Author: Consumer Choice Center

Why We Need Acquisitions and Why Khan’s Concerns are Bad for Business

Namesakes of the 90s are seeing better days as Bed Bath & Beyond and David’s Bridal file for bankruptcy, joining the likes of Blockbuster and RadioShack. Each of these big box stores were big business in their heyday, and serve as a reminder that even the best can go bust in a dynamic marketplace.

Incumbent firms are prone to fall victim to the replacement effect, whereas opportunities for innovations are deemphasized so as to maintain the status quo. A great example of this is Kodak’s reluctance to embrace digital photography.

For firms to have staying power, they must be alert to changing market needs and pivot according to changing realities. Sometimes this can be done through the scaling of assets and resources by means of a merger. A current example of this is the proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger, which aims to create a premier omnichannel sales network for not only groceries but also healthcare and pharmaceutical needs. Through the joining of existing retail units, the merger would establish a national footprint for Kroger and enable it to capitalize on the growing trend of retail media marketing as well as compete with industry giants like Walmart and Costco. 

Accordingly, one might think the FTC would welcome the merger, given that Walmart has long been lambasted for its behemoth status without a worthy adversary when it comes to sales of groceries. Yet the FTC is reluctant to allow the transaction.

Currently, the FTC is ramping up its review of all things merger and acquisition related, including even past deals – to the dismay of Big Tech firms. 

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The UK to Handout a Million Vape Starter Kits to Smokers Seeking to Quit

The Ministry of Health will be giving out the kits as part of a new anti-smoking drive which includes plans for a crackdown on illicit vape sales. 

While official UK public health groups such as Public Health England (PHE) and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) keep assuring that there is no teen vaping epidemic while arguing in favour of the benefits of vapes for smoking cessation, the Guardian has just released an article claiming that teen vaping is a “public health catastrophe.”

“I am concerned that we are sleepwalking into a public health catastrophe with a generation of children hooked on nicotine,” said Prof. Andrew Bush, a consultant paediatric chest physician at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals, as quoted by the Guardian. The article went on to quote a number of parents who are voicing their concerns about their children’s vaping habits.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) cited a 2021 Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) report, which examined vaping behaviours among youths in the UK, and found that an overwhelming majority (83%) of teens and pre-teens aged between 11 and 18, have never tried or even heard of e-cigarettes. This finding has remained consistent since 2017.

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Illinois Considers a Vape Ban in Public Spaces

State Senator Julie Morrison has been striving to put an end to tobacco use by teens since entering the General Assembly. In 2019, she passed a law that increased the state’s tobacco age limit to 21. And after carrying out extensive work to combat smoking, she has turned her attention to vapes.

The state’s existing Smoke Free Illinois Act has prohibited smoking in public and within 15 feet of entrances since 2007. However, when this law took effect most people used combustible tobacco, and now Morrison would like to extend it to vaping via Senate Bill 1561. Last year she also set in place a measure that restricts marketing of vaping productsso that it does not appeal to minors.

Meanwhile in 2022, Senate Bill 3854 was introduced to ban flavoured products including THC vaping devices, heat-not-burn systems and chewing tobacco products. In response to this bill and in line with arguments by tobacco harm reduction experts, Elizabeth Hicks from the U.S. Affairs analyst with the Consumer Choice Center, said that enacting a flavour ban for vaping products, will just lead former smokers back to smoking.

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[EU] Public consultation on The future of the electronic communications sector and its infrastructure

The European Commission launched the exploratory consultation on the vision for the
future of the connectivity sector and of the connectivity infrastructure.

You can read the response submitted by the Consumer Choice Center below.

Prestazioni sanitarie, tempi di attesa e nuove tecnologie

Presentato ieri un particolare ‘Indice di risparmio tempo’. I dati mettono a confronto i sistemi di dieci paesi sviluppati e ne evidenziano le disuguaglianze (allo scopo di correggere il sistema)

Il tempo è denaro, recita un vecchio adagio, ancor più se parliamo di quello che ciascuno di noi investe per la propria salute. Mentre la politica (e non solo) si interroga come abbattere le liste di attesa, il Consumer Choice Center (realtà consolidata che rappresenta i consumatori in oltre 100 Paesi del mondo) ha pubblicato un ‘indice di risparmio di tempo’. Di cosa si tratta? L’indice mette a confronto i sistemi di 10 Paesi sviluppati, tra i primi e gli ultimi classificati, in termini di tempo risparmiato dai pazienti per ottenere un appuntamento dal medico, andare in farmacia o in ospedale, ordinare i farmaci e accedere alla contraccezione.
Si tratta del primo database di questo tipo (o almeno con una ampia scala di valutazione), e si prefigge di offrire ai consumatori uno strumento utile a operare le scelte migliori e più sane per sé stessi, nonché di evidenziare lacune strutturali sulle quali richiamare l’attenzione delle politiche sanitarie dei singoli Paesi.

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December 2022

Our mascot Charles wanted us to keep the New Year’s decorations up on CCC’s virtual offices, so please do not mind this cute consumer choice advocate on top of the page. 

If you want to give him some virtual nuts, you can follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Also, we did not want to dishearten Charles because honestly, he did a lot last year: we had over 1300 media hits, 5 new colleagues, and a lot of new ideas!

Over 1300 media hits (let me do the math for ya, almost four hits a day), and here are some of our favorites:

UAE Tops The Global Ranking In Fighting Covid-19 | MSN

Free Up The Cannabis Market | Financial Post

The Trouble With King Charles’ Unorthodox Views On Modern Farming | The Hill

Das Sind Die Zehn Besten Bahnhöfe In Europa – Der European Railway Station Index 2022 | Stern.De

The Study Reveals 62% Of Smokers Believe Anti-Smoking Policies Ignore How Difficult It Is To Stop Smoking | Yahoo News

A Day Late And A Dollar Short: Liberal Budget Fails Consumers | Financial Post

If you want a lovely ride down memory lane, I strongly suggest you to check out each of them.
King Charles piece is my personal favorite: an ambitious journey from Buckingham Palace to the corn fields of Missouri.

Last but not least, the CCC family grew a lot last year! We have 5 new colleagues working with us in championing the benefits of freedom of choice, innovation, and abundance in everyday life. Please welcome Emil Panzaru, Zoltán Kész, Elena Podaneva, Gogi Kamushadze, and yours truly!

We wish you a happy new year with a lot more freedom of choice, innovation, and abundance in your everyday lives!

Taiwanese actress’ vape case triggers debate on smoking alternatives regulation

A SOCIAL media post by Taiwanese actress Charlene An about her apprehension by Thai police and the hefty fine she had to pay for possession of vape product in Bangkok sparked debates on the merits of smoke-free alternative and the need for reasonable regulations.

An said she and her friends had to pay 27,000 baht (about S$1,080) before they could leave after being held and threatened with criminal charges by Thai police for the possession of vaping device. Thailand’s police commissioner issued an apology following An’s post and seven officers were placed under investigation for alleged extortion.

Following this incident that went viral on social media, calls from advocacy groups worldwide on the importance of reasonable and science-based regulation governing smoke-free alternatives like vapes and heated tobacco products ensued.

Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP) appealed for governments to reconsider less-harmful cigarette alternatives to reduce harm from smoking.

“We hope that other Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, would recognize the concept of tobacco harm reduction (THR) to save millions of smokers from lung diseases, cancer and even death. Smokers should be given access to less harmful products and make better decisions for themselves,” Anton Israel, NCUP president said.

“Vapes and heated tobacco products are tobacco harm reduction products that deliver nicotine without burning tobacco significantly lowering the number of harmful chemicals than smoking.

Many progressive countries, including the UK and Japan, recognize the role of these products to help smokers abandon cigarettes. Both these countries recorded significant decline in smoking prevalence following the introduction of vapes and heated tobacco products” Israel added.

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Is there a future for cannabis consumption lounges?

After much consultation and a lot of waiting, British Columbia released its What We Heard consultation report on the possibility of cannabis consumption lounges in January. The results were somewhat predictable: cannabis consumers and those connected to the industry were generally in favour, while non-cannabis users were against the plan.

Public health and law enforcement, for their part, expressed similar concerns they’ve had all along with legalization: health consequences, keeping it out of the hands of young people, and increased rates of impaired driving. 

It was far from the slam dunk that some in the industry were hoping to see, and it paints a cloudy picture of the future of consumption spaces. To many, the lack of spaces available to publicly consume cannabis remains one of legalization’s pieces of unfinished business. “This lack of consumption spaces is alienating,” wrote Amanda Siebert last year, “and it continues to stigmatize the plant long after we’ve been told it’s okay to partake in our substance of choice.” 

But if BC’s report is anything to go by, it’s hard to conclude that dedicated consumption cafes are, at this point, anything but a pipe dream. Consultation processes have failed to identify agreed-upon regulatory or business models for the sector, and politicians have been mostly apathetic towards reopening the question—in 2021, The Canadian Press reported that few provincial governments were even considering allowing them any time soon. 

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Taiwan Is About to Ban the Use of Nicotine Vapes

Taiwan looks set to become the next country in Asia to ban nicotine vaping products.

On January 12, amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act effectively cleared the legislative floor. Now, the legislation only awaits a presidential nod—a formality given that President Tsai Ing-wen is from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party that proposed it. 

The news, which arrives not long after the Philippines enacted relatively pro-vape regulations, has elicited strong reactions from consumers, policy experts and medical experts, who had some hopes that the tide might be turning in favor of tobacco harm reduction (THR). 

Taiwan appears to be emulating regulations in nearby Japan, where heated tobacco products (HTPs) are sold legally but nicotine vapes are prohibited. The availability of HTPs in Japan has seen a dramatic reduction in cigarette sales. But THR advocates will wonder why an option indicated to have an even lower risk profile—and shown to be a more effective smoking cessation aid than nicotine replacement therapy—is about to become formally illegal. Other Asian countries to have banned vapes include India and Thailand

In Taiwan’s strained governmental nomenclature, HTPs have been classified “designated tobacco products” and are subject to regulation, while vaping devices have been accorded the category of “tobacco-like products.” The imminent ban includes use of e-cigarettes, with penalties of up to $330 for violations. (Previously, vapes had existed in something of a legal gray area.)

This has ignited debate in Taiwan, a country of 24 million where 13 percent of the population smokes, including almost a quarter of men. While millions of upset vape users have been left in the lurch, anti-tobacco groups are meanwhile demanding HTPs be banned too. The law, which will likely come into effect in a month after the presidential assent, will inevitably force vape shops to close and a rapidly growing industry to shutter or go underground.

While it’s difficult to deduce the motivations for the legislative decision, Taiwan policy experts and vape users point to a combination of misinformation, financial considerations trumping public health, and the positions taken by World Health Organization’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) on novel nicotine alternatives.

“The issue did not have enough public discussion and the approach to harm reduction should be more thoroughly debated,” Simon Lee, the Taiwan policy fellow at Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group in Washington, told Filter. “For instance, we have seen misinformation, especially with regard to nicotine, circulating among anti-tobacco activists. It is beyond reasonable doubt that Taiwan’s consumers deserve a much better outcome.”

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#ConsumerChoice: Mental Health

At a time when NHS dental services are in crisis – and A&E, ambulance and nursing services are the focus of industrial action due to pay and conditions adding extra strain on the workload – protecting and supporting the mental health of staff in the workplace must become a priority.

A spokesperson from the Consumer Choice Center reports from an event in Switzerland that aims to address the situation.

As world leaders gather in Davos, Switzerland, the Consumer Choice Center hosted a panel on the importance of mental health support. Speakers discussed how challenges to mental health are increasing after the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and economic uncertainty, and focused on effective coping techniques.

The “Prioritising Mental Health in Times of Global Crisis” panel was moderated by Jillian Melchior, editorial board member at The Wall Street Journal, with opening remarks by Kathleen Kingsbury, Opinion Editor at The New York Times.

Kingsbury told her audience: “Journalists are no strangers to stress, anxiety and trauma. Just last week we lost a reporter in the newsroom, Blake Hounshell, after a long battle with depression.

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