Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.

Industry Insight by Siyu Wang
According to the IEA, a British think tank, excessive regulation of e-cigarettes poses a larger risk to public health. Countries should analyze direct and indirect hazards in a more balanced way.

The Star Malaysia reported on 18 July 2022 that Malaysian Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin stated that the Tobacco and Smoking Control Bill had been accepted by the Cabinet and would be submitted to the lower house of the Malaysian Parliament for approval. The proposed legislation restricts the sale of cigarettes, tobacco, and electronic cigarettes to anybody born after 2007. The legislation is also referred to as the "Generational End Game," which translates to "intergenerational end" and attempts to create a "clean generation" that has never been exposed to nicotine.


In reality, this type of legislation is not created by Malaysia. On December 9, 2012, the New Zealand government stated that anyone born after 2008 would be permanently prohibited from purchasing tobacco products. The legislation establishes a "dividing line" between smokers and nonsmokers, and New Zealand aims to reach "universal smoke-free" status over the following few decades.


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.


Canada, Australia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Brazil currently have extensive and well-developed tobacco control regulations that apply to all indoor public spaces.


In Russia, for instance, there are no tobacco commercials or promotions, tobacco scenes are severely limited in film and television productions, there are no tobacco counters in large shopping malls, and cigarettes are placed out of consumers' view.


In the United States, since 1987, New York has adopted a ban on smoking in public places, increasing cigarette taxes; in New York, the front of East Broadway, also erected a bronze statue of Lin Zexu, aimed to increase the determination of the American public to ban smoking and drug.

Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.

As of 2021, 182 countries have signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and implemented tobacco control measures to varying degrees.  Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), stated that tobacco control measures have gained achievement under the pandemic.   Currently, 5,3 billion individuals are protected by at least one anti-tobacco policy.


Do "disgusting images" helps in quitting smoking?


Nicotine and humans have been intertwined for generations. The earliest anti-smoking campaign in recorded history occurred in 1590, when Pope Urban VII, who reigned for barely 12 days, stated that he would excommunicate all churchgoers who smoked.

In contemporary times, the first completely total smoking ban was enacted in Bhutan in November 2004, and cigarettes were banned on December 17 of the same year.

Sadly, as a result of the pandemic, the National Assembly of Bhutan passed the Tobacco Control (Amendment) Act 2021 and the Bhutan Revenue Act 2021, and the government stated that it would suspend the smoking prohibition during the national embargo and begin selling cigarettes directly from the government. After 17 years of implementation, Bhutan's entire smoking ban was deemed a failure.

Ireland was another pioneering nation that attempted to abolish smoking. On March 29, 2004, after a decade of lobbying, a comprehensive ban on smoking in the workplace went into force, protecting about 4.1 million workers. One month following its implementation, the rate of compliance was 97%. On October 3, 2013, the Minister for Health of the Republic of Ireland, James Reilly, revealed a plan to make Ireland smoke-free by 2025. Reilly defined "smoke-free" not in its absolute sense, but rather as Ireland's smoking population falling below 5% in order to fulfill the aim.


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.


In order to reduce the rate of smoking, countries have been doing a lot of strange measures. The most "celebrated" is the Tobacco Plain Package Act 2011 proposed by the Australian government. The bill was introduced in late 2011 and came into effect in December 2012. The Act has several mandatory requirements for Australian cigarettes in plain packaging, including.

1. The main color scheme is a matte and monotone black-brown, international color Pantone 448c, which has been researched by market researchers as the "least attractive color.

2. Graphic warning. The material is provided by the government and contains images of rotten teeth, rotten tongues, stillborn fetuses, rotting feet, and hemorrhaging brains.

3. Trademark specification. There are strict font, font size, and color restrictions, bold and italic are prohibited, and can only appear in inconspicuous places in cigarette boxes.


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.


“Cigarettes are not cool at all, and cigarettes kill people. This will be the most stringent policy on cigarette packaging in the world.” On the night of the bill's implementation, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stated, "Cigarette businesses will loathe this bill.


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.

Indeed. On the first day the bill was passed, Australian tobacco giants sued the Australian government in the Supreme Court of Australia, claiming that the legislation was unconstitutional and infringed on their intellectual property rights. They said they feared the law would set a global precedent that could cut into the value of their brands by billions of dollars. The quickest action was taken by Philip Morris International, which according to the Associated Press took legal action "within an hour" of the Australian legislation. However, in August 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Australian government.

The Australian bill also drew the ire of several tobacco manufacturing countries. on September 20, 2013, Indonesia requested consultations at the WTO, claiming that the Australian law was inconsistent with Australia's compliance with the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (GATT) at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (GATT) is incompatible. Ukraine, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba have also joined the challenge. (Of these, Ukraine withdrew in May 2016.)

Seven years later, the WTO awarded the victory to Australia, a move that the WTO sees as an effective way to enhance public health rather than unduly restricting trade. According to the Australian Department of Health's Post Implementation Review (PIR) data, smoking rates have declined at an increasing rate following the tobacco packaging change.


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.


Australia's unwavering stance undoubtedly gave other nations a boost, and after 2012, other governments passed tobacco flat-pack legislation. Canada, New Zealand, Hungary, Ireland, France, Norway, and the United Kingdom have followed Australia's lead to implement similar legislation.


The majority of foreign cigarette packaging today is in the "heavy" style. The trend of foreign cigarette packaging, according to experts from the Nanjing CDC, is to move from subtle to direct, from internal to intuitive, from disease to death, with intuitive, practical, forceful, and terrifying graphics to encourage people to stop smoking.


Cigarette cartons do not feature such imagery in China.


Expert on tobacco compliance Li Min stated: "In contrast to other countries where practically all cigarettes are smoked alone, cigarettes in China have significant needs for socializing and presents. The social and gift market is impacted and is harmed as a result of the image above. Second, having a picture on it is against national customs. The most efficient kind of advertising in China, from casting a tripod to a large-print newspaper, is solely textual."


Regarding the impact of printing, "Li Min disagrees, stating that "tobacco control" is the reason why "countries and regions that print unpleasant pictures of cigarette boxes tend to have low smoking rates." The graph is printed "because tobacco control is active," not "the graph is effective in creating tobacco control," according to the causal relationship. Purely self-administered cigarettes are less likely to modify their inclination to consume due to the aesthetics of the box. For a considerable amount of time, appearance, taste, and other tobacco control methods will be dulled. Taxation is the only tool that will consistently work."


More than eighty nations prohibit or severely limit e-cigarettes now.


E-cigarettes have been gaining more and more attention since their introduction in 2002. The new tobacco market has become an increasingly important part of the industry. According to the "2022 Electronic Cigarette Industry Export Blue Book" jointly produced by the Electronic Cigarette Special Committee and 2 firsts, in 2021, the number of U.S. e-cigarette consumers occupies half of the e-cigarette consumer market, having reached 13.5 million.

Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.

However, attitudes toward emerging tobacco varieties vary greatly between nations. E-cigarettes are viewed negatively by the World Health Organization (WHO). A resolution urging parties to prohibit or restrict the manufacture, import, distribution, display, sale, and use of e-cigarettes in accordance with their national laws and public health goals were adopted by the seventh Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2016. The International Respiratory Society Forum also stated: "Until further information about their safety is available, electronic nicotine delivery devices should be restricted or banned as a precaution." Many nations have stricter regulations because they are concerned about the possible health concerns of e-cigarettes and believe that their safety is unclear.


One of the Southeast Asian nations with a firmer position on the prohibition of e-cigarettes is Thailand. Thailand has prohibited the import, export, sale, and possession of e-cigarette products since November 2014. According to the China Daily, Thai law stipulates that importing, exporting, and selling e-cigarettes is punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to 1 million baht (roughly 200,000 yuan), or both. Carrying or using e-cigarettes is punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 500,000 baht (roughly 100,000 yuan), or both.

Australia, a seasoned anti-smoking nation, is continuing its strong crackdown on e-cigarettes that contain nicotine. The Daily Mail reported on June 22, 2020, that when the selling of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes was outlawed in Australia, users and sellers began to import them. As of July 1, it will be prohibited to import e-cigarettes or replacement cartridges that contain atomized nicotine (nicotine liquid and nicotine salts) into Australia, according to a quick investigation by the Australian government. Australians who want to buy nicotine-containing e-cigarette cartridges are now required to present a prescription to a pharmacist. People who break this rule could be fined up to A$222000 (about 1050,237 yuan).


E-cigarette users flying to this year's World Cup are advised not to use e-cigarettes, and any violators will face a high fine of up to 10,000 rials (about 18,000 yuan) or up to three months in jail. This warning relates to the 2022 World Cup, which is being hosted in Qatar. For e-cigarette users who were traveling to see the World Cup, especially British supporters, the e-cigarette ban was a significant letdown. Many of these e-cigarette users might be under the impression that other countries' rules are likewise lax given the UK's open e-cigarette policies.


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.


According to global tobacco control incomplete statistics, as of June 2022, the following banned or restricted the use of e-cigarettes in public places:


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.


Excessive prohibition stimulates smuggling and trading


Since the implementation of the ban, smuggling and the black market trade have increased in some regions, with considerable quantities of uncontrolled traditional or modern tobacco of questionable quality pouring via the black market. 

In Australia, where nicotine regulations are stricter, approximately 239,000 persons used e-cigarettes in 2016, with 178,000 using them more than once a month, according to a 2018 poll conducted by Simon Chapman of InSight. This statistic seems to contradict Australia's severe rules, thus one can guess that this significant group is supplied by Australia's growing e-cigarette underground black market. 

In March 2022, it was announced that the U.S. state of Massachusetts had captured over 213,000 contraband e-cigarettes in 2021 alone. For more than two years, Massachusetts has prohibited the sale of flavored cigarettes and electronic cigarettes, yet these items continue to enter the state through the black market.


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.


According to a paper published in the journal Science by public health experts such as Amy Fairchild, "prohibitionist" policies have not solved the unsafe problem of e-cigarettes, but have instead driven more people away from "safe" or legal options and toward "unsafe" black market options.

Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.

The black market is "unsafe" not just because of its unlawful practices, but also because its items are of dubious quality. Researchers in the United States have discovered that e-cigarettes sold on the underground market contain THC, a chemical that causes a fatal lung condition. Since March of this year, more than 2,000 e-cigarette users in the United States have developed this lung condition, and at least 40 have died.


Unexpectedly, certain flavor prohibitions have increased teen smoking rates. After the San Francisco flavor prohibition was enforced in the United States, high school kids under the age of 18 smoked at twice the rate of students in other locations, according to a research conducted by the Yale School of Public Health in 2021. 

In contrast, China's tobacco control tactics are more gradual. According to a report by the Foresight Industry Research Institute, as the consumption levels of Chinese residents have climbed, the proportion of high-grade cigarettes consumed has continued to rise. China Tobacco continues to secure the supply of low-grade cigarettes, despite the fact that their popularity and profitability are not as high as they once were. This is done to prevent counterfeit cigarettes and black markets from exploiting the chance to ensure the quality of tobacco products on the market.


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.


Abigail Friedman, a professor at the Yale School of Public Health and the author of the study, is of the opinion that the ban only restricts youth purchases, but does not ideologically eliminate youth motivation to smoke, especially since many youth are already smokers and the flavor ban forces them back to using cigarettes. He argues, "I appreciate that legislators have good intentions when they enact a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, but if this increases juvenile smoking rates and indirectly promotes underage cigarette usage, it would pose the same public health threat."


Smoking Bans In Different Countries: Excessive Regulation Fosters The Growth Of The Blackmarket.

On April 14, 2022, the British think tank IEA produced a research stating that excessive regulation of e-cigarettes could represent a larger threat to public health. The idea is not that new products should not be controlled, but rather that nations should avoid an unduly conservative approach and outright prohibitions in favor of a more balanced evaluation of direct and indirect dangers.

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