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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2529

Brazil’s Highest Court Upholds Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products

By Manjari Peiris

Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court – the country’s highest court – ruled yesterday that the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (ANVISA) has the power to regulate the tobacco industry. This ruling upholds a 2012 ANVISA regulation banning the use of flavors and additives in tobacco products sold in Brazil, said Matthew L. Meyers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

In 2012, Brazil became the first country in the world to ban the use of flavors and additives in tobacco products, including menthol. This ban was approved following two years of public hearings and broad stakeholder participation, including from the tobacco industry. However, the implementation of this regulation has been stalled until now because allies of the tobacco industry including tobacco industry lobbying group Sinditabaco sued ANVISA to block it.

The tobacco industry uses flavored tobacco products - including menthol and fruit flavors - to lure young customers, including children, into a life of tobacco addiction. While the tobacco industry’s lawsuit was pending, Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco flooded the Brazilian market with flavored cigarettes. A recent study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found more than 80 percent of tobacco retailers near schools in Rio de Janeiro sold flavored cigarettes with flashy packages and enticing descriptors like “Double Mint Purple” which appeal to young consumers. The key findings of the study revealed, 69 percent of retailers within the sampling areas sold cigarettes. Of these cigarette retailers, 85 percent sold flavored cigarettes.

The most common cigarette flavors found were mint or menthol. An additive commonly used by tobacco companies, menthol makes cigarettes less harsh and easier to smoke, especially for new users, and leads to increased smoking initiation among young people, greater addiction, and decreased success in quitting smoking, studies have shown. Other cigarette flavors found include fruit (such as cherry), alcohol (such as daiquiri and mojito), spices or nuts, and unconventional flavors described as “Double Click Crisp” or “Ice Blast.”

Flavored cigarettes were often displayed near other products commonly used by kids, such as sweets, snacks and sugary drinks, “thereby normalizing these harmful and addictive products in the context of products that attract the attention of children,” according to the study.

As noted previously, most of the flavored cigarettes are sold by large, multinational tobacco companies that claim not to market to kids.

Today’s landmark decision should end the sale of flavored tobacco products in Brazil.

The legal tactics employed in Brazil by the major tobacco companies to delay implementation of the ban on flavored tobacco products are part of a global pattern of litigation and intimidation tactics used by tobacco companies to delay and block laws designed to reduce tobacco use. In Brazil, 428 people die every day from tobacco use.

Today’s decision from Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court is the latest in a string of major defeats for the world’s major international tobacco companies like Philip Morris and British American Tobacco. These companies have also suffered recent losses in court and arbitration challenges against tobacco control measures in Colombia, In Uruguay, where more than six years after Philip Morris launched its legal attack, an arbitration tribunal of the World Bank ruled in Uruguay’s favor and strongly rejected Philip Morris’ challenge to two laws adopted by Uruguay to reduce the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

One law requires graphic warnings covering 80 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs, while the other limits each cigarette brand to one pack presentation in order to prevent the use of terms (such as “light” and “mild”) and colors to falsely imply that some cigarettes are less harmful.

In Peru along with Australia, where the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that Australia’s pioneering law requiring plain packaging for tobacco products does not violate international trade and intellectual property agreements.

It was a landmark victory in the global fight against tobacco use and a resounding defeat for the tobacco industry, which has fiercely fought plain packaging laws.

Tobacco industry lost every legal challenge to plain packaging both in international and national courts, not only in Australia, but also in the United Kingdom, France, Ireland and the European Union.

In the United Kingdom, its High Court upheld the UK's new law requiring that tobacco products be sold in plain packaging. The ruling came a day before the UK and France are set to implement their plain packaging laws on May 20, as they join Australia in adopting this groundbreaking strategy to accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use and save lives.

Along with France, Ireland and the European Union upheld strong measures to reduce tobacco use, including requirements for large, graphic health warnings on tobacco products and, in the EU, a ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol, and authority for countries to adopt standardized plain packages. Together, these rulings provide a powerful boost to worldwide efforts to combat a tobacco epidemic that will otherwise kill one billion people this century. They also represent a resounding rejection of the tobacco industry’s scorched-earth tactics that put profits before lives.

It is hoped that this latest ruling should spur countries in Latin America and around the world to stand up to tobacco companies and protect the health of children and young people by passing the measures called for in the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – including bans on tobacco flavors and additives.

- Asian Tribune -

Brazil’s Highest Court Upholds Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products
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