Illicit Tobacco and Nicotine Markets

In case you missed it, tobacco ads have been back on TV for almost five years now. One-fifth of teenagers are habitual vapers.

FDA proposes stricter 10-month deadline for e-cigarettes. San Francisco’s e-cigarette ban aims to goose the FDA. Debate on e-cigarettes lights up 10 years after FDA tobacco law. Juul’s new marketing is straight out of Big Tobacco’s playbook. Ex-FDA chief Scott Gottlieb: “Juul is going to be in a hard spot to ever get their product approved.” Philip Morris has a Nespresso problem.

Luxembourg customs officials confiscate 462,000 smuggled cigarettes at airport, coming from Hong Kong. Law enforcers in “transit country” of Ukraine find smuggled cigarettes worth over $2 million.

Huge haul of cash and illicit cigarettes seized by UK Customs in Bristol. British tobacco smuggler found with almost 30,000 illegal cigarettes from Qatar. UK man’s bold smuggling attempt from Qatar foiled at Manchester airport. Weapons and illegal cigarettes found during a North Ireland bust.

Europol releases 2019 Intellectual Property Crime Threat Assessment.

Carreras Ltd plans fierce pushback at more cigarette taxes in Jaimaca.

Guyana puts big dent in cigarette smuggling. On the trail of cigarette smuggling in Mali.

3.5 million illicit cigarettes seized in Malaysia.




Medical Journal: 11/12/18

Progress has slowed. Voice maybe coming back a little, but still husky and variable; it runs out of steam after a while. Energy, as far as I can tell, not improved at all. Cough is still nasty (and productive) though perhaps a bit less frequent. Throat no longer sore, but persistently scratchy, and I’ve been chewing cough drops constantly. Appetite not noticeably changed, but somehow I’ve gained about seven pounds from my low of 225-and-change.

This week and next I’m seeing all my docs other than the transplant surgeon. Today was Dr. Weiss, the internist/cardiologist.

He’s still upbeat about the heart, but stymied for the moment because any increase in the dose of Entresto would be a threat to the kidney. The problem is mostly cardiomyopathy. Ejection fraction is 42%, which is in the mild-to-moderate range. The narrowing of the arteries is non-obstructive. So the disease should respond well to medication, once I can get on a full dose of medication. I asked about the sudden onset of the problem and its apparent triggering by a dose of Ambien which didn’t bother me once I’d started on the cardiac drugs. Answer: It’s anyone’s guess. Some people have severe symptoms of heart failure with ejection fractions higher than mine, others are asymptomatic at lower fractions.

In the meantime, Dr. Weiss suggested going back on 12.5mg of hydrochlorothiazide to get rid of some water weight. If in fact the energy level and stamina won’t improve until I’ve had the kidney transplant and been able to go on a full dose of Entresto, I’m inclined to try to speed things up, though I’m definitely not looking forward to the year of immuno-compromise that will follow the surgery.

Dr. Weiss suggested the same thing my friend Lowry Heussler suggested in terms of exercise: a recumbent bike. I was able to do about fourteen minutes of interval training, albeit at the lowest resistance level. At the end I was puffing but not panting, and recovered quickly, so it looks as if that’s an amount of exercise I can tolerate. With any luck, I’ll get back to being able to walk the mile to work, and that will make exercise part of my life rather than something I have to get dressed for.

I had attributed my loss of appetite first to the cancer and then to the radiation, but the cancer is gone and the radiation was over a month ago. Sally Satel, who has the same kidney disease I have (IgA nephropathy) and has had two transplants, reports that she started to lose appetite as her kidney function declined, but that it bounced back after the transplant. Since that’s the one symptom that’s a benefit, I don’t actually welcome the prospect.

I’m quite comfortable and sleeping well, but I’m now getting a bit cranky; I’d expected to be feeling better once I had the radiation well behind me than I felt having an active carcinoma, and I’m not.

Medical Journal: 11/4/18

Progress. I have a voice. Not my normal voice, but workable. Big relief! Overall, I felt much better in Amsterdam (the second half of my trip) than I had in Prague.

Still coughing. Overall, the radiation side-effects were much more severe than had been advertised.

More progress: One of my volunteer kidney donors matched. That substantially improves my odds.

Still very short on energy, and I’m no longer confident that’s the radiation side-effect as opposed to the heart problem. Economizing on walking and carrying is a substantial complication. Hoping the negotiation between the cardiologist and the oncologist will result in a somewhat higher dosage of the heart medication.

Weight seems to have stabilized between 225 and 230. I could stand to lose more, but being down 30 is certainly progress. It’s hard to express what a joy it is to have –for the first time in my life –a normal appetite. I enjoy my food, but in limited quantities. I had attributed the appetite loss to the cancer, but the cancer’s gone (I’m told) and the appetite hasn’t come back, suggesting that the issue is renal insufficiency.

Bunch of medical appointments next week.

He Shall Be Released?

When I first began to practice law, I was with a small, general practice firm that took whatever walked in the door. At one point, we had a federal court appointment to represent a defendant in an alleged drug conspiracy involving the Pagans motorcycle gang.

In response to our discovery requests, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dumped on us a ton of wiretap transcripts between the various Pagans and their followers and even mail that had been picked up in physical searches. When I say “dumped,” I mean “thrown in a box, randomly and in no particular order, and delivered to us.” It was my job to go through each piece of paper to see whether there was any possible evidence that would exculpate our client.

As I read the material, a strange pattern appeared. The Pagans did not believe that they were engaged in any wrongdoing. Rather, they believed that they were the objects of a conspiracy of by law enforcement and were being unfairly persecuted. In a very real way, it was like looking through a window into a universe of some alternative reality.

Tonight, I read the Sean Hannity/Paul Manafort text message “conversation.” Again, I had the same feeling of looking at some alternative reality. Manafort believed that the Office of Special Prosecutor, particularly Andrew Weisman, was in a conspiracy with the “Main Stream Media” to frame him. I don’t know whether Hannity actually also believed that, but he certainly feed Manafort’s fantasy.

The text stream ended on June 5, 2018. Since then, Manafort has been convicted by a jury of five counts of tax fraud, one count of failure to file a report of foreign bank and financial accounts and two counts of bank fraud. The jury voted 11-1 on 10 other charges. And, of course, Manafort has pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy. There was a conspiracy, but no one conducted by prosecutors.

I haven’t had much contact with the criminal justice system since those early days in practice. But perhaps because also I watched Martin Scorsese’s documentary Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story tonight and then read the text exchange, I saw certain of Dylan’s lyrics in a different light. That is, perhaps most criminal defendants are as self-deluded as those Pagans and Paul Manafort:

Down here next to me in this lonely crowd
Is a man who swears he’s not to blame
All day long I hear him cry so loud
Calling out that he’s been framed

Trump’s War on Coal II

The collapse of US coal continues.

In January I posted a piece on coal under Trump, concluding

My prediction is that the pace of closures, and the loss of mining jobs, will roughly triple.

How’s it going? The coal plant closures continue, but it’s far too early to test my prediction. I do however have some new evidence on my side.

I’m not talking about the long-awaited announcement by Trump’s EPA of its replacement for Obama’s Clean Power Plan regulation in the form of the Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE). The CPP was moribund once SCOTUS loyally suspended it, on the laughable pretext that the Trump Administration would shortly produce a workable alternative form of regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. ACE will be immediately caught up in litigation so it won’t have any effect either: it’s no longer regulations killing coal but economics. For instance, Republican Florida and Texas are both in the middle of a solar boom.

ACE is a stunt to retain the fraying support of Rust Belt voters along the lines of “At least we tried, but we had no answer to AOC’s superhero powers and superior Chinese and Danish technology, backed by the machinations of the Deep State”. Less an ace than a desperate lob from behind the baseline, inviting an easy smash. Fake news.

No, it’s something else.

Continue reading “Trump’s War on Coal II”

Medical Journal: 10/28/18

Had a moderately rough time in Prague, but suddenly today I’m feeling better: not normal, but better. As of this morning, I seem to be able to croak rather than whisper reliably, which makes a huge difference. And I just spent an hour on my feet in the Rijksmuseum without undue strain. Was going to cut my trip short by two days; now I’m shooting for one.

Illicit Tobacco and Nicotine Markets

FDA seeks ban on menthol cigarettes. FDA’s proposed flavored tobacco policy draws mixed reaction. Is it racist to ban menthol cigarettes—or not to? FDA tobacco crackdown draws fire from the right. Black advocacy groups cheer FDA’s push to ban menthol cigarettes.

Can a menthol ban survive lawsuits? Why an FDA ban on menthol is likely to survive a tobacco industry lawsuit. British American Tobacco sets out defense of menthols.

Flavored vapes draw FDA ire, with some exceptions: Mint, menthol, and tobacco flavors will stay on shelves. E-cig users are already searching for ways around coming sales restrictions.

Reps. Pallone and Shalala introduce comprehensive legislation to address youth tobacco use.
Prohibits all characterizing flavors of tobacco products, including menthol, and provides FDA with authority to collect user fees from all classes of tobacco, including e-cigarettes.

Ban on menthol tobacco products predicts cigarette cessation at one year.
The study found higher rates of quitting among menthol smokers compared with non-menthol smokers.

Evaluating a real world ban on menthol cigarettes: an interrupted time series analysis of sales.
Implementation of a menthol ban was associated with significant reduction of menthol cigarette sales and total cigarettes sales.

Statement from FDA Commissioner on advancing new policies aimed at preventing youth access to flavored tobacco products.
“Recent evidence indicates that mint- and menthol-flavored products are preferred more by adults than minors. We’re also aware that some adults may be using mint- and menthol-flavored products with the goal of ceasing combusted tobacco use, seeking health benefits at the individual level, and may be at risk of migrating back to cigarettes.”

Effect of menthol bans on tobacco purchases in the RTI iShoppe virtual convenience store.

NYC Council ignoring “unintended consequences” in discussing menthol ban.

Consumption of legal and illegal cigarettes in the Gambia. Policy makers’ views on the implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in the Gambia.

Strategies and barriers to achieving Finland tobacco endgame. Trends in UK use of roll-your-own cigarettes, 2008–2017.

Economics of tobacco control, part three: evidence from the ITC Project.


Medical Journal: 10/20/18

Nothing really new to report. If any of the symptoms are improving, it’s not noticeable to me. I would have expected to be in better shape two weeks-plus after the last treatment I’m coughing up occasional tiny bits of what appear to be tissue from the throat. Climbing three steps up to a train with my luggage, then hoisting my suitcase to the rack above the seats, left me seriously panting.

As of Thursday morning, my voice had progressed from a whisper to a croak, which seemed like important progress. But two days of talking too much at a meeting set me back again. This weekend I’m planning to be silent except for a few short phone calls; I’ll see if that helps.

Off to Prague and Amsterdam Tuesday night. That’s not seeming nearly as good an idea now as it did when I planned it, but I still expect to have a good time.

Cannabis News Round-Up

Former anti-pot politicians are lining up to profit off the end of their war on drugs. Marijuana industry wants Los Angeles to crack down on illegal pot shops. Democrats urge tougher penalties for black-market sales in New York marijuana legalization bill. The $160 billion cannabis industry, much of it still illegal, makes for a “beautiful opportunity”. Behind Oregon’s blockbuster marijuana deal: a Russian billionaire, cannabis consolidation. Marijuana industry could surpass NFL in revenue by 2020. Could Big Cannabis overrun California?

New study: Making medical marijuana legal does not prevent fatal opioid overdoses.

Nevada becomes first state to ban pre-employment marijuana drug testing. Nevada to try limited banking for cash-heavy pot industry. Nevada US Attorney says marijuana prosecutions possible. Oregon hopes to be an interstate marijuana supplier. Portland, Oregon invests cannabis tax dollars into black-owned businesses. California prisoners can legally possess marijuana, appeals court rules.

Colorado touts reaching $1 billion in cannabis taxes but the industry is stagnating. Colorado still exporting black-market cannabis because it makes tons of money in other states. Colorado hard seltzers want to take over legal weed, too. Can Colorado micro-business licenses diversify the marijuana industry?

Why Illinois legalization law is different from all others. The economic impact of recreational marijuana in Illinois. What’s legal weed gonna cost in Illinois? A lot. Legal weed could send millions of dollars to Illinois violence prevention groups. Illinoisresidents see benefits in legalization, but concerns persist. Legal pot in Illinois means concerns in Iowa. Want to work in the Illinois legal pot industry? Here’s who’s hiring right now.

New York Farm Bureau backs marijuana legalization. Majority in New York back use of recreational marijuana. So many reasons to legalize cannabis in New York. Will New York legal marijuana go up in smoke before June adjournment? Chairman to New York Senate Democrats: Don’t vote on marijuana this year.

Washington DC is one step closer to recreational marijuana dispensaries. Will Delaware legalize marijuana this year? New Jersey medical marijuana expansion stalls, expungement reform advances amid legal weed protest.

Maine can have say about new recreational marijuana rules. Maine marijuana rules up for important committee vote. Rhode Island marijuana legalization probably dead this year.

In Michigan‘s Upper Penninsula, weed is a lonely pursuit for its one and only dispensary.

Democratic presidential candidates mostly agree on marijuana legalization. The exception? Joe Biden.

Canada blew its chance to be the world’s pot leader. Veteran cannabis company Harborside joins wave of US firms listing on Canadian exchange.

Why legal weed in United Kingdom may be a pipe dream.