ASH Daily news for 17 May 2016



  • Court condemns tobacco giant Philip Morris over bid to sue Australia

    An international tribunal has unveiled a secret ruling confirming it rejected a bid by tobacco company Philip Morris to sue Australia over its plain packaging laws, calling the attempt “an abuse of rights”. In the December 2015 ruling the permanent court of arbitration said it had no jurisdiction over the case brought by Philip Morris.

    Philip Morris lodged the challenge with the arbitration court based in The Hague in 2011 after the plain-packaging legislation was passed, using a 1993 trade deal between Australia and Hong Kong as the basis.

    But the permanent court of arbitration found in its unanimous ruling that “the main and determinative, if not sole, reason” for a restructuring of the company as far back as 2005 was to enable it “to bring a claim under the treaty, using an entity from Hong Kong” after it received ample warnings that plain packaging legislation was being considered.

    The court therefore found that Philip Morris’s claims were “inadmissible” and it was “precluded from exercising jurisdiction over this dispute”.

    Source: The Guardian 17 May 2016

  • Ireland: Plans to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products next year stall in the formation of a new Government

    In the first instance of its kind, the Irish Department of Health has admitted that a major government policy has stalled as a direct result of the “unforeseen and unusual” political impasse.

    In a significant admission the department has directly blamed the stalling of the legislation on the 70 day political impasse that preceded the formation of the Fine Gael-Independents partnership government.

    The department has also said it does not yet have a date for when the measures will be dealt with by the Oireachtas. Significantly the delay will create the potential for fresh legal challenges and lobbying exercises by the tobacco industry in a bid to defeat the measures.

    Prior to the plain packaging legislation being passed, the Irish State must meet a deadline of May 20 laid down by the EU. All member states must give effect to the EU Tobacco Products’ Directive, which is designed to cover two-thirds of a pack of cigarettes in graphic health warnings, ban smaller pouches of rolling tobacco and outlaw menthol and slim cigarette products. Failure to meet the deadline this Friday leaves member states open to hefty fines.

    Source: Independent 17 May 2016

  • USA: Supreme Court rejects Philip Morris appeal

    The US Supreme Court on Monday (16th May) refused to hear an appeal by tobacco giant Philip Morris USA which had been ordered to pay $25 million to a man whose wife died of cancer.

    The high court upheld the ruling by the court of appeals in the north western state of Oregon that had cited Philip Morris’ “extreme reprehensibility.”

    Michelle Schwarz who died age 53 had smoked a low-tar cigarette marketed by Philip Morris. Paul Schwarz sued the company, saying it knew smokers of low-tar cigarettes tend to inhale more deeply and hold smoke in their lungs for a longer period of time.

    Source: Mail Online 16 May 2016

  • USA: Billionaire-backed campaign launched to raise California’s tobacco tax

    A campaign to raise California’s cigarette tax by $2 has collected enough signatures to qualify the proposal for the 8th November ballot.

    The Save Lives California coalition has recruited major financial backers in its effort to triple California’s cigarette tax to $2.87 a pack. The coalition believes that such financial support will enable it to stave off challenges from the tobacco industry.

    The tax would also apply to electronic cigarettes and other products with tobacco or nicotine. The measure calls for the proceeds to be spent on Medi-Cal – the state’s version of Medicaid – along with anti-smoking campaigns and medical research.

    Source: Aiken Standard 16 May 2016

  • Ireland: Health Minister reiterates his support for workplace smoking ban as McGrath comes under fire

    Health Minister Simon Harris has said he is committed to tougher anti-smoking laws as Junior Minister for Disability, Finian McGrath, faces criticism for his “personal view” that there should be designated indoor smoking sections in some public spaces.

    Politicians and interest groups were united in their condemnation of Mr McGrath yesterday. Patrick Doorley, chairman of ASH Ireland said the ban had been one of the most progressive and successful pieces of health legislation introduced in recent years.

    “This pro-health legislation has shown the Irish government as international leaders in the fight against tobacco and nicotine addiction. We would be deeply concerned that any consideration might be given to undermining the workplace smoking legislation.”

    See also:
    The Independent: Even tougher anti-smoking laws could be on the way Junior Health Minister stands by ‘personal view’ on smoking in pubs

    Source: The Times 17 May 2016