Tax: WHO Global Tobacco Tax

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Global Tobacco Tax Update…

Jane Ellison And The “Transparent” #COP6
26 October 2014
Many of you will have seen the Sunday Express article today (also covered by the Mail) of an incredibly expensive party laid on by the potless WHO in Russia recently.
‘Broke’ WHO host ?1.6million caviar-fuelled beano
The Sunday Express can reveal the dinner gala, held last Monday, offered delegates Salmon carpaccio with cucumber tartar, Salmon as the main course, Vitello Tonnato beef with tuna fish sauce, Red caviar, Scallop with white wine sauce, a fish late of smoked halibut, smoked sturgeon, eel mix; Smoked eel, and Salmon under white syrup with flying fish caviar.
Very nice.
Of the five hotels assigned to delegates, two boast five-stars including the Government-owned Golden Ring Hotel, self-proclaimed as “one of the most luxurious” in Moscow, and the city’s Crowne Plaza which commands a majestic ?1,169-a-day for a suite, though the WHO has secured a small corporate discount.
Guests were even offered official excursions, including a visit to the Kremlin’s armory chamber.
The article focusses on the cost of the whole shebang and sets it against the WHO’s poverty pleas regarding the Ebola outbreak. All well and good, but much of the cost could have been covered by that nice Mr Putin, I suppose.
BIG NEWS – UN pockets “bribe” from Russia: The WHO accepted $800k handout from Putin to put the #COP6 tobacco control convention in Moscow.
— Drew Johnson (@Drews_Views) October 17, 2014
Or maybe even those even nicer (to the WHO) people in the pharmaceutical industry.
It’s the traditional ill wind that blows somebody good. The pharmaceutical companies bought a seat at the Moscow conference through its contributions to anti-tobacco nonprofits that have “observer” status, and were enabled to sit with delegates and lobby them where neutral observers were not allowed. The pharmaceuticals make nicotine patches, gums and mints that will become more popular if prohibitive tobacco taxes are imposed.
Considering the above and that the public were banned from the conference, closely followed by the press being physically restrained and excluded after a single negative article by the only US journalist covering the event, I don’t think anyone could call COP6 “transparent”, do you?
A $40,000 wifi facility was also wasted when tweets dried up on the second day, and Instagram accounts which had been sharing pictures went silent soon after. It seems that the WHO were desperate to ensure nothing escaped to the outside world about what they were discussing.
This was perhaps because of the other astonishing abuses of transparency and democratic procedure getting out of the sealed room – courtesy of the Washington Times’s Drew Johnson – some deeply sinister.
During the debate over the UN/WHO global tobacco tax, a delegate from Kyrgyzstan was held down & silenced when he tried to oppose. #COP6.
— Drew Johnson (@Drews_Views) October 15, 2014
EU,Japan,China & others oppose WHO’s proposed e-cig regulations, but leaders are currently attempting to pass policies without a vote #COP6
— Drew Johnson (@Drews_Views) October 17, 2014
I’LL TELL YOU WHEN TO SPEAK: Discussion was cut off when a UN/WHO tobacco convention delegate raised questions about the global tobacco tax.
— Drew Johnson (@Drews_Views) October 16, 2014
With all those dissenters out of the way; with the hall packed with pharma lobbyists and security forcibly silencing any flies in the ointment, I suppose it made it quite easy for the FCA’s original recommendation on e-cigs – for caution and a postponement of recommendations pending further study – to be steamrollered out in favour of encouraging wholesale bans. Then, world governments were ordered to implement these proposals – from a meeting which was compromised by pharma lobbying, exclusion of press scrutiny, lack of proper voting, intimidation of delegates and utter disregard for evidence – immediately.
This is the FCA, by the way, represented in Moscow by state-funded {cough}’vaper’s friend’ Deborah Arnott of ASH. I kid you not.
Where this puts the Department of Health in the context of its government imposing sanctions on Russia – and the civil service code of conduct demanding impartiality – who knows? They certainly don’t seem to be bothered by any accusations of hypocrisy, that’s for sure, as our Phil rightly points out.
Last night Philip Davis MP questioned why Britain had sent two top-level dignitaries, including the Department of Health’s head of tobacco policy [Andrew] Black.
Speaking to the Sunday Express, he said: “It’s quite worrying that, when we have an emerging Ebola crisis in the world, the WHO sees fit to waste money discussing tobacco controls.
“I am asking why we continued to send British dignitaries to this showcase event when both the US and Canada saw fit to boycott it after it became clear that it would be hosted by Mr Putin.”
The whole thing should be shameful for the WHO and the Department of Health, but Under-Secretary of State for Health Jane Ellison sees absolutely nothing wrong with any of it!
Grahame Morris (Easington, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment he has made of the transparency and accountability of the Moscow Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Ellison replied by stating when it occurred (I think Morris may have known that), listing some of the countries who attended and therefore concluding that it was transparent and accountable.
In addition, the next Conference to be held in 2016 will consider options that would further maximise transparency
“Further maximise” transparency? To describe a conference which minimised transparency on a Soviet scale and plans to do exactly the same again in two years time? Incredible!
Apparently, Jane Ellison is perfectly comfortable with delegate intimidation; denial of a free press; DoH staff enjoying hospitality possibly paid for by bribes from states in conflict with the UK; evidence-free demands from industry-entranced bodies; and global taxation regimes being decided without even so much as a vote from delegates to an unelected clique. In her book, this is termed as “maximising transparency”.
The mind boggles as to what she would class as not being transparent.

U.N. approves increased global tobacco tax during secret session
Delegates in Moscow block press from vote coverage
October 14, 2014
By Drew Johnson and Alex Swoyer – The Washington Times
MOSCOW — The U.N.’s World Health Organization on Tuesday approved a measure committing countries around the world to sharply raise excise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products, a key step to what critics warn will be a push for a global tax on tobacco.
Meeting in Moscow this week, WHO delegates, representing 179 countries and about 90 percent of the world’s population, voted to move ahead on implementing a key part of the 2003 Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The WHO is the public health arm of the United Nations.
The international tobacco tax provision would commit the countries who signed the U.N. antitobacco agreement — nearly every major nation except for the United States, Switzerland and Indonesia — to enact an excise tax equal to at least 70 percent of the retail price of tobacco products.
The gathering got off to a controversial start when delegates voted to bar members of the media, including a credentialed reporter for The Washington Times, from attending key convention and plenary events.
U.S. and Canadian representatives are also boycotting the event to protest host Russia’s recent incursions in the conflict with neighboring Ukraine.
WHO officials said the tax was justified because tobacco creates an economic burden on society owing to higher health care costs for tobacco-related disease. More than two-thirds of the parties to the organization’s treaty reported an increase in tobacco taxes in 2014.
According to the WHO’s report, “Parties that have increased tobacco taxes in general experience a corresponding increase in tobacco prices and, in some of those countries, a tax-driven reduction in tobacco consumption has been documented.”
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told delegates at the opening of the five-day gathering that it was vital to take on an industry and an addiction that the agency says is responsible for an estimated 6 million deaths worldwide each years.
“I am proud to be the No. 1 enemy of the tobacco industry,” Ms. Chan said. “That is a badge of honor for me.”
But critics warn a uniform global tax won’t work and will only encourage smuggling and illegal trade in tobacco products without cutting down on smoking rates.
“One size does not fit all,” said American economist Arthur Laffer. “Tobacco regulation and taxation are complex matters that require consideration of a number of political, economic and demographic factors prior to deciding on tax structures and levels.”
New York-based cigarette giant Philip Morris International echoed Mr. Laffer’s criticisms.
The world’s governments “don’t need international organizations to tell them which tax structure and tax level best match their domestic economic and social conditions,” Philip Morris spokeswoman Iro Antoniadou told the Agence France-Presse news service this week.
Taxes and smuggling
Mr. Laffer, an expert on tax policy and a member of President Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board in the 1980s, quit smoking more than 40 years ago. He even lost his mother to lung cancer. Mr. Laffer told The Washington Times that if he had one single wish, it would be to eliminate all tobacco addiction. He said he agrees “100 percent” with the WHO goal of cutting global tobacco use.
But, “if you raise tax rates and cause people to smuggle cigarettes … it’s not wonderful,” said Mr. Laffer, who released his own tobacco analysis titled “Handbook of Tobacco Taxation: Theory and Practice,” in which he criticizes the blanket approach on tobacco taxation.
Mr. Laffer said that a global tobacco tax may simply push smokers to the more dangerous and unregulated black market. “The difference between tobacco and heroin is that the government follows and is in touch with tobacco smokers,” he said.
The Framework Convention Alliance, an organization that advocates for global tobacco control, highlighted a 2010 WHO study that concludes that increasing tobacco taxes by 50 percent in some 22 low-income countries would generate roughly $1.4 billion in funds, money which could increase health spending by 50 percent in these countries.
The WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control favors introducing smoke-free public places, banning tobacco advertising and requiring pictorial health warnings on cigarette packages in addition to increasing taxes.
But Mr. Laffer points to Australia, where the graphic pictures of the dangers of tobacco use have not lived up to their backers’ hopes.
“Australia has this thing where they put disgusting pictures on the back of cigarettes,” Mr. Laffer said, but smokers just buy fake packs, or different containers, to carry around their cigarettes after they are purchased. He believes that tobacco users — especially smokers — “want nicotine from tobacco and will go to incredible lengths to get it.”
Andrei Muchnik, a spokesman for the World Health Organization, declined comment on the Tuesday vote, but WHO officials reject the idea that the vote to implement the Convention’s Article 6 amounts to a U.N.-mandated global tobacco tax.
Article 6 states that, “without prejudice to sovereign right of the parties to determine and establish taxation policies,” signatory countries should adopt measures including implementing tax and price policies that reduce tobacco use and “prohibiting or restricting, as appropriate, sales to and/or importations by international travellers of tax- and duty-free tobacco products.”
“The guidelines do not impose a minimum tax rate on cigarettes, but will be a tool that will allow each state to pursue a policy to determine the appropriate tax level,” Martin Logan, a spokesman for the Framework Convention Alliance, an NGO that supports the treaty, told the Agence France-Presse.

Reporters Removed, Restrained At World Health Organization Meeting On Global Tobacco Tax
Reporters were forcibly removed and restrained Tuesday at the World Health Organization (WHO) meeting on tobacco control in Moscow.
Washington Times editorial writer Drew Johnson told The Daily Caller that he was physically escorted out of the meeting’s convention hall by a guard while another reporter was physically restrained from entering the room, even though WHO never formally voted to restrict the media from the event.
WHO, which is the public health arm of the United Nations, planned to discuss the proposed global tobacco tax requirement in committee Tuesday. The tax requirement would slap a mandatory 70 percent excise tax on tobacco products in countries that ratified the United Nations anti-tobacco agreement (the United States did not sign the agreement, but most other Western nations did). (RELATED: SMOKED OUT: UN Tobacco Summit Kicks Out Public Spectators)
Johnson explained his ordeal, which occurred just before 10 a.m. Tuesday in Russia (approximately 2 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast) in an email to TheDC.
“There was supposed to be a press briefing at 9:30 AM,” Johnson said. “At about 9:50, the convention’s press contact came in the room and told me and a few other reporters that there would be no press briefing and that the press wasn’t allowed to attend any parts of the convention at all — plenary sessions, lunches, committee meetings, nothing. The press had been banned.”
WHO formally voted to ban the public from the convention on Monday, fearing tobacco company infiltration, but never formally voted to ban the media, as WHO did at its 2012 convention in Seoul, South Korea. So Johnson decided to make his way to the convention hall.
“I sat in the same seat I was in yesterday,” Johnson said. “I was a few minutes early and no one was in the area that had previously been reserved for the press. But I did notice that a ‘press’ placard that reserved the area for the media had been taken down. A woman came in and asked me to leave. I told her to please send someone in who could answer a few questions for me. A guy representing the WHO — he wouldn’t give his name — told me that ‘there was a vote yesterday and no press allowed.’”
Johnson replied that no formal vote had yet banned the media, so he intended to stay in the convention hall. But that reply did not sit well with WHO security.
“He told me that he was going to get the police and have me ‘carried out’ and arrested for not leaving,” Johnson said. “He left and a couple minutes later he returned and told me I could stay through the first plenary session, but had to leave the area when the committees began meeting about an hour later.”
“About a minute after that a big, burly guard who said he represented the secretariat of the convention (he also refused to give his name — I asked twice) told me that I was no longer welcome to sit through the plenary session and I had to leave immediately,” Johnson said. “He admitted that there was no vote and that the media and the press are not the same. But it didn’t matter, the secretariat and the delegates decided press was banned.”
“When he I asked if he knew what he was doing was bullshit, he replied ‘I’m not saying it’s not bullshit.’ I stood up and he and another person led me out the door. In the doorway, a German reporter asking to be let in was being physically restrained from entering the room.”

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