Banning Blends

While doing research about the Turkish tobacco farmers I discovered that the WHO (World Health Organisation) is trying to ban blended cigarettes!

You should first read about the plight of the farmers when privatization was introduced.

I came across this article about the WHO wanting to ban blended cigarettes.

“According to a recent press release by the Aegean Tobacco Exporters’ Union, the WHO is taking action against the use of blended tobacco in cigarettes because of the additives in these products, in line with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. 

Within the frame work of the provisioned regulation, oriental tobacco blends may be totally banned as the organization aims to stop “input material” in cigarette production.”

As far as I am aware there is an argument that additives used to manufacture mild cigarettes has been blamed for increasing the chances of cancer. I was not aware that additives used in blending is also a cause.

However, let us consider the economics of this.

In the chapter about the plight of the farmers  I explained that when the import of Western cigarettes was legalized the Turkish consumption of Turkish tobacco decreased causing great hardship. The international demand for Turkish tobacco remained unchanged.

If the WHO bans the blending of tobacco what will happen?

There will be two types of cigarettes: Virginia and Turkish.

Turkish tobacco is very harsh, which is why it is blended with other leaves. So it is fair to assume that the 100% Turkish brands will not have much market share.

Who wins: USA tobacco farmers!

Who looses: Turkish tobacco farmers! (But then, they are Muslim??)

 

As mentioned in My Visit to Turkey Turkish farmers are not the only that will be affected by this WHO measure. Greece and Bulgaria are also producers of oriental tobacco. Fortunately for the WHO the USA is not an important producer of oriental tobacco!

Here is a more recent (Sept 2012) update on the WHO’s moves. Interesting that the only real mention of this far reaching intended bans is really only covered in a Turkish paper.

 

The first quote above mentions the  Framework Convention on Tobacco Control .

Because I have not heard of this intended ban on blended cigarettes I thought the WHO will tell me what this is about.

The home page for the WGO’s FTCT does not help much because it tells me that the FCTC is aimed at controlling the illicit trade in cigarettes (smuggling)

“The Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, adopted by the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in November 2012 in Seoul, was opened for signature in a ceremony at WHO Headquarters on 10 January 2013. By the end of the first two days in Geneva, 13 Parties had signed the Protocol.”

No mention about blended cigarettes.

Now think about the situation in South Africa – for example. There is a big illicit cigarette market in South Africa. The cigarette companies (BAT) runs public advertising campaigns warning people to not buy illicit cigarettes (fakes).

This is very understandable: who loses? Firstly the cigarette companies loses income. Secondly the government loses tax income.

Who wins? The consumer gets cheaper cigarettes and these are probably just made by the same companies but in different countries and tax is avoided in both countries.

Whatever, as the Americans say.

BUT WHAT DOES THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION HAVE TO DO WITH ILLICIT CIGARETTES?

I fail to see how smuggled cigarettes impact on people’s health, more than taxed cigarettes.

So I clicked on the ‘Read More’ button.

Here I found:

“More than 50 Parties participated in the event and 12 Parties representing all six regions signed the Protocol on this occasion. These countries are China, France, Gabon, Libya, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey and Uruguay.”

Where is the USA? The country that hosts the WHO and practically runs it, and where Philip Morris has their headquarters.

And the UK? Where British American Tobacco lives.

Let’s take a guess!!

I showed where the cigarette production of the USA goes to, and,of course companies like PM and BAT produces in many other countries. Presumably a lot of this production simply become part of the illicit trade (avoiding tax in neighbouring countries). The manufacturing country still collects tax on the product from production profits – not excise – it is the country where this goes to illicitly that loses income from tax and sales.

 

If the signatory countries sign that they don’t want illicit coming into their country they, presumably, are also saying that they will not allow illicit cigarettes to leave their shores. Still wonder why USA and UK are significantly absent from the signatories?

Here is what the WHO says:

“The new international treaty is aimed at combating illegal trade in tobacco products through control of the supply chain and international cooperation. As a key measure, Parties commit to establishing a global tracking and tracing system to reduce and eventually eradicate illicit trade.”

At this stage in my research I became really concerned. I wanted to read what the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has against blended cigarettes, and I could see nothing about this in their menus.

So I used their search engine for ‘blended’.

It came back with 5 pages. Here is the main one titled “Draft guidelines for the implementation of Articles 9 and 10 of the WHO FCTC – A Backgrounder’

In the first paragraph they are very proud about this.

ƒ The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which came into force on February
27, 2005, is the world’s first international public health treaty, negotiated under the auspices of
the World Health Organization (WHO). Its purpose is to reduce the use of tobacco products
worldwide by putting in place measures to control tobacco demand and supply.

Obviously it is something to be proud of that this is the first ‘international public health treaty’. But,one wonders why this should be about illicit cigarettes (smuggling)? Why not important things like AIDS, infant mortality in third world countries, TB?

What does this have to do with world health.

Yes, it has to do with additives added to cigarettes:

The draft guidelines are not explicit as to the specific kind of prohibition or restriction the
Parties may wish to apply on tobacco product ingredients. It is understood that, as with all
FCTC Guidelines, Parties would have to examine their national market and cultural
specificities to determine how best to apply the guidelines to promote public health.
ƒ In particular, the draft guidelines recommend that certain ingredients that increase the
“attractiveness” of tobacco products be either restricted or prohibited, as a tool to help limit
youth initiation. As evidenced in tobacco manufacturers research documents disclosed to the
public, additives are used in tobacco products to: (1) make the initial smoking experience
more pleasant; (2) encourage experimentation, and (3) make the tobacco smoke less harsh and
mask the smell of second-hand smoke.

There is a  nice ‘out’ for the parties inthat they can duck-and-dive around the ‘local culture’.

The issue here is not blending cigarettes, but the additives that are used.

The next para states:

ƒ Concerns have been expressed regarding the depth of scientific evidence to support a
restriction or prohibition on the use of additives, that such restrictions or prohibitions will
negatively impact tobacco growers and specifically the making of American-Blend Cigarettes

Ah-ha, there you have i. the first main concern mentioned in the document is that such a protocol will influence the sales of American cigarettes. If this is such a ground-breaking international health protocal then why is the first concern mentioned the sales of American blends?

And the next paragraph talks about scientific evidence around blends.

In regards to concerns regarding the lack of evidence, there are numerous literature sources
available that discuss the role of additives in making tobacco products more attractive to users.
For example, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly
Identified Health Risks recently released a pre-consultation opinion on the “addictiveness and
attractiveness of tobacco additives” that lists more than 400 documents as references.

Conspicuous by its absence here is reference to the health effects of these additives.

And then the next paragraph is a text-book situation of political double speak.

On the issue of the potential impact on tobacco growers as a result of restrictions or a
prohibition on additives, the impact is expected to be negligible. A World Bank’s study
(Curbing the Epidemic, 1999) on the impact of tobacco control on world economies found that
activities to reduce tobacco consumption would not result in job losses for the next few
decades, if at all. The WHO’s figures indicate that the number of smokers will unfortunately
continue to increase slightly over the next 30-40 years (The Tobacco Atlas, 2002) as will the
demand for tobacco from growers.

After mentioning that the effect will be negligible on USA tobacco producers the concern goes a bit wider toward the tobacco farmers.

Firstly one then wonders why bother at all to get all the countries to visit Geneva for a conference and why one is so proud about this being the first international treaty.

The effects of not blending tobacco types will have a big economic impact on Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. Just as I have shown the effect to have been in Turkey. But, maybe they don’t count in the World Bank’s report?

And that is the end of the draft document that eventually was signed. Not one word about illicit smuggling of brands!

 

I AM SURE THAT I AM MISSING SOMETHING! PLEASE GO TO THE WHO WEBSITE AND SEE IF YOU CAN FIND WHAT I AM MISSING.

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