigarettes taxes will lead to more sales and more state revenues by as much as $13 million, supporters of the tax cut got overwhelming support in the House to pass the measure. The Senate is now considering the bill.

But critics of the proposal point to the just-released study by PolEcon Research in Dover, which questioned the economic and historical assumptions in the SNHU report. The PolEcon report also disputed claims that other sales and state revenues would rise and stated the likely outcome would be a $9 million drop in state revenues.

John Dumais, president of the grocers association, said the SNHU report verified the soundness of a "what's good for the state is good for grocers" approach. "This report makes it clear that a cigarette tax decrease, while not a magic bullet, would make a substantial contribution to solving New Hampshire's financial difficulties," Dumais said. He added that depending on cigarettes sales as a significant funding source for the state budget was "bad public policy."

The state Department of Revenue Administration estimates a cut in cigarettes tax will lead to estimated drop in revenues ranging from $7 million to $14 million. After business taxes and rooms and meals tax, collections from cigarette and cigarettes product sales account for the third highest source of revenue for the state budget. Through March, the state reported that cigarettes tax collections were $9 million above revenue estimates for fiscal year ending June 30.

A spokesman for Gov. John Lynch said it would hurt revenues unnecessarily at a time when the state couldn't afford it and the 10 cents per pack cut will have little effect on drawing any more smokers across state borders.

"We would have to sell 15 million more packs of cigarettes to make up the revenue loss at a time when they are cutting services to the developmentally disabled," said Colin Manning. He said the cut is also bad public health policy as it would encourage more youth smoking and use of other cigarettes products.

New Hampshire has raised its cigarettes tax aggressively from 52 cents a pack in 2006 to the current $1.78. By comparison, the closest state is Maine at $2 a pack and Massachusetts is $2.51 a pack. The SNHU study estimates that 50 percent of all cigarettes purchases in the state are from out-of-state buyers.

Dumais said that "99 percent" of his members, many of whom are small convenience store owners, support the tax cut and believe it will lead to more auxiliary sales and increased profits, which will in turn lead to greater revenues to the state with increased business profits taxes paid. He said many convenience owners along the state lines to Maine and Massachusetts have criticized the cigarettes tax hikes as hurtful to their businesses.

The PolEcon study emphasized that any loss in sales to retailers had far less to do with cigarettes tax hikes than the cost of gasoline. The Campaign for cigarettes Free Kids, one of the organizations that commissioned the PolEcon study, said the report disputed claims that lower cigarettes taxes would lead to wider sales and increased gasoline, rooms and meals, and alcohol taxes.

"Higher cigarette taxes haven't hurt New Hampshire's economy or convenience stores," said Kevin O'Flaherty, the Northeast director for Campaign for cigarettes Free Kids. "To the contrary, higher cigarette taxes have been shown to improve state revenue and increase the number of convenience stores while preventing kids from becoming addicted to these deadly products."

O'Flaherty believes there will actually be minor health care costs from the cigarette tax cut because it's unlikely that smokers looking for a bargain will see any decrease in the retail price. Most of the dime-per-pack decrease will be pocketed first by manufacturers and then by the retailer, he said.

When asked why, if the economic benefits were so certain, didn't supporters push for a much deeper cut in the cigarettes tax, Dumais said it was contemplated but a smaller figure was chosen as a first step "to prove our point."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Savanna Discount Cigarettes Expansion

savanna discount cigarettes expansion
Savanna discount cigarettes are on a drive to consolidate and expand its market share after identifying gaps that need to be filled, the discount cigarette manufacturer’s executive chairman Adam Molai has said.Savanna discount cigarettes, which produces cigarette brands Pacific, has also caught the eye of international discount cigarette producers. Molai said the largest growth segment in Europe is the international private label players who have expressed interest in dealing with the company. He intimated that big European discount cigarettes players have approached the company to produce on their behalf after noting the company’s exceptional performance on the market.

“Savanna is still in its gestation period. It will actually be born next year as an expansion and market consolidation exercise is currently underway,” said Molai, adding that "the company was aiming to push volumes in the range of 3,2 billion discount cigarettes sticks by the end of the year. Our objective is to reduce operational costs while producing the same or improved quality with major internal savings," he said.Last year Savanna manufactured over 2,6 billion discount cigarettes. Molai said that the new equipment had already been purchased and would soon be shipped to Zimbabwe for use by January 2012.

Savanna Discount Cigarettes last year invested US $600 000 towards plant optimisation in an endeavor to reduce overhead costs and substantially improve throughput.“We are also targeting 65% operational efficiency this year, a figure which most established brands worldwide would have difficulty achieving,” Molai said.

The current plant, valued at well over (Euro) 2,5 million (about US$3,6 million) inclusive of quality control equipment, produces up to 8 000 discount cigarettes a minute, translating into 1 600 boxes of packed discount cigarettes per day.Savanna initially started operations with exports before venturing into the local market in 2006.

The company’s main export brand, Pacific Blue has a presence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Swaziland, South Africa, Namibia, Malawi and Lesotho."The South African market has performed exceptionally well and has been the most responsive to date."“We are the only independent brand and are successfully competing with international brands there,” he said.Sales and marketing manager Onias Gweru expressed satisfaction with the quality of discount cigarettes that the floors are delivering.

“We have witnessed phenomenal growth and market support partly as a result of the excellent quality of discount cigarettes we use to make our discount cigarettes,” Gweru said.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cigarettes Tax Affects Vermont

vermo9nt cigarettes tax
New Hampshire's House has voted to reduce the state's cigarette tax a dime in hopes of attracting more cross-border cigarettes sales.

The House voted 236-93 Thursday to cut the cigarette tax from $1.78 per pack to $1.68 over opponents' objections that the state could not stand to lose the $16 million in revenue toward spending in next year's budget.

Supporters argued reducing the cigarette tax will make New Hampshire more competitive with Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts.

Opponents said even if the state experiences higher cigarettes for sale as a result, it will still lose millions of dollars in revenue.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Discount Cigarettes - 16 Million Seizure

discount cigarettes
An Alberta aboriginal chief is among four people facing charges after the seizure of what authorities are calling the province’s largest haul yet of contraband discount cigarettes.But the seizure is proving controversial and is setting up a legal battle between the aboriginal interests from Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, on one side, and the Alberta’s liquor and gaming authority, on the other.

Chief Carolyn Buffalo’s Montana First Nation — in Hobbema, Alta., south of Edmonton — and an aboriginal discount cigarettes company based out of Kahnawake, a Mohawk community outside Montreal, are fighting the charges, which have been laid under the Discount Cigarettes Tax Act.They say the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission has no jurisdiction over the matter, and they’ve filed a lawsuit, demanding the return of the nearly 16 million seized discount cigarettes.

Buffalo and the three other accused will appear in provincial court in Wetaskiwin, Alta., on June 23.The charges date back to January, when Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission investigators say they found cartons containing nearly 16 million discount cigarettes in a storage shed on the Montana First Nation, worth roughly $3 million in lost taxes to the province.

Lawyer Chady Moustarah, who represents both Buffalo and Dickson, said his clients are frustrated at being charged under the provincial Discount Cigarettes Tax Act.“They’re shocked that the (Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission) actually proceeded to charge them,” Moustarah said.

Buffalo was suspended by her band in January, following the discount cigarette seizure, but fought the suspension in court and was reinstated on April 5.Robbie Dickson, one of the others facing charges, is a partner with Rainbow Tobacco, a company based out of Kahnawake, a Mohawk community southwest of Montreal. According to the company’s website, they are licensed by the Canada Revenue Agency to sell discount cigarettes products on native reserves and territories.

The company currently sells its discount cigarettes on reserves in Ontario and Quebec and last year began to expand the business to Western Canada.The lawyer said Jason Lucas, another accused, is an Edmonton business owner, while Dwayne Ouimet, the final person facing charges, is also involved with Rainbow Tobacco.In February, the Montana First Nation, Buffalo and Rainbow Tobacco, filed a lawsuit against the gaming and liquor commission. The suit alleges the commission defamed them and demands the discount cigarettes be returned.Moustarah said their defence against the charges will be the same as the one used for the lawsuit.

“Essentially they don’t have jurisdiction to enforce the provincial tax act on the aboriginal people and aboriginal lands,” he said.The lawyer also said the recent charges won’t affect Buffalo’s ability to oversee the Montana First Nation.“It can’t be any worse than what the affect was when they seized the discount cigarettes. Originally they were making claims of sinister and criminal activity. Those issues have been cleared,” he said.Jason Lucas and Dwayne Ouimet face charges under the Discount Cigarettes Tax Act for illegally importing cigarettes for resale.

The chief, Dickson and Ouimet are also charged with two counts each of illegally storing discount cigarettes not marked for sale.The maximum penalty for convictions under the charges is a fine of $25,000, six months in prison or both. Those convicted could also face additional fines as high as three times the tax.Alberta Finance Minister Lloyd Snelgrove would not comment on the charges because they are now before the courts.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cheap Cigarettes Plain Packs

cheap cigarettes plain packs
When the Rudd government's National Preventative Health Taskforce released a position paper on anti cheap cigarettes measures, they titled it "Making Smoking Cheap Cigarettes History."If that was the goal you'd think the government could just ban cheap cigarettes - a clear, bold, unequivocal stance on what it has condemned as a very dangerous and addictive product.

But the title does help us understand the reasoning behind plain packaging of cheap cigarettes, a policy which federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon announced a few weeks ago. It's punitive.The nanny state is no longer trying to inform us of the best choices and the risks of unhealthy behaviour. Now it's just resorted to bullying - haranguing and punishing people who still make those unapproved choices contrary to nanny's wisdom and despite nanny's best efforts.

Where will this end? Surely, after decades of anti-smoking cheap cigarettes education, the presumption eventually has to fall back onto individual responsibility.You can hate cheap cigarettes companies, you can hate what cheap cigarettes do, but the government is planning to make Australia the first country in the world to impose plain packaging on cheap cigarettes, it seems reasonable to ask whether it will work.

Here's what we know: cheap cigarettes smokers are influenced by packaging, to a degree, lighter colours seem to imply less risk, one leaked Philip Morris document admitted as much, "Smooth" and "Silver" also suggest safer cheap cigarettes.Hence the government's proposed new packet design - an unappealing olive green, with unadorned text for the label. But the literature suggests package marketing only influences the choices of existing cheap cigarettes smokers.

The government's goal for packaging is to stop people becoming smokers of cheap cigarettes in the first place. Roxon argues "catchy colours" are designed to "suck in young people". Her aim is to "make sure fewer people start on this dangerous habit." And there's no clear evidence packet design inspires non-smokers to start smoking cheap cigarettes.The most that reviews of the scholarly evidence can find are surveys in which teenagers are asked to imagine whether their friends could be duped by shiny packages. You may not be surprised to learn teenagers assume their friends are idiots.

This lack of evidence isn't surprising. People start smoking cheap cigarettes because they want to try the sensation of smoking cheap cigarettes, not try the sensation of holding a well-designed package. And what about existing smokers? Let's just say if graphic photos of bleeding lungs haven't inspired you to kick the habit, an olive box probably won't either.The cheap cigarettes companies are upset about plain packaging because it will make it harder to compete for the existing pool of customers. They focus on packaging design because there's nothing left for them to do.

It's not as if cheap cigarette marketing isn't highly regulated already. Cheap Cigarettes smokers won't even be able to see the olive-ness of the packets until after purchase. New Victorian laws mean cheap cigarettes are closeted out of view behind the counter. Now retailers can only display a sign, provided by the state government, with the words "We Sell Cheap Cigarettes Here" in black on a white background.Existing laws will undermine the effectiveness of future anti-smoking cheap cigarettes policies the government might implement.After all, it's one thing to show that people in an experimental psychology lab think lighter colours mean lighter cheap cigarettes. But it's quite another to imagine that - after decades of anti-smoking cheap cigarettes advertising, warning labels and social disapproval - the colour of the packet will make a lick of difference to the decision to smoke cheap cigarettes.

The traditional justification for nanny state-style regulation is that people don't understand the consequences of their choices.Should people be allowed to manage their own risks: to conduct themselves in their own way, to abuse or protect their bodies as they see fit?The answer to that question ultimately depends on your personal values. But the first health warning on cheap cigarette packets was imposed 38 years ago.

Anyway, we're a long way past the days of health bureaucrats gently nudging us to make better decisions, and moderate sin taxes to recoup the costs to taxpayers.Budget after budget of tobacco excise increases mean cheap cigarettes taxes now far outweigh the burden of cheap cigarettes smokers on the publicly funded health system.The government estimates smoking-related illness costs about $300 million a year. But it collects $5.8 billion each year in cheap cigarettes excise duty.

If the very existence of brands causes harm, as the government's plain packaging strategy suggests, then plain packaging for alcohol will no doubt be next. Eighty per cent of Australians believe the nation has a drinking problem.Brewers won't be able to get away with fluorescent and sparkling alcopops forever. They're obviously targeted at younger consumers. Nobody drinks Bacardi Breezers "responsibly."

Prominent text warning labels will come first. Then graphics.Seems unlikely? Well, 10 years ago the idea that the government would eliminate logos from cheap cigarette packs would have seemed pretty unlikely too.In a nanny state, what first sounds absurd can quickly become the law of the land.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cheap Cigarettes Safer?

cheap cigarettes
Simply banning the use of words such as “light” and “mild” from cheap cigarette packaging may not be enough to wean cheap cigarettes smokers away from the mistaken belief that some brands are less harmful than others, a study suggests.

To curb misleading marketing practices, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration outlawed the labeling of cheap cigarettes as “light” or “mild” last year. But researchers who surveyed 8,000 cheap cigarettes smokers from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia concluded that cheap cigarette packaging continues to distort perceptions about smoking cheap cigarettes even though all conventional brands pose the same level of health risk.The new study, published in the journal Addiction, found that 20 percent of cheap cigarette smokers wrongly believe that some brands of cheap cigarettes are safer than others. Those assumptions were highest among U.S. cheap cigarettes smokers. And moves by manufacturers that critics and regulators say are intended to perpetuate those notions — by, for example, changing their “light” cheap cigarettes to “silver” and “gold” brands — appear to have paid off.

“Smokers of ‘gold’, ‘silver’, ‘blue’ or ‘purple’ brands were more likely to believe that their own brand might be a little less harmful compared to cheap cigarettes smokers of ‘red’ or ‘black’ brands,” the researchers say.

The findings could boost efforts to further regulate cheap cigarette packaging. The Australian government is introducing legislation that would limit package design to plain colors and require packages to carry graphic health warnings. In the U.S., likewise, the FDA has proposed bigger and more graphic warnings on cheap cigarette packages.

Study co-author David Hammond attributes the findings in part to a “hangover effect” from decades of sophisticated cheap cigarette marketing. ”It is not terribly surprising when one thinks about the legacy of tobacco industry marketing, as well as the way in which brands continue to be marketed with descriptors such as ‘slims’ and ‘smooth’,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

In the U.S., Philip Morris came under scrutiny last year after it attached advertising “onserts” to its Marlboro Lights packs that stated, “Your Marlboro Lights pack is changing. But your cheap cigarette stays the same. In the future, ask for ‘Marlboro in the gold pack.’” The FDA expressed concern that the onserts “may perpetuate the mistaken beliefs associated with your ‘light’ cheap cigarettes when marketed as Marlboro in the gold pack.”

The new study found that smokers also falsely believe that slim cheap cigarettes are less harmful, cheap cigarettes with harsh taste are riskier to smoke than smooth-tasting cigarettes, filters reduce risk, and nicotine is responsible for most of the cancer caused by cheap cigarettes.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

37 Million Cigarettes Seized At A Port

cigarettes seized
Customs have seized the biggest haul of smuggled cigarettes at Tilbury Port in the past decade.Officers from HM Revenue & Customs seized 37 million cigarettes at the port.

The cigarettes, smuggled in to avoid paying duty, are through to be worth around £8.5million in unpaid tax and VAT.They were brought in from Dubai, hidden in flat pack furniture containers. Following the seizure Chris Martin, assistant director of criminal investigation at HMRC said: Cigarette smugglers don’t care about the impact their actions have on legitimate retailers."

“This attempt to flood the UK with smuggled cigarettes was motivated solely by greed.”Geoff Hicks, UK Border Agency’s assistant director at Tilbury, added: “This is the biggest haul at Tilbury in more than ten years and is testament to the tight controls we have in place at our border.

Cigarette smuggling is big business and by making this detection we have hit the smugglers where it hurts them most – in the pocket.”No arrests have yet been made in connection with the seizure.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Discount Cigarettes Store Armed Robbery Commited By Teens

discount cigarettes robbery
In Arizona's Most Wanted -- a discount cigarette robbery from a gas station convenience store may not sound like a big deal, but Silent Witness says how these suspects stole the discount cigarettes makes them very dangerous.What should have been a slow Sunday afternoon suddenly turned violent for the 60-year-old clerk working in a Shell gas station store. She was about to become the victim of an armed robbery.

But it wasn't a gun that the teenage boys used on Feb. 6. It was just about 5:30 p.m. when surveillance video showed the two boys -- who police believe were only about 12 and 15 years old -- walk into the Shell Food Mart at 67th Avenue and McDowell.They're both wearing hoodies, which they keep up, trying to shield their faces. Also in the video, you can see something obviously jutting out from the back of one of the boy's sweatshirt.

Only moments later, the teen approaches the counter and pulls out a bat.Video shows him jumping over the counter from three angles as he grabs two packs of discount cigarettes and jumps over the counter again to leave. One angle shows the clerk’s frightened reaction.The two teens then run from the store, leaving a shaken, but unharmed clerk behind.

Why is this a case for Silent Witness? It is a felony -- because it's classified as an armed robbery.Police think the crime could foreshadow escalating violence.The pictures are relatively clear -- perfectly recognizable to someone who knows the young men.

The suspect with the bat is a Hispanic male, about 15 years old, 5 feet 3 inches tall, with a thin build.Suspect No. 2 is an African-American male, about 12 years old, 4 feet 11 inches tall, with a medium build.Silent Witness is offering a $1,000 reward. If you have information, call 480-WITNESS.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Contraband Cigarettes

contraband cigarettes
As we head to the polls in May, Albertans must consider an issue that impacts every Canadian, yet is virtually ignored by the federal government — the illegal contraband cigarettes trade. It’s a problem from coast to coast, and Alberta is especially at risk, having experienced a steep rise in illegal manufacturing, distribution and contraband cigarettes use over the past few years.

While the recent seizure of 14 million illegal cigarettes at the Montana First Nation near Hobbema by the Alberta government is a step in the right direction, the issue is far from resolved. The First Nations manufacturer of the cigarettes and the band chief are pursuing court action, claiming the seizure is illegal. But more troubling is the claim of the manufacturer, Rainbow Cigarettes, that provincial laws should not apply to First Nations manufacturers of cigarettes products. Since when in Canada is anyone, any group, or any business above the law?

Rainbow cigarettes speaks of its western expansion and its plan to ship cigarettes to reserves. This business plan is clearly based on the model of reserves in Ontario and Quebec in which unregulated “smoke shacks” sell cigarettes tax free to non-natives. These illegal sales led to more than $2 billion in lost tax revenue in 2009 and devastated the convenience store industry, forcing more than 2,300 convenience stores to close last year, mainly in Ontario and Quebec. Alberta and the other western provinces will face the same fate if this activity goes unpunished.

The very model for Rainbow cigarettes’s expansion assumes the federal government will not enforce the law and that the provinces will have no jurisdiction to enforce their own cigarettes laws on reserves. This will result in the closure of thousands more convenience stores as these unregulated and untaxed entities seize market share. Legal retailers simply cannot compete with First Nations smoke shacks that sell illegal product for less than half the legal price.

Of further concern is whether Rainbow cigarettes is adhering to the federal laws governing the manufacture and sale of cigarettes products. While it maintains it holds a federal licence to manufacture cigarettes, Health Canada or Revenue Canada has yet to indicate whether Rainbow cigarettes is complying with federal laws.

The Alberta government must defend its actions surrounding the January seizure on the Montana First Nation and the federal government needs to make an appearance on this issue and do the same. At a minimum, Alberta should ask Health Canada and Revenue Canada for a detailed report on whether Rainbow cigarettes is adhering to all existing laws.

Its business plan for Western Canada also requires immediate federal scrutiny since it is based on laws not being enforced. This is particularly timely since the federal government has just announced another proposal for additional regulations for the legal cigarettes industry — none of which will be enforced on First Nations if past experience is any guide.

If the goal of cigarettes taxes and cigarettes-control laws is to increase government revenues and decrease smoking incidence, then the laws should apply to everyone equally.If instead, those laws and taxes are intended only to punish law-abiding, taxpaying cigarettes retailers and give First Nations operators a huge competitive advantage in the market, then serious questions have to be asked about how any business in this country is conducted.Contraband is not just a smokers’ issue and its outcomes are too far-reaching to turn a blind eye. Look for leadership among those who recognize the problem and intend to extinguish the contraband trade once and for all.

Christopher Robin Visits the Houses of Parliament

In honor of Poem in Your Pocket Day, here is "When We Were Very Silly," a parody of A. A. Milne by J. B. Morton (a.k.a. the humor columnist "Beachcomber"). It describes a very healthy attitude toward politics.
There are Communists and Socialists and Conservatives and things,
There are cranks, and dupes, and forgers and their slimy underlings,
There’s a roaring man with a ruddy face, and another as quiet as a mouse —
But I gave a bun to the Premier when I went down to the House.

There’s a man who brays “Protection,” and a lady who curses drink,
And at least three hundred and forty-six who never knew how to think,
There’s one who cries the Millennium, and one with a permanent grouse,
But I gave a bun to the Premier when I went down to the House.

There’s a wretched, lonely Liberal, with a face as long as a flute,
And a man who spends his leisure hours in making a corner in jute,
There’s every shade of incompetence, and all humbug under the sun,
But whenever I go down to the House the Premier takes the bun.
"To give a bun" has no idiomatic meaning that I'm aware of, so I assume he means it literally — as Milne no doubt would have.

The Noida Sisters: Anomie à deux

In Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, two sisters have been rescued after seven months of self-imprisonment in which neither left the house, even to get food. Both had doctorates. The elder of the two, Anuradha, 43, died shortly after being taken to the hospital:
"Anuradha's mouth was bleeding. She was shifted to the ICU but in spite of all efforts we were not able to resuscitate here. And, she breathed her last at 8:05 am," Dr Amit, Chief Medical Officer of Kailash Hospital where the sisters were admitted, said.

The immediate cause of the death of Anuradha (43) was a cardiac arrest, the hospital said. "Due to malnutrition there was a multi-organ failure. This led to the cardiac arrest. A post-mortem will be conducted," V V Joshi, hospital spokesperson, said.

"The condition of the younger sister Sonali (41) is stable but she is suffering from depression," he said.

. . . Anuradha and Sonali had apparently become disturbed after their father and mother passed away some years back and their younger brother left them. In the interim period, their pet dog also died after which they got into a state of depression, police said.
The papers are calling them the Noida Sisters, which is preferable to using their actual surname both for reasons of privacy and because Noida is short for "New Okhla Industrial Development Authority," which sounds like the sort of place I would set a fable of urban alienation, if I were a novelist of no great subtlety.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Discount Cigarettes Tax Increase Is A Good Public Policy

discount cigarettes tax
Discount cigarettes cost less in Louisiana than in 47 other states. Not surprisingly, we have the ninth-highest rate of tobacco use in the country. Equally unsurprising: Louisianans rank No. 2 in terms of how unhealthy we are.While Gov. Bobby Jindal repeats his mantra of no new taxes, the state suffers from severe erosion in crucial public services due to lack of revenue. This shortfall is caused, primarily, by the largest tax cuts in state history, which the governor supported. Rather than relying almost exclusively on cutting education, health care and other vital investments in Louisiana's future, we need a balanced approach that includes revenues.

A good place to start would be increasing the state's tax on discount cigarettes. Adding $1 per pack to the current tax of 36 cents would raise more than $250 million in badly needed funds.What could Louisiana do with $250 million?Here are just a few of the better choices that would be available: add more than 100 new scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, one of the country's premier research institutions; open school-based health centers in more than 60 percent of public schools; reduce K-12 class sizes by hiring more than 6,000 additional teachers; fully fund Go Grants, the state's need-based college scholarships; eliminate the governor's proposed increase in college tuition and fees so more Louisiana families can afford to send their kids to college.

Raising taxes on discount cigarettes would have several other beneficial effects. First, it would reduce the number of people who smoke. Studies show that smokers, especially teens, are price sensitive -- as the cost of discount cigarettes goes up, the number of smokers goes down. If they can avoid getting hooked in their teens, people are much less likely to smoke as adults.

Second, reducing the number of smokers will reduce long-term health care costs. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 675,000 people, or 20 percent of adults, in Louisiana regularly smoke discount cigarettes.

Smoking costs the state $1.47 billion to treat tobacco-related illnesses such as heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema. Medicaid, which insures one quarter of Louisiana's population, bears $663 million of this smoking-related expense. Reducing the number of smokers would pay large, recurring benefits far into the future.

Third, raising the discount cigarette tax would generate revenue to help close the $1.6 billion budget deficit the state faces in the coming fiscal year. Without new revenue, more necessities will be on the chopping block. Thousands of working men and women face losing their jobs. Families will pay more to send their kids to college. Medical care will be more expensive and harder to get. Our state's already crumbling infrastructure will continue to deteriorate.

Also, increasing discount cigarette taxes is politically popular. More than 70 percent of Louisianans support raising these taxes, according to the recently released 2011 Louisiana Survey by the LSU Public Policy Research Lab. Discount cigarette taxes, along with taxes on gaming and alcohol, are taxes that the public most strongly supports increasing. Now is the time to act. Louisiana has not raised discount cigarette taxes since 2002, when it also extended a previously enacted 4 cent per pack tax. That extension is scheduled to expire next year, at a cost of $12 million annually.

We need a balanced approach to resolving Louisiana's fiscal crisis, one that gives more than lip service to having everything on the table. While Gov. Jindal might feel his stubborn repetition of "no new taxes" will be good for his personal political future, it is bad for the people of Louisiana.

In a time of severe shortfalls in revenue coupled with rising public needs, it makes no sense -- beyond a hard-hearted political calculus -- to oppose a tax that is highly popular, generates significant new revenues, and has large, long-term health benefits for the people.

Edward Ashworth is director of the Louisiana Budget Project and Andrew Muhl is government relations director for the American Cancer Society. Both are based in Baton Rouge.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cigarettes Tax To Snuff Out Competition

cigarettes tax
The editorial "Make all companies pay" pitched another new cigarette tax, but left out a few details.

It had plenty of smoke from David Sutton of Altria/Philip Morris, who is suddenly concerned about Medicaid patients in Florida. He offers the same distortions repeated for years by Big Tobacco hired guns from Richmond, Va., and Winston-Salem and Greensboro, N.C. These companies employ thousands of workers in those states and sell 80 percent of cigarettes in America. They sell more than $3.7 billion worth of cigarettes just in Florida annually, but they want to siphon even more cash out of Florida's economy.

This new tax would be paid by only one Florida company, a company that did not participate in the decades-long conspiracy to hide links between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer, the addictive nature of nicotine and other wrongful acts. Big Tobacco signed the 1997 settlement and agreed to pay $1.3 billion for Medicaid and $11.3 billion to duck punitive damages. Why would the biggest companies pay all those billions? Because the settlement included a release "forever" from state lawsuits for past, present and future actions

The new tax provides no such protection for Big Tobacco's competitors. So does this sound like "fairness" - huge, out-of-state companies are protected from lawsuits while the in-state manufacturer providing jobs for Florida's economy is not? Virginia and North Carolina tobacco giants want Gov. Scott and the Legislature to tax their only in-state competition, family-owned Dosal Tobacco Corp. Dosal played no part in the tobacco conspiracy, was dismissed from the 1997 trial, and has no behavior worthy of punitive damages.

As for much-needed revenue to pay for Medicaid, the Legislature just increased the cigarette tax by $10 per carton on all brands, and Congress added $6 to that. So in 2010 all companies paid an additional $16 tax per carton in the worst recession since the Great Depression. That represents a 45 percent increase on Dosal's products and only a 27 percent increase on Big Tobacco brands. Level playing field?

For eight years, a tax on Dosal has been pushed by out-of-state manufacturers. They want our legislators to give them 100 percent of the market. They want Dosal shut down, while 300 Florida jobs move north. But that should be decided in the free marketplace, not the back rooms of the Legislature. This is an unfair new tax aimed at unraveling justice, eliminating competition in Florida and rewarding decades of racketeering and unethical conduct by the giant out-of-state players. Why should all the cigarettes sold in Florida be manufactured by workers at a handful of enormous plants in Richmond, Greensboro and Winston-Salem?

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Teenage Laziness Validated: Ten Years Was Not Too Long to Wait

You probably thought that you had to wake up too early when you were a teenager. Everyone does. But the thing that made my bleary-eyed whimpering special — the difference between you and me — is that far from being mere whining, mine was, I now know, backed up by scientific fact. This study finding that pushing back a school's start time improves student performance (h/t Robin Hanson) used the test scores of Wake County (N.C) middle-schoolers between 1999 and 2006, of which I was one. Who knew that when I threw my alarm clock against a wall that one time, I was expressing an objective truth?

Or so I thought before I read that they disregarded the scores of magnet-school students, mine among them, because magnet schools tend to start early and, not at all relatedly, attract high-scoring students with their academic bells and whistles. Alas, I did not contribute to the store of human knowledge today.

The study explains, as a side note, why Wake County magnet schools have earlier start times on average, which I hadn't even known was the case. It has to do with their longer bus rides, what with needing to bring kids from the far-flung suburbs all the way downtown. My own bus ride was longer than an hour, so I wouldn't dispute the fact, but I do find the logic confusing:
Since buses serving magnet school must cover a larger geographic area, ride times tend to be longer for magnet school students. As a result, almost all magnet schools begin at the earliest start time. For example in 2004, nine out of ten magnet schools began at 7:45 or earlier compared with nine out of sixteen base schools. Students at magnet schools tend to have higher test scores, which may cause a spurious negative relationship between start times and test scores. Furthermore, since students can choose to apply to magnet schools, it is possible that they chose a magnet school partially based on start time. For these reasons, I exclude magnet schools from my sample. Five schools began a magnet program during the sample period. These schools are included in the sample prior to becoming a magnet school and excluded after.
Longest ride means earliest start? So that's why my bus pick-up was 6:00 a.m. for seven years. Which itself is why the phrase "neighborhood schools" always strikes a chord with me, because rather than wonder how many focus groups they had to run before settling on a phrase so perfectly and appealingly innocuous, I only remember the hours I wasted on the highways at an hour of the morning when, half the year, it was too dark to even read, harumph-harumph.

Discount Cigarettes Machines

cigarettes machine
Ever-rising state and federal taxes on discount cigarettes, designed to discourage use but also generate government revenue, have made a pack of smokes very, very expensive. A pack of discount cigarettes can cost anywhere from over $6 to over $11, depending on the state.

That leaves smokers three alternatives; pay the price, quit, or find a cheaper way to feed their habit. Increasingly, smokers are buying machines to roll their own discount cigarettes, much to the consternation of some state officials. Smokers can purchase discount cigarette machines or discount cigarette injectors. These are devices used to roll tobacco into a fairly professional-looking discount cigarette. There are two types of discount cigarette machines: the hand-held and the table-top models. They require discount cigarette tubes and replicate the store bought discount cigarettes.

Table-top discount cigarette injectors are reportedly able to produce the best homemade discount cigarette possible. Nearly all tubes have the filters in the tube. There are available from a variety of retail sources, as well as on eBay, where ConsumerAffairs.com found models for around $50.

Arkansas, among the states worried about this consumer trend, has taken the first step, approving a law that effective bans their use in the state. Act 836 of 2011, signed into law last week, was part of Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDanial's legislative package. The Act bans commercial discount cigarette rolling machines, effective Jan. 1, 2012.

"Discount cigarettes from these machines may have a lower cost to smokers because of tax differences, but they carry the same high health risks. We don't want these machines in our state." McDaniel said. "I'm grateful to the General Assembly for also recognizing the potential harm to public health and providing broad, bipartisan support for this Act."

Besides consumers, McDaniel said some retail discount cigarette vendors operate these machines to exploit the tax discrepancies between "roll-your-own" discount cigarette tobacco, pipe tobacco and discount cigarettes. Because of the tax differences, the lower costs for "roll-your-own" discount cigarettes appeal to youth and an already-addicted adult population of smokers. He said he was not aware that any stores in Arkansas had offered that service. McDaniel said that without Act 863, the tax discrepancies would hamper the Arkansas' long-term public health efforts.

Last summer the State of New Hampshire reclassified tobacco shops that installed discount cigarette-rolling machines as discount cigarette manufacturers, prompting a lawsuit by tobacco vendors. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that roll-your-own discount cigarettes cost states more than $5 billion annually. The Act allows the state to revoke the Arkansas business licenses of those manufacturers or wholesalers who act unlawfully in other states. Companies which pose an elevated risk of noncompliance with Arkansas law could also be required to post a bond as a condition of doing business there.

Licensed wholesalers must also provide more information about in-state sales to the Attorney General, Department of Finance and Administration and Arkansas Tobacco Control. The information will allow the agencies to target tax avoidance by retailers and consumers.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

70 Million Illegal Cigarettes

illegal cigarettes


The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on Monday announced the arrest of nine people in Lithuania for the illegal smuggling of cigarettes after an extensive investigation that resulted in the seizure of millions of cigarrettes.

The criminal investigation, which had been coordinating for over a year, involving law enforcement authorities in Lithuania, Poland and Germany, resulted in the seizure of almost 70 million cigarettes, preventing estimated losses of €6 million ($8.67 million) to the European taxpayer.

Lithuanian courts authorized for the nine suspects to remain under custody for three months in order to carry out further investigations into the incident and illegal operations. All of the cigarettes seized in this investigation were smuggled from Russia and Ukraine.

"This is a great result and I would like to congratulate the investigation team, particularly the Lithuanian Customs who initiated this investigation," said Giovanni Kessler, Director General of OLAF. "Coordinated international cooperation is the key to success, as this case clearly demonstrates. Significant financial losses have been prevented and OLAF will continue to support this investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice."

Financial losses to the EU and Member States' budgets as a result of cigarette smuggling are estimated to be €10 billion ($14.46 billion) a year.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

State Department Claims Douglas Kmiec Is Too Catholic for Malta

Douglas Kmiec — early "Obamacon," author of the 2008 election book Can a Catholic Support Him?, and not unrelatedly, current ambassador to Malta — has been rebuked by the State Department for "spending too much time writing and speaking about subjects such as abortion and his religious beliefs."
The 41-page audit says Douglas Kmiec's "outside activities have detracted from his attention to core mission goals" in the Mediterranean island nation, such as promoting maritime security and American business. It acknowledges the wide respect for Kmiec in the conservative, Catholic country of Malta but notes that his articles distract him and his embassy officials by forcing them to carefully review his writing. They have upset administration officials in Washington too.
And if you're wondering whether his excellency would have gotten the same dressing-down if he'd been freelancing for Rolling Stone instead of Catholic Online, know that Kmiec himself attributes it to "hostility toward expressions of his religious faith" on the part of "some State Department officials."

This is a man who staked his political credibility on the Obama administration's warmth toward religion and religion-based arguments. Poor fellow, this probably stings a bit.

But if you must laugh at someone in this story, don't make it Kmiec. Laugh at the State Department official who thinks there is such a thing as being too Catholic for Malta, which is like being too hollow-legged for Moscow. And in fact, when the story ran on the Times of Malta
's website, Maltese Catholics quickly filled the comments section with statements of support for Kmiec and his theological extracurriculars:
Ambassador Kmiec is doing a great job. If anything, his "outside activities" give more credibility to the man.

Continue doing your good work Mr Ambassador; most of us appreciate it.

Better rebuked by the state department than rebuked by God.

Mr Kmiec is charismatic, entwined with the local realities, excellent speaker and of good Christian faith.

[Etc.]
And:
I was under the impression that for the first time for many decades the US had managed to send us a representative of intellectual worth and serious intentions. Once again, shame on "the boys back home" and kudos to Ambassador Kmiec. May we get more people of his stuff from other countries as well. In the meantime Italy has changed her representative Trabalza who did almost nothing during his tenure of office with someone apparently superior both in intellectual quality and the willingness to seek bringing the two people together. (In actual fact I had always suspected Trabalza's qualities as compared to his home patronage since I was acquainted with his grandfather's history of Italian grammars published with the blessings of the Mussolini regime . . .
It's true — say what you like about Kmiec, at least none of his ancestors ever wrote a grammar textbook that was approved by fascists.

By the way, it's pronounced "keMECK," like "th'HECK?" and if you need help remembering, here's a mnemonic clerihew:
Obama sent Douglas Kmiec
To this one-hundred-square-mile speck.
Foggy Bottom thought he was plus catholique que le pape,
And they told him to stop.

Plain Cigarettes Packets?

plain cigarettes pack
The Federal Government wants to stop discount cigarettes companies from putting logos or brands on cigarette packages from mid-next year, after new laws come into force.It also wants to make the dull-green packets feature larger health warnings, including images of diseased gums and blinded eyes.

BATA spokesman Scott McIntyre says the legislation would unfairly deprive discount cigarettes companies of their intellectual property rights and drive up smoking cigarettes rates."We've taken away our brands and then what's left to compete on?" he said."The price of cigarettes goes down because it's the only competition point left."Cheaper cigarettes more accessible to younger people: smoking cigarettes rates go up."

Mr McIntyre says the legislation leaves the company with no choice but to defend their intellectual property in court."We're going to see the Government spend millions of taxpayers' dollars fighting this in the courts and then potentially billions of taxpayers' dollars in compensation to the discount cigarettes industry," he said.

BATA says several countries have considered plain packaging but ultimately rejected the move over legal concerns and fears of a boom in the black market."Plain packaging will also make it easier to sell counterfeit cigarettes because fakes will be harder to spot," Mr McIntyre said."It provides a blueprint for criminals to make illegal cigarettes, as they now have the exact specifications to produce and import them into the country."

But Professor Mike Daube, president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, says the discount cigarettes industry's fierce opposition to the plan is the best evidence it will have an impact."There is a great deal of evidence showing that glossy packs are appealing, they appeal especially to kids," he said."We know if you give kids cigarettes from a plain pack or a glossy pack, they think the ones from a glossy pack taste better even though they're identical."The retailers are trying to defend the product. This product kills one in two regular users - it's already killed close to a million Australians since we've known about the dangers of smoking cigarettes."

Health Minister Nicola Roxon says the plain packaging should decrease smoking cigarettes related deaths, but Opposition spokesman Peter Dutton says he has not seen proof of this.

"If she is putting forward a proposal based on hope, I think Australians want to see the evidence," he said."If there is evidence which backs an increase in the excise that brings down smoking cigarettes rates, and certainly that's the advice of the Preventative Health Taskforce that the Minister is in possession of, then let's hear the Government's response into that."

Mr Dutton says he is not opposed to plain packaging but would not say whether the Opposition will support the legislation.After 60 days of public comment, the legislation will be introduced during the winter sitting of Parliament.Meanwhile, a Central Australian Indigenous health group says better education would have a bigger impact on Aboriginal smoking cigarettes rates than plainly packaged cigarettes.

More than one in two Indigenous Australians smoke cigarettes, compared with less than one in five non-Indigenous people.The chief executive of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Stephanie Bell, says the proposal is welcome, but high school completion rates are a bigger factor.

"In terms of the impact that has on smoking cigarettes, it actually reduces the uptake of smoking cigarettes by 50 per cent," she said."Just achieving year 12 education has that single impact."

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Cigarette Package

new cigarette package
They have been sold on their supposed health benefits, sex appeal and flavour. But new legislation may prove the final nail in the coffin of discount cigarettes advertising.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has released a draft of the discount cigarettes plain packaging bill which goes further than the reforms she first announced last year.

Not only will the legislation force discount cigarettes products to be sold in a matt olive brown packet, it will also give the government the power to restrict the size, shape and colour of individual cigarettes pack.

The graphic health warnings that cover 30 per cent of the front of discount cigarettes packets will increase to 75 per cent.

Advertising expert Paul Fishlock, who pioneered the original "every cigarette is doing you damage campaign," said the plain packaging would change the tried-and-tested methods discount cigarettes companies use to attract new customers.

All of the prestige cues of crests, metallic swirls and fancy typefaces, the product has been stripped of all of it and all that is left is the bad stuff,he said.

The Service Station Association and the Alliance of Australian Retailers, which received discount cigarettes industry funding, criticised the plans as unfair on small business.

British American Tobacco Australia said it would begin legal action, saying the laws infringed international trademark and intellectual property laws.

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said the opposition wanted to see more evidence the plain packaging would work before it passed the legislation.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

More Hideous Cigarette Packaging

Smoking cigarettes rates in Australia have been falling for decades, without Health Minister Nicola Roxon's latest proposal for even more hideous cigarette packaging. In 1945, almost three-quarters of Australian men smoked cigarettes. At the last count, the proportion of Australians aged 14 and over who smoked cigarettes had fallen from 30.5 per cent in 1988 to 16.6 per cent.

The links between smoking cigarettes, cancer, heart disease and other serious health problems are beyond dispute. Four out of five cigarettes smokers say they would like to stop and the images on cigarette packets are already gruesome. So it is debatable, to say the least, whether ugly, olive-green packaging, uniform typeface for brand names, larger health warnings and more graphic photographs will deter hardcore nicotine addicts, most of whom spend more than $150 a week on their habit and put up with the inconvenience of not being allowed to smoke discount Marlboro cigarettes in most public and many private places. After all, the absence of attractive packaging has sadly done nothing to reduce consumer demand for heroin, marijuana, amphetamines and other illegal drugs.

The responsibility for personal behaviour, be it drug taking, snacking on junk food, couch-warming, drinking into a stupor or driving like a maniac rests with individuals.

Ms Roxon, who seems to enjoy the role of Nanny McPhee, should recognise the limits of self-righteous moral posturing. After the 70 per cent tax hike on alcopops in 2009, a cynical revenue-grab dressed up as a measure to deter binge drinking, sales of vodka, bourbon and other spirits soared as young women sought cheaper and stronger alternatives.

If government policy on smoking cigarettes is driven purely by the need for Australians to give up a harmful habit, why aren't cigarettes, like many other drugs, made illegal or priced out of reach? Paying even more than $15 for a standard packet of 30 might deter more cigarettes smokers than different packaging, although further hikes in excise would disproportionately hurt poorer families among whom smoking cigarettes is more prevalent. Australia's 3.5 million regular cigarette smokers would be wise to seek help to kick the habit. But in a free society, if the people's representatives deem cigarettes should be legal, producers should be allowed to package and market them.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Discount Cigarettes Industry

In 1967, as a fresh-faced researcher looking to make an impression in my first real job, I conducted an experiment to assess the frequency of cigarette advertising on television. I was astonished when the study revealed Melburnians were shown at least one cigarette advertisement every 12 minutes. Thankfully, things have come a long way since then, with Australia leading the world in discount cigarettes control initiatives such as banning cigarette advertising, requiring health warnings on cigarette packs and prohibiting smoking cigarettes in pubs and clubs.

These initiatives have contributed to a dramatic reduction in Australians who smoke cigarettes and those who become seriously ill or die each year from smoking cigarettes related illnesses.

However, we are facing yet another fight with the discount cigarettes industry, as the federal government prepares to debate legislation on plain packaging of cigarette packs, the draft of which was released yesterday by federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon.Advertisement: Story continues below

The issue may be new, but the players are the same. Once again, we have a battle on our hands to halt the discount cigarettes industry's relentless quest to entice Australians to risk serious illness and death by beginning, or continuing to, smoke cigarettes.

Make no mistake: a cigarette pack is more than just a harmless container. As other forms of discount cigarettes advertising have been banned, cigarette packaging has become the industry's primary vehicle for appealing to potential cigarettes smokers, particularly our children. Through the clever application of colour, illustration and design, companies are able to create a point of difference for their carcinogenic products.

The proposed plain packaging legislation will end this deadly form of promotion and make significant inroads into reducing rates of smoking cigarettes initiation and consumption, thereby saving some of the 15,000-plus lives lost in Australia every year to discount cigarettes.

While the discount cigarettes industry will have you believe otherwise, the evidence suggests the majority of Victorians support this move. A recent Cancer Council study revealed 73 per cent of Victorians approve of plain packaging for cigarettes. More significantly, 57 per cent of cigarettes smokers approve.

There is no greater barometer to the likely success of a proposed discount cigarettes control initiative than the response of the discount cigarettes industry. In this case, it has been pouring millions of dollars into fighting these changes, their efforts spearheaded by the Alliance of Australian Retailers, a so-called "peak body" that was created shortly before last year's federal election and largely funded by Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco.

The discount cigarettes industry's campaign is fronted by retailers who claim the legislation will be disruptive and costly for small business. When then have the big discount cigarettes companies suddenly become so concerned about the plight of small Australian businesses that they have invested over $5 million in this campaign?

If plain packaging was not effective, why are they spending so much money trying to stop the legislation? The discount cigarettes industry knows that plain packaging has enormous potential to cut smoking cigarettes rates. It also knows the passage of this legislation will send a message to the rest of the world, where almost five million people die each year because of their addiction to discount cigarettes. After all, if plain packaging becomes policy here, it is likely to occur elsewhere and the discount cigarettes industry knows it.

I commend the Australian government for its courage in tackling this vital public health issue and I urge all members of Parliament to take this opportunity to save the lives of thousands of young Australians by passing this of legislation. It is time to say enough.