From Tobacco Info No. 7 - October 2011
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Ottawa not responsible
Canadian taxpayers will not have to fit the bill for monetary damages and interest payments that provincial governments and victims of tobacco-related diseases will claim in court from the tobacco industry. In a unanimous decision announced on July 29, the nine Supreme Court of Canada judges cleared the federal government of responsibility.
Since the final decision was made, the tobacco companies, aided by the multinationals that own the three largest companies, will now have to defend themselves in court cases alone when hundreds of billions of dollars are claimed in damages, mainly related to cost recovery of health care that provinces had to assume as a result of people falling ill due to smoking. The Government of British Columbia, first set in motion its suit in 1998, and has since been joined by individual suits in BC and Quebec, as well as four other provinces. The tobacco industry wanted to pass blame onto the federal government. The initial court had rejected these claims, but the Court of Appeal of British Columbia accepted, in part, the tobacco industry’s appeal before the Supreme Court of the country put a final and unanimous stop to the industry’s tactics.
Alberta’s Vote for Health
A coalition of prominent health groups is launching the Vote for Health campaign aimed at engaging leadership candidates to help curtail Alberta’s tobacco epidemic, specifically among the youth, where smoking rates remain “disturbingly high”, according to a July press release. The goal is to encourage future party leaders to support tobacco reduction policies. The coalition is targeting leadership candidates from both the Alberta Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties after the province failed to meet its objective of reducing youth smoking rates to 10% by 2009. The smoking rate among Alberta teens aged 12 to 19 was 13% in 2009.
NS and Manitoba target industry
Nova Scotia and Manitoba have announced plans to pursue legal action against Big Tobacco, and are seeking legal counsel.
“We are working with Manitoba to find the right firm that can help our provinces recover healthcare costs incurred over a period of 30 years from the 1950s to the 1980s,” said Nova Scotia Health Minister Ross Landry on June 30. “This matter is about the actual medical evidence and other evidence that shows that the substance is addictive and that there are some issues relating to the tobacco companies’ disclosure of that information. As a result of this, a number of people became addicted and … we can show the correlation between tobacco and our healthcare costs.”
British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador have already filed Medicare cost recovery suits, while Alberta and Quebec have announced their intention to file such a lawsuit.
FDA releases graphic warnings
The Food and Drug Administration released nine new graphic warnings for cigarette packages on June 21, the first new labels in more than two decades in the US. The warnings, which depict the negative health impact of cigarettes, are required to cover at least 50% of every pack of cigarettes sold by mid-2013.
The new labels replace the smaller text-only warnings that have appeared on packages for more than 25 years, and feature jarring images, including a man with a tracheotomy hole and a mouth filled with rotting teeth. They are a result of The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed in 2009. It gave the government authority to regulate the marketing and labelling of tobacco products, which are currently responsible for nearly 450,000 deaths in the US every year. Last fall, the FDA released 36 potential warnings, which featured images such as a mother blowing smoke in her baby’s face and a grey, damaged lung.
United Nations meeting on NCDs
Global leaders will meet in New York from September 19 to 20, 2011 to chart the way forward to address the number one killer accounting for over 63% of deaths in the world today: noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like cancers and chronic respiratory disease.
Four types of noncommunicable diseases – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases – make the largest contribution to mortality in the majority of countries. These four NCDs are largely preventable by means of interventions that tackle four risk factors for NCDs: tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol, and, as a result, people die on average before the age of 60.
This is only the second time in the history of the United Nations that the General Assembly will meet with the participation of Heads of State and Government on an emerging health issue with a major socio-economic impact. Countries are expected to adopt a concise action-oriented Outcome document that will shape the international agenda for generations to come.
WHO launches global report
The World Health Organization (WHO) introduced its Report on Global Tobacco Epidemic 2011, on July 7, the third in a series of periodic reports about the extent and character of the smoking epidemic and measures to stop it. In this edition, the WHO called for more anti-smoking measures, warning that tobacco use could kill a billion people if something isn’t done quickly.
The report was launched in Uruguay as the health organization hoped to highlight that country’s anti-smoking legislation that is now facing a lawsuit by Philip Morris.
Some of the report’s highlights include the importance of large, graphic health warnings on cigarette packs, which currently protect more than a billion people in 19 countries, noting that the size of the warning has an effect. Tobacco advertising saw comprehensive bans passed in Chad, Colombia and Syria. What’s more, 28% of the world’s population, 1.9 billion people in 23 countries, is now exposed to national anti-smoking campaigns.
BAT pays for rights to inhaler
A British inventor has come up with a so-called ‘safer cigarette’: a nicotine inhaler shaped like a cigarette that delivers a dose of the addictive chemical equal to that of a cigarette. Unlike the real things though, it doesn’t contain tobacco or burn when you puff it, so it doesn’t pollute the lungs with 60 carcinogenic substances.
Alex Hearn, the Oxford-educated 28 year old who designed the product, has earned the backing of several wealthy investors, as well as a licensing deal with British American Tobacco (BAT). Hearn is also in talks with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the UK’s version of the FDA, to be allowed to market his nicotine inhaler as a medicinal product. Currently under development, BAT says the inhalers will hit the market within two years.