Calcutta HC raps Bengal govt on tobacco tax

Court was hearing the case between the SEC and the state govt over the issue of notification of dates of panchayat elections, which were initially to be held at the end of May.

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday indirectly criticized the West Bengal government’s decision yesterday to levy a 10 per cent tax on tobacco products to assuage the growing anger of agents and depositors of the Saradha group.

The court was hearing the case between the state election commission and the state government over the issue of notification of dates of panchayat elections, which were initially to be held at the end of May. The government had announced that the polls would be held in two phases under the supervision Money_&_cigsof the state police. The commission proposed that the polls be held in three phases and central forces be deployed.

Subsequently, the election commission dragged the government to court over its decision. In court on Thursday, West Bengal advocate general Bimal Chatterjee argued the state election commission’s claim that 800 companies of central paramilitary forces were necessary for holding elections wasn’t based on ground reality.

“The state election commission should have taken into account the ground realities while asking for 800 companies of armed forces. Why 800 companies, it could be much better if 1,200 companies were deployed. But that costs money,” Chatterjee commented.

To this, the sitting judge Biswanath Samaddar commented, “Nowadays, we often get to see news of new taxes being imposed regularly. If the government can go on levying taxes in this manner, what is stopping it from levying an ‘Election Tax’ to ensure that voters can exercise their right in a free and fair manner? After all, it is the voters who would pay the money to ensure their right.” The judge directed the state to come up with a reply at a later date.

The ongoing legal battle between the state election commission and the Mamata Banerjee government has come as a boon in disguise for the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), as the panchayat election could be indefinitely postponed because of the court case. And that is what the TMC wants, as its party functionaries are worried that the growing anger of the agents and depositors might seriously erode their otherwise solid rural vote bank.

“We have got a much needed breather; the election would not be held before November,” a senior minister of the state government told Business Standard on the condition of anonymity.

The verdict of the panchayat case could be delivered around May-end. The monsoon sets in Bengal in the days after that, which would cause the polls to be postponed till after the winter harvest.

Even after the verdict is given, there is a strong possibility that the affected party would move the Supreme Court. Sujan Chakravorty and Rezzak Molla, both leaders of the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist) agreed that the government would continue to delay the process and would not like to face the electorate now, fearing a voters’ backlash.

Yesterday, Mamata Banerjee had announced the creation of a relief fund of Rs. 500 crore, with the imposition of a ‘Tobacco Tax’ to take care of the loss affecting the depositors of Saradha.


Tobacco Companies Keep People Smoking Despite UK Cigarette Tax Increases

Raising tobacco prices is one of the most effective means of reducing tobacco use, particularly among price-sensitive smokers such as young people and people with low incomes. But when the UK government has been raising cigarette taxes to increase prices and deter smoking, tobacco companies have been absorbing the tax increases on their ultra-low-price (ULP) brands to keep their prices low. As a result, real ULP cigarette prices have remained virtually unchanged since 2006 and their market share has doubled, suggesting that as cigarette taxes rise, many smokers downgrade to cheaper cigarettes and carry on smoking.

Transnational tobacco companies categories cigarette brands into four price segments: premium, mid-price, economy, and ultra-low-price (ULP). A research report published online today in the journal Addiction reveals that while the real weighted average price of premium, mid-price and economy brands has increased gradually between 2001 and 2009, the real price of ULP cigarettes has barely changed since 2006, greatly reducing the effectiveness of cigarette taxes to deter smoking.

Tobacco companies have achieved this by over shifting taxes on their higher priced brands (increasing cigarette prices on top of the tax increases) and under shifting taxes on their ULP brands (absorbing tax increases so they are not passed on to the consumer) to keep the prices of their cheapest brands low. The former enables tobacco companies to increase their profits while the latter helps keep smokers in the market.

Unsurprisingly, the market share held by price-static ULP cigarettes doubled between 2006 and 2009, while the market share of the other three categories has fallen. But the rising prices of the more expensive brands means that, even with a falling market share, revenue from premium and mid-price brands has increased steadily since 2001.

Says lead author Anna Gilmore, Professor of Public Health & Health Foundation Clinician Scientist in the University of Bath’s Department for Health and the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, “Tobacco companies use their price changes to win two ways in the UK: when tobacco taxes increase each year, the tobacco companies hide their price increases on more expensive cigarettes behind the tax increases, making large profits from smokers who aren’t bothered by price increases. Simultaneously, they cut the prices of their cheapest cigarettes so that smokers who would be deterred by price hikes continue to smoke. Tobacco company revenues increase and fewer smokers quit. To increase the effectiveness of cigarette taxes, the UK government must find ways to narrow the price gap between the cheapest and most expensive cigarettes and prevent tobacco companies from discounting their cheapest brands.”

Anti-tobacco coalition urges settlement money for prevention

A coalition of anti-tobacco groups called on Oregon lawmakers today to earmark part of Oregon’s share of tobacco settlement money for anti-smoking programs.

The groups want lawmakers to earmark $12 million for prevention and cessation programs, 10 percent of the $120 million Oregon expects to receive from tobacco companies in the next two-year budget.

Marcia McGary, a retired health and physical education teacher at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, talked about the death of her father-in-law from bladder cancer in 1994. He started smoking during World War II, when he was in the Navy at age 19 – an age just above that of many of the students she taught for years.

“That’s why I find it important that master tobacco settlement money goes to the health of Oregonians,” McGary said at a news conference at the Capitol.

Most smokers start before reaching age 26, she said, and about half will die sooner than their nonsmoking peers.

“Those are statistics I cannot ignore,” McGary said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Today is Kick Butts Day nationwide, an effort to call attention to the dangers of smoking.

Oregon has received more than $1 billion since the 1998 agreement between 46 states and major tobacco companies to compensate states for their medical costs associated with smoking.

“But not one penny has gone to be dedicated toward the funding of tobacco prevention and control,” said Beverly May, western regional director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In 2003, Oregon lawmakers used the state’s share of tobacco settlement payments to repay $450 million in bonds they used to balance the 2001-03 budget. Those repayments will end in September of this year.

Gov. John Kitzhaber’s 2013-15 budget proposes the expected $120 million for the Oregon Health Authority, which oversees the Oregon Health Plan for medical care for 600,000 low-income recipients. Estimates are that Oregon Health Plan recipients smoke at twice the 16 percent rate of Oregon’s general population. Care will be delivered through new regional coordinated-care organizations.

“I know the governor is concerned about a healthy state,” May said. “Working with the Medicaid population on tobacco-use prevention and having cessation programs will have a savings for the state.”

But Stephanie Tama-Sweet, who spoke for the American Heart Association, said the governor’s budget still lacks a specific commitment to funding tobacco-use prevention and cessation programs.

The coalition proposes $73 million for coordinated-care organizations under the Oregon Health Plan, $35 million for children’s health programs, and $12 million for programs aimed at tobacco-use prevention and cessation.


WI Doctor Says Kids and Tobacco are a Bad Combination

It may come as a shock to learn that funding for the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Control Program is down to the lowest level in its history. A doctor who treats kids with asthma says more money is needed.

Dr. Kristin Millin with Meriter Health Services says the Wisconsin Asthma Coalition is doing a great job of helping curb tobacco use, but funding is required to keep making it happen.

“A huge part of that has to do with how we affect change with regard to tobacco use. If we lose funding for help with that, it makes it much harder for us to even do our community involvement projects.”

It takes money to fight the tobacco industry, which is constantly developing new products that target kids, Millin said.

“They have products out there on the market right now that look like little cigars that come in different candy flavors; there’s also products that are supposed to be a ‘safer alternative to cigarettes’ that are even marketed to children and teenagers; and all of those are contributing to our persistent issue with tobacco products,” she said.

According to Millin, even kids with asthma have been known to try these products, thinking they’re safer – but she said they’re not. She said it is important for people with asthma and their family members to quit smoking.

The doctor described a recent occurrence in her practice where a family that has two kids with asthma came into the clinic to get help for the children, and they all reeked of cigarette smoke.

“We had to shut down the room for the rest of the day,” she said, “because we were concerned that the cigarette smoke smell that was still lingering in the room was actually going to trigger another child.”

Millin had already discussed with the parents that tobacco smoke is a significant trigger for asthma, and that no amount of smoke is safe for people afflicted with that condition.


EU’s planned tobacco curbs break WTO rules, Malawi says

The European Union’s plans for tough new anti-smoking rules would break international trade rules, Malawi has told the World Trade Organization, signaling a potential legal challenge from the developing world.

Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, is concerned that EU plans to make cigarettes less attractive to new smokers will hurt a sector which provides more than 60 percent of its foreign exchange earnings, according to a WTO survey in 2010.

“Malawi is deeply concerned that the EU’s proposed Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) will significantly restrict trade, and is inconsistent with the EU’s binding obligations under the TBT (technical barriers to trade) Agreement,” the southern African country said in a statement posted on the WTO website on Friday.

It made the statement at a WTO committee meeting earlier this month, where it was one of nine countries – including Indonesia, Mexico, Cuba and the Philippines – to voice concerns about the EU’s plans.

The EU policy proposals came after Australia, last December, enforced a ban on cigarette logos and required packets to be plain olive green with graphic health warnings.

To bring in the world’s toughest rules on tobacco packaging, it had to win a court fight against cigarette makers British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco.

The Australian law was seen as a precedent for other countries considering a similar move, including India, Norway, South Korea and Canada. But it could still face an upset at the WTO, where Ukraine, Dominican Republic and Honduras have launched litigation in a bid to force Australia to overturn it.

Malawi has taken an interest as a third party observer in that case but it has never launched a WTO dispute in the 18 years since it joined. It did voice objections to a Canadian tobacco law in 2010, without taking legal action to stop it.

The EU’s draft tobacco law, which aims to prevent young people from taking up smoking, was published in December, just weeks after Australia’s rules came into force. It needs to be approved by EU governments and the European Parliament, which could take two years.

Malawi said it was not questioning the EU’s right to protect health, but Brussels’ plan broke the rules in four respects: by banning ingredients such as flavorings and additives, by imposing costly labeling requirements, by insisting on cuboid-shaped packaging with no lid or a fliptop lid and by banning “slim” cigarettes.

It said the EU needed to provide scientific evidence to show that its plans would reduce tobacco consumption and not just introduce barriers to trade.

It also cited WTO rules that require technical regulations “take account of the special development, financial and trade needs of developing country members” to avoid creating unnecessary trade obstacles for poorer countries.

“The onerous new obligations of the TPD will clearly create new, unnecessary obstacles to the tobacco exports of developing countries … (which) will disproportionately hit least-developed tobacco exporters such as Malawi,” it said.

Source: Reporting by Tom Miles

Tobacco Cuisine Was Displayed At The Cuba Cigar Festival

A team of Croatian chefs whipped up a pungent meal Thursday, infusing the flavor of the tobacco leaf synonymous with Cuba into baked stone bass filets, bread and butter, a rich dime-glace sauce, even ice cream.

The result was a tangy heat that one taster likened to ancho chili powder, and a powerful finish with all the nicotine kick of a chubby Montecristo cigar.

“Wow, buzz city!” said Gary Heathcott, a public relations worker from Little Rock, Arkansas, who also writes for Smoke magazine. “The first buzz I ever received from biting into fish.”

Grgur Baksic, owner and executive chef of the Gastronomadi dinner club in Zagreb, led the demonstration before a standing-room-only crowd of aficionados at a Havana convention center as part of Cuba’s 15th annual Cigar Festival.

It’s a six-day bash that brings together hundreds of cigar sophisticates from around the world, and culminates Saturday night with a gala and auction of humidors worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A dozen cameras following their every move, Baksic and two other chefs carefully wrapped the bass filets in tobacco and banana leaves, with a sprinkling of garlic and honey to draw out the smoky flavor.

As the mild white fish baked for about a half hour, they demonstrated how stirring tobacco sauces into butter can create a sharp spread for bread and crackers, and used a torch to dry out liquid-infused tobacco salt that can be employed in just about any dish.

“It’s like how you can put chili on a sweet or a sour, you can put honey on a fish and on a fruit and on a meat,” Baksic said. “Something that is good is always good. You cannot make a mistake.”

Baksic said Thursday’s demonstration was the result of two years of trial and error. He said they unsuccessfully tried American, European and African tobacco varieties before settling on Cuban tobacco, which he called the finest in the world. The chefs warned tasters not to eat the leaves themselves, which would be hard on the stomach.

Why tobacco?

“Why rosemary? Why chili? It’s about variety,” Baksic said. “We are a little bit crazy. Our company is gastro-explorers, so we are always looking for what … is not normal for other people.”

Some at the demonstration found the ice cream, a creation by Italian chef Bruno Luciani, overwhelming. What started out as a smooth, milky sweetness soon set throats on fire.

“I think they (nonsmokers) might find it a bit strong, and also they might actually get high,” said James Suckling, an American food, wine and cigar critic living in Hong Kong. “So probably in small doses they might find it amusing.”

Suckling, like other cigar aficionados sitting on a 16-member tasting panel, gave the meal good reviews, however.

“At first I didn’t really get much flavor and I thought it wasn’t up to much,” he said. “But then I started tasting the fish … and it has a very spicy, almost intense black-pepper taste. And then you get the nicotine and it’s like you’ve been chewing tobacco.”

Heathcott put it more succinctly: “It grabs you by the throat.”



Tobacco: The Opium War of the 21st Century?

China now has approximately 360 million smokers — a number greater than the entire U.S. population. They consume 37% of the world’s cigarettes and, according to the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine; smoking will cause 3.2 million deaths annually in China by 2030. César Chelala urges the Chinese government to adopt far more a comprehensive attack on tobacco use.

When Christopher Columbus explored the New World in 1492, he found Native Americans smoking a native plant, tobacco, which they did both for medicinal and ceremonial purposes.

Columbus was also the first to introduce tobacco in Europe — and can thus be seen as the father of the global tobacco trade. Without him, the international tobacco companies would not have the lucrative business they have had for decades and still have today.

From 1617 to 1793, tobacco was the most widely used and valuable staple export from the English American mainland colonies and the United States.

Columbus would have never imagined that tobacco would become one of the main threats to health not just today, but already shortly after its introduction in Europe and in several Latin American and Asian countries. It was thus a precursor of sorts to what the 19th-century opium scourge did, particularly to China.

Tobacco, one of the most addictive substances in the world, was introduced to China via Japan or the Philippines in the 1600s. In 1643, Fang Yizhi, a Chinese scholar, was one of the first to warn about the dangers of tobacco.

He wrote that smoking tobacco for too long would “blacken the lungs” and lead to death. Chongzhen, the emperor at the time, outlawed growing tobacco and smoking its leaves.

Why then are the Chinese today the world champions of smoking, especially Chinese men? The answer is rooted in a very bad case of Western-imposed governance.</p>

Chalk it down to the Treaties of Tianjin (Tientsin), concluded in 1858. That agreement, made among the second French Empire, the United Kingdom, the Russian Empire and the United States, ended the first part of the Second Opium War (1856-1860). The treaty was ratified by the Tongzhi Emperor in the Convention of Peking in 1860, after the war ended.

But it not only legalized the import of opium, it also allowed cigarettes to be imported into China duty-free. By 1900, China was almost entirely permeated by foreign companies.

<p>In 1929, Fritz Lickint, a German scientist from Dresden, published the first statistical evidence linking tobacco use and lung cancer. His finding was confirmed in 1950 in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

It was only in 1999, 70 years after Lickint’s first study, that the Philip Morris tobacco company acknowledged that, “There is an overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers.”

Today, while its use has diminished considerably in industrialized countries, continuing tobacco use is having a devastating effect on the health of the Chinese population.

As Dr. Bernard Lown, a famous cardiologist and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, indicated in 2007, “The struggle against tobacco is not being won, it is being relocated.” He also pointed out that cigarettes are becoming more addictive and more lethal because of the higher tar and nicotine content.

The state-owned China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC), founded in 1982, accounts for roughly 30% of the world’s total production of cigarettes, and it is the largest manufacturer of tobacco products. China National Tobacco Corporation falls under the jurisdiction of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA).

The STMA has been under constant pressure from the World Trade Organization (WTO) to loosen its monopoly. Since 2001, increased access has been granted to foreign companies. Today, although CNTC dominates China’s market, foreign brands can still be found in large cities in China.

A nation of smokers

Tobacco smoking continues to place a heavy toll on the Chinese people’s health. It is estimated that every day roughly 2,000 Chinese die because of smoking-related ailments.

China now has approximately 360 million smokers — a number greater than the U.S. population. They consume 37% of the world’s cigarettes. According to the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, smoking will be responsible for approximately 3.2 million deaths annually by 2030 in China alone.

The U.S. government has been extremely successful in discouraging smoking at home. Against that backdrop, it is bewildering — if only logical — to see that the same government is wielding its power in trade negotiations.

To what end? Apparently to make up to the U.S. tobacco companies for the declines that they have encountered in the U.S. domestic market. That is why the Untied States has successfully put pressure on Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand to break their domestic tobacco monopolies. Now those markets are being flooded with American cigarettes.

Here is how a very honorable former U.S. official, the late U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop — who passed away on February 25 at the age of 96 — put it: “People will look on this era of the health of the world, as imperialistic as anything since the British Empire — but worse.”

The burden of disease provoked by tobacco globally is enormous — and not just because of its association with lung cancer. Tuberculosis may enhance the risk of lung cancer and is further magnified by smoking.

In developing countries, some occupational hazards may become co-carcinogens in exposed workers. The increased health costs as a result of smoking are an integral component of the tragic legacy of tobacco.

To combat smoking, it is necessary to mobilize communities, educate people about the health risks and high costs of smoking, impose punitive fines in class action suits, and increase taxes on cigarettes.

The Chinese government has indicated its intention to lower the negative impact of smoking on the Chinese people through a series of measures. A much more comprehensive attack on tobacco use, however, still needs to be implemented.

The 3 Biggest Risks Facing British American Tobacco

As the world’s second‑largest tobacco company, and the market leader in more than 50 countries worldwide, British American Tobacco is a business with very definite attractions. A 63 billion-pound FSTE 100 (UKX) constituent, last year the company earned a pre-tax profit of 4.9 billion pounds on revenues of 15.4 billion pounds.

And with margins like that, it’s no wonder that this defensively positioned business is popular with many investors. Today, with its shares changing hands at 3,254 pence, the company is rated on a prospective price-to-earnings ratio of 14 and offers income investors a tempting forecaster dividend yield of 4.5%.

But how safe is that share price? And — of vital importance to income investors — how safe is that dividend? In short, how could an investment in BAT adversely affect investors’ wealth?

In this series, I set out to help investors answer just these questions. My starting point: BAT’s latest annual report, where the company’s directors are obliged to address the issue of risk.

Risk management

One immediate thing that I’m looking for is an acknowledgement that risks do exist, and that they need managing.

The good news? As you’d expect from a business of BAT’s size and caliber, the company has in place a risk management policy, a system of regular reviews, and a number of high-level committees tasked with monitoring the risks that the business has identified.

But what, precisely, are those risks that the company faces?

Read the small print, and BAT identifies no fewer than eight risks as having a significant prospective impact on the company’s financial performance. They range from health-based regulation (such as plain packaging) to high taxes, and from smuggling to geopolitical tensions.

So let’s take a look at three of the biggest.

Illicit trade

BAT reckons that the global volume of illicit trade is around 12% of consumption, fueled by high taxes on tobacco products encouraging “illegal” production and selling, and by differing cross-border tax regimes encouraging smuggling and the “gray market.”

The dangers are obvious: lower volumes and reduced profits, diminution of pricing power, erosion of brand equity, and the emergence of a commoditized product. Worse, the company worries that illicit trade is on the rise, powered by what it describes as “sudden and disproportionate excise increases, and widening excise differentials between markets,” and by the unintended consequences of regulation, such as plain packaging and display bans. As BAT puts it:

Illicit trade, in the form of counterfeit products, smuggled genuine products, and locally manufactured products on which applicable taxes are evaded, continues to represent a significant and growing threat to the legitimate tobacco industry. The risk is exacerbated where current economic conditions have resulted in high unemployment and/or reduced disposable incomes. In the next 10 years, we believe that the problem is likely to increase, driven by the increased regulatory and compliance burden for legitimate manufacturers and fueled by further significant excise increases.

What can BAT do about it? More than you might think. The company points to dedicated anti‑illicit-trade teams operating at global, regional, area and key market levels; strong customer approval policies (to deter selling-on in the gray market); and cross‑industry and multisector cooperation on a wide range of anti‑illicit-trade issues.

In addition, the company’s anti‑illicit-trade Intelligence Unit — which possesses a dedicated analytical laboratory — cooperates with law enforcement agencies in pursuit of priority targets and illicit tobacco growth and production.

Health-based regulation

Smoking kills — or at least, that’s the message that governments are forcing tobacco companies to print on their packets. Advertising is banned in many countries, smoking in the workplace and public places is banned or discouraged, and plain packaging and display bans are around the corner. As BAT puts it:

The group’s businesses operate under increasingly stringent regulatory regimes around the world. Further regulation is expected, particularly as a result of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) protocol and, increasingly, active tobacco control activities outside the FCTC. There is a risk that the enactment of regulation that is not evidence-based will put the group at a competitive disadvantage, interfere with its ability to differentiate its products, and increase costs and complexity.

I think that the reference to regulation that isn’t “evidence-based” somewhat misses the point, but there’s no doubt that BAT is worried about what it coyly calls “the denormalization of smoking.”

What can it do about it? Watch the regulatory environment like a hawk, in short. According to the company, “Engagement is sought with scientific and regulatory communities within the context of the FCTC process, and stakeholder engagement takes place at global, regional, and individual market levels.”

In addition, a dedicated “regulatory futures” team monitors regulatory trends and developments and analyzes regulatory proposals to determine their impacts, if any, on the business — and tries to develop initiatives in response.

Excise and tax

Ask an economist, and you’ll learn that a rise in a product’s price tends to result in a reduction in the demand for it. And the price that consumers pay for BAT’s products is heavily affected by the excise duties and taxes levied on them.

The bad news for BAT: These taxes are rising steeply, to the point where the company is talking about “excise shocks.” As BAT puts it:

Tobacco products are subject to substantial excise and sales taxes in most countries in which the group operates. In many of these countries, taxes are generally increasing, but the rate of increase varies between countries and between different types of tobacco products. A number of significant excise shocks have taken place over the past two years, for example in Romania, Turkey, Malaysia, Mexico, and Japan.

What can BAT do about it? To date, says the company, it has been able to balance these shocks with its geographic spread, and it actively engages with governments and tax authorities to seek mitigation.

But, as it notes, the long-term prognosis isn’t good: Increases in taxes are often advocated within the context of national health policies — and governments everywhere, very evidently, are under pressure to raise revenues.

Through With Chew campaign aims to steer students away from tobacco products

The battle against tobacco use in the Big Bend region changed fronts recently, with students more interested in “safer,” sometimes smokeless, alternatives to cigarettes.

images!Students — and sometimes even their parents — are misinterpreting the risks and not realizing the danger they’re in. Tobacco Free Florida is looking to put the danger right in front of the kids starting Monday with “Through with Chew” week.

The week starts Monday and is meant to raise awareness of the dangers of chewing tobacco, which has remained a constant threat to students for years, said state Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Shannon Hughes said while cigarette use is on the decline in teens, smokeless tobacco use is as prevalent as ever.

“Chewing tobacco is easier for a young person to conceal,” she said. “Young people are certainly much more vulnerable to the addictive qualities of nicotine. Some of the smokeless tobacco products have higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes. That, plus the flavors they put in, is a concern.”

Students in River springs Middle School in Wakulla County got a preview of Through with Chew week thanks to a speech from Rick Bender, who lost a third of his face due to cancer caused by chewing tobacco. Hughes said Bender is a speaker because the new campaign against tobacco is meant to be hard-hitting and shocking to students and adults alike.

“The hard-hitting campaign we are running now is effective for adults and youth,” she said. “It highlights the tremendous health problems and the disfigurement. All of these campaigns are put together using evaluation data we’ve put together. A lot are created with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Bender, 50, began using smokeless tobacco at 12 years old and was diagnosed with cancer by 26. He lost a third of his tongue, half of his jaw and 25 percent of the use of his right arm during his last operation in 1990.

“This has become my life’s work,” Bender said on his website. “My doctor, after seeing how big the cancer was, did not expect me to see my 30th birthday. But I am still here, and have a second chance at life.”


He added, “The way I look at it is, we are all here for a reason, and maybe mine is to educate people about the dangers of tobacco.”

Leon County actually has lower rates of tobacco use compared to the state of Florida, according to the Leon County Department of Health. About 13 percent of adults in the county smoke, compared to the statewide average of 17.1.

Susan Shoemaker, the former president of the Godby High School chapter of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) and current sponsor for the school’s Students Against Dangerous Decisions (SADD) program, said battling the manipulation techniques of tobacco companies is a challenge.

She agreed with Hughes and said candy-flavored tobacco products are a major problem.

“Think about the candy flavored tobacco products — adults aren’t going for that,” she said. “The kids are. The most effective way to keep them from smoking is to help kids realize they’re being played.”

Shoemaker didn’t agree with Tobacco Free’s method of using Bender’s face in its campaign though. She said in her experience, students respond better to anti-manipulation campaigns instead of things that highlight only the dangers of tobacco.

“I think the students know smoking is bad for them,” she said. “They know it’s unhealthy and they know it can cause certain cancers. What happens is they get pulled into the negative peer influence and they succumb to the advertising of the tobacco industry.”

Thursday serves as the highlight of the week with the Great American Spit-out. The day, which mirrors Tobacco Free Florida’s other major event The Great American Smoke-out in March, encourages smokeless tobacco users to make a plan to quit.

Through with Chew week is also a chance for Tobacco Free Florida to highlight various quitting methods, Hughes said. Right now the group has a three-pronged approach called “Call, Click or Come In.” Ideally the approach makes sure anyone can find a way to quit, no matter how they want to go about it.

“People can call and speak to a certified coach to make a customized quit plan,” she said. “They can also click and get a web coach that prompts them and the third way is to come in, which refers to the area health education classes.”


Pension funds ‘may ditch tobacco firms’

MORE than £31 million invested by councils in tobacco companies could be withdrawn as the authorities prepare to take on responsibility for improving public health.

Staffordshire Pension Fund has millions invested in firms including British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco.

The Sentinel has learned the fund, which covers staff at all of the region’s councils, also invests in Carlsberg and Greene King brewers, and the firm which owns McDonald’s restaurant buildings.

It comes as councils prepare to take over responsibility from the NHS for improving health levels in the areas they cover which has prompted critics to accuse them of double standards.

From April, councils will regain responsibility for public health for the first time since the 1970s.

It means local authorities will run or commission campaigns to reduce obesity, cut smoking rates, curb alcohol consumption and promote healthy lifestyles.

Charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) accused the councils of tying up more money in tobacco than the amount it will have available to campaign for people to quit.

The Staffordshire Pension Fund is worth almost £2.7 billion and covers workers at every council in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, as well as university, police and fire service staff.

Expert groups invest the money in businesses and property to deliver a return for members.

Figures show investments in tobacco and booze have proved successful. Holdings in British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco were bought at a combined total of £8.1 million but are now worth more than £11.2 million.

Investments of £1.3 million in Greene King have risen in value by £305,100.

Councilors who sit on the panel in charge of scrutinizing the investments say withdrawing from tobacco firms would prove complicated – because they have a responsibility to get the best return for members in the same way company directors have to maximize profits for shareholders.

Moorlands councilor Christina Jebb, who represents the opposition Liberal Democrats, said: “We have to balance our responsibility to public health and our responsibility to the proper management of the pension fund.”

Martin Dockrell, of ASH, dismissed the arguments on duty to pension members.

He said: “At best it’s a gross simplification of the truth. It is a duty to act in the best interests of pension holders and taxpayers but that doesn’t mean there is an obligation to invest in tobacco.

“Share prices are very high at the moment but many analysts believe they are overvalued. With taxation rising, new regulation like plain packaging now possible and falling use, it could be said that now is a good time to sell.”

Councilor Ian Parry, cabinet member for finance on Staffordshire County Council, which administers the fund, said the investments are under ‘review’.

He said: “The fund is invested in a range of shares, bonds and property. Currently just over one per cent – which equates to £31 million – is invested in tobacco companies, which have historically given a good rate of return.

“However, the county council’s pension’s panel is working with its advisers on a review of its investments in tobacco companies. It’s essential we balance the financial needs of the fund with an ethical investment strategy.”