Day: October 10, 2023

Tabling of GEG bill postponed again?

Questions abound over the tabling of the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023 for its second reading in the Dewan Rakyat tomorrow.

This comes after a health ministry briefing for MPs, scheduled to be held at 5pm today, was postponed indefinitely.

The health ministry has also postponed a media briefing on the bill scheduled for this afternoon in Parliament. No reasons were given for the postponement.

A source close to the matter told FMT that the tabling of the bill has been postponed.

At the time of publication, health minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa and the ministry’s communication team have yet to respond to queries on whether the tabling of the bill, also known as the Generational End Game (GEG) bill, had been postponed.

Last week, Zaliha announced that the Cabinet had decided that the bill would be tabled for its second reading on Oct 10.

The GEG bill seeks to ban the use, purchase and sale of cigarettes and vape products to those born after 2007.

Read the full text here

Lina Khan’s Anti-Progress Paradox

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan has it out for Amazon, and it is a fight she’s been preparing for since grad school. Six years ago, in 2017, Khan amassed attention with the publication of her academic article criticizing Amazon’s eCommerce dominance. Khan was 29 years old, just a year older than Amazon is today.

Thanks in part to the notoriety Khan achieved from that publication, the Biden Administration appointed her to the FTC, and she has been eager to put Amazon in the hot seat ever since.

Khan’s article, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox” featured in The Yale Law Journal, notes how Amazon’s “sheer scale and breadth…may pose hazards” to our economic system and “the potential social costs of Amazon’s dominance” is worrisome. However, just one page prior to these assertions, Khan notes how customers “universally seem to love the company” and that “close to half of all online buyers go directly to Amazon first to search for products.” 

Khan’s article, and the attention it received, signals a scary level of evasion within our culture. There is a strong desire to bash big business and vilify the success of billionaires, yet much of their wealth was derived through the power of our own pocketbooks. Our Starbucks coffee, use of smartphone capabilities, and online shopping sprees weren’t brought on by force — they were choices. And to a large extent, we are better off because of them.

This is not to say that marketers haven’t improved their ability to appeal to our interests, incentivize our purchase decisions, and persuade us with readily available buy-it-now buttons. But being coaxed is not the same as being coerced.

Over 200 million people across the globe have opted to use Prime, and even government agencies (too many in the US to name) have readily signed on for Amazon Web Services (AWS). The launch of AWS in 2006 has been a huge benefit to organizations of all shapes and sizes, and the sheer scope of offerings that Amazon has developed over time for helping small businesses is truly remarkable. 

Currently, more than 60 percent of sales in Amazon’s stores are derived from small and medium-sized businesses, and Amazon has gone to great lengths to incentivize various forms of entrepreneurship.

Amazon offers educational assistance to those looking to leverage its platform through programs like Seller University and Small Business Academy, and it enables sellers to differentiate and appeal to consumers according to what region they are in or communities they represent.

The value derived from using Amazon’s logistics and promotional strategies is undeniable given that it has resulted in the creation of entire agencies whose sole purpose is to help other firms maximize their use of Amazon. 

Indeed, despite the FTC’s aversion to Bezos’s business, Amazon is an American brand to be proud of. Over the years, it has earned many awards and accolades for its customer-centric approach and Amazon is often referenced in business courses to reiterate best practices for business growth.

People love the Amazon brand – so much so that it was ranked higher than the US military in the Harvard CAPs Harris Poll and achieved top positions in both the Morning Consult list and the Axios Harris Poll for its favorable status and reputation. And yet, little appreciation is granted by Khan or her FTC colleagues for how Amazon improves efficiencies for small and medium-sized businesses or caters to customers who may have limited means

If Amazon can be sued by the FTC for the success it has achieved in catering to customers and enabling the sales of third-party sellers, what chance does a small business have for crafting its own strategies and having autonomy over its own operations and distribution networks? Industrial liberty is being hampered by government power more than it is via corporate power, and all members of the business community should be concerned about this fact. 

A society can’t progress when an economic system is subject to bureaucratic bullying or when the dynamics of market mechanisms are distorted by political pressures. 

Antitrust laws, as being applied by Lina Khan, are truly anti-progress.

Originally published here

Are we witnessing the first cracks in the EU’s “better safe than sorry” approach?

A new amendment to EU essential oils regulations spells victory for European consumers and industry

Good policy-making means correcting unfortunate mistakes. For this reason, it is wonderful to see the European Parliament address burdensome essential oils rules. In today’s plenary vote, Members of Parliament approved amendment 32, designed to adjust Classification, Labelling, and Packaging (CLP)regulations. Instead of grouping essential oils under the ambiguous label of mixtures containing more than one substance, any natural water or steam emulsions will now be more accurately described as substances of natural botanic origin, separate from already extant rules (EU) No 1107/2009 and (EU) No 528/2012 for organic insecticides.

The proposal significantly improves the European Union Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) ruling. The initial plan was based on a hazard mentality, which allowed for no amount of risk so long as a single part of a substance may be troublesome in a hypothetical laboratory setting. It further equated essential oils with hazardous artificial compounds when all the available evidence suggests they are natural and perfectly safe. As a result, the ECHA would most likely have curtailed essential oils from being bought or sold via EU regulation 2021/1902.

The original regulations would have only added fuel to the fire consumers face. The EU-wide inflation rate remains high at 4.3%, a figure well above the European Central Bank’s price stability target of 2%. Higher prices translate into a general price rise, making it harder for ordinary Europeans to make ends meet. Thanks to the extra regulations, the few available products would have become more expensive due to the added compliance costs, piling further momentum to price rises. In the worst-case scenario, ordinary buyers could have been deprived of some of their favorite perfumes, shampoos, and make-up kits (which contain at least nine hundred and ninety-two substances derived from rose, chamomile, lemon, tree bark, or other natural components).

The amendment will prevent either scenario– essential oils never have to be withdrawn from the market because of unfounded safety concerns or comply with additional labeling rules and regulations. Consumers are left to enjoy the same items at affordable prices.

Producers in European member states also have reasons to celebrate the certainty the amendment brings to their businesses. France could have lost its position as the second-biggest supplier of lavender and the third-biggest exporter of the plant, and 458 million euros in exports. Bulgaria’s Kazanlak Valley is famous worldwide for its rose oil. It alone yielded two tonnes of essential oils, then exported for 92 million euros annually. Bulgarian workers and companies who were reasonably concerned about the implications of the ECHA’s actions can now breathe a collective sigh of relief. So, too, can the 4500 families in Italy’s Reggio Calabria responsible for harvesting 95% of all bergamot around the world. Italy’s 174 million euros in exports are safe and secure.

Smaller players in the market were even more vulnerable to change. Lithuanian cosmetics companies could see their mint, chamomile, juniper, and spruce overseas exchange disappear, losing 379.9 million euros. Minor yet entrepreneurial enterprises like the Tedre Farm in Estonia, originators of a more efficient carbon monoxide extraction method for raspberry oil, may have been rendered insolvent under the ECHA’s plans. With amendment 32, they and others can make their mark in the broader market unperturbed.

However, policymakers should go further and urge the ECHA to change its mentality towards regulation altogether. Currently, the ECHA operates based on a hazard-based, “better safe than sorry” approach, which has led it to oppose essential oils needlessly. Instead, regulators should practice the risk-based method, assuming realistic intended use levels. In doing so, they should incorporate the empirical evidence that shows essential oils to be harmless to humans and the environment into regulatory decision-making.  This way, they will avoid making any future mistakes.

Originally published here

UK should not copy New Zealand’s nanny state policies

Fred Roeder, Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center, strongly condemns the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent proposal to introduce a generational ban on smoking, as reported by The Guardian.

The ban, coupled with a blanket prohibition on disposable vapes, is a regressive step that threatens to fuel the black market and infringe upon the rights of adult smokers to make their own informed choices.The UK has long been a champion of evidence-based policies, particularly in the realm of tobacco harm reduction.

However, the proposed generational ban on cigarettes, combined with the ban on disposable vapes, marks a departure from this pragmatic approach. By depriving adults of their right to choose how they consume nicotine, these measures risk driving millions of consumers towards unregulated and unsafe alternatives, undermining public health objectives in the process.

Mr. Roeder emphasizes that the UK’s smoking rates have steadily declined thanks to a comprehensive strategy that embraces harm reduction policies. By promoting alternatives such as e-cigarettes and other reduced-risk products, the UK has successfully encouraged smokers to transition away from traditional combustible cigarettes.

Read the full text here

Scroll to top