In a swish research centre on the edge of a Swiss lake, the world’s biggest cigarette company is re-inventing itself.
And the complex of laboratories is a signal of intent.
It’s spent £3.5bn on science and technology so far, clocking up more than 3,000 patents, with another 5,000 pending.
Sky News was given unprecedented access, allowed to see banks of machines that “smoke”, and a laboratory where scientists monitor the impact of chemicals on the tiny hairs inside the lungs and airways.
The cooler temperature lowers levels of 15 noxious chemicals found in cigarette smoke by 95%, according to the company’s research.
That doesn’t mean it reduces the risk of smoking-related diseases. Those studies haven’t been done, though blood tests suggest there is a less damaging impact on the body.
Nor have there been head-to-head comparisons with vaping.
The aerosol from heating nicotine liquid has even lower levels of toxic compounds. And while medical authorities endorse vaping as an alternative to smoking, they are so far sniffy about heated tobacco.
Public Health England says there just isn’t enough independent research to recommend it to smokers as a way of reducing risk.
There may well be a big dose of scepticism involved too.
Tobacco killed 100 million people in the 20th Century and for decades the industry denied there was a risk from smoking.
According to anti-tobacco campaigners it even covered up evidence that nicotine was addictive.
So why, they ask, should the industry be trusted now?
There may be another motive for Philip Morris’s shift away from cigarettes.
Smokers in most industrialised nations are already making the same transition.
They’re either quitting altogether, or they’re vaping.
So this could be a shrewd move by the company to give smokers a reason to stick with tobacco in some form.
The biggest test is what Philip Morris does in low and middle income countries, where most smokers live and where it continues to make huge profits from its cigarettes.
The current heated tobacco device is well-beyond the means of the world’s poor.
The company says it is committed to devising cheaper versions for every market, a win for the business and arguably for smokers.
Government Plans To Issue Birth Certificates For Cattle
Plans have reached an advanced stage for the issuance of “birth certificates” for the animals as well as registration of all farmers and their cattle by the Ugandan government.
Ugandan Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Vincent Ssempijja, said the move became necessary to enable government trace where the products are coming from.
Ssempijja explained that the international market demanded that all countries producing food for the European market needed to provide proof so that the food could be traced.
“They want to know where the meat and crop products are coming from.
“They have been impounding and banning all consignments from Uganda if they find one box with issues.
“Farmers will be registered and their products given barcodes so that if they find a problem with one box, they look for the source and sort out the problem.
“We cannot enter lucrative markets unless farmers register,” he said at the official opening of the National Agricultural Show in Jinja, southern Uganda.
Ssempijja added that all the cattle must be registered and given “birth certificates”.
“For cattle farmers, it is going to be worse. You will be registered as a farmer, the cow will be registered, numbered and will have a birth certificate because the importers of our products demand meat for cows aged between 15 to 24 months.
“So we are going to sell the meat depending on their age,” he added.
An audit team from the European Union is expected to arrive in Uganda in September to that effect, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.
Ebola forcing Congolese to change the way they bury the dead
There is little ceremony now and there are no public prayers. Instead, traditional rituals have been replaced by an elaborate process designed to halt the spread of infection.
This morning, at the city morgue, there was a little coffin sitting in front of the main door. It was wrapped in decorative plastic and it had been built for a baby or a small child.
There was a baby inside who had died during child birth just a few hours earlier. The little girl was suspected of contracting Ebola and the mother was gravely ill.
However, I could see the child’s grandmother looking on from the side. After a few minutes a man in a protective suit told her she could take a look at the body.
She approached slowly as the burial team sprayed the path with disinfectant and she quickly glanced at the child. But she was not allowed to linger and she could not touch the body as Congolese tradition dictates.
An official from the Red Cross told me why.
“We are careful because every dead body [in Beni] is suspected of Ebola,” said Cleophas Vyavuwa.
“The virus is so dangerous that if we touched it without protection we risk losing our lives.”
The coffin was loaded onto the back of a pick-up truck, then driven through town.
I could see the locals keeping their distance. People on motorcycles passed on the far side of the road as if they risked contamination if they came too close.
Clearly, most residents are afraid and there are some who simply don’t want to know – itself a product of fear.
It is a major reason why the World Health Organisation has re-classified this outbreak as a global emergency with some 1,700 losing their lives.
The pickup stopped at an ad-hoc burial ground that has been carved from the forest outside Beni. Men with heavy-duty gloves weaved around the freshly dug graves as they carried the coffin to its designated spot.
The relatives of the dead, like Muhindo Mathe, the child’s grandfather, were told to keep their distance and that is extremely difficult for some. Family members are supposed to organise the funeral – it is they who decide where their loved ones are laid to rest.
Mr Mathe said: “We are losing our family members and you know, in our culture, people would come and see you and give messages of compassion but that isn’t possible today.”
The family of the little girl, who was named Masika Mathe, have followed the rules – they have the permitted members of the Red Cross to bury the child.
But there are many Congolese who have not and it has fuelled the spread of Ebola.
Susana Rico, who works for the World Food Programme, is one of the most experienced coordinators on the ground and told me that this is a crucial argument that has to be won if they are going to rid this region of Ebola.
She said: “Just allowing someone else to handle that body is a leap culturally, but that has to be overcome – even if it is an enormous change.
“Where we have seen the community taking charge, it begins to change. It is happening in some communities.”
Deadly Japan fire: Arson suspect said animation studio ‘stole his novel
According to local media reports, the 41-year-old told police he planned the deadly blaze after the company stole his novel.
A witness told reporters that he “seemed to be discontented, he seemed to get angry, shouting something about how he had been plagiarised”.
The blaze in Kyoto is the worst mass killing since a suspected arson attack in Tokyo killed 44 people in 2001.
It is believed the suspect shouted “die!” as he poured a liquid, believed to be petrol, around the studio.
The blaze broke out at 10.30am local time on Thursday and was fully extinguished at about 6.20am on Friday.
Officers said the suspect was not a company employee but gave no further details.
More than 70 people were in the three-storey building at the time – and 10 people remain in a critical condition.
Of the 33 who died, 19 were found on a staircase leading up to the roof from the third floor, with authorities telling the Kyodo news agency that their bodies were found piled on top of each other.
The victims may have rushed up the stairs to escape the blaze on the lower floors, only to find that they could not open the door.
None of the victims’ identified have been disclosed, but locals suggested many of those who died would have been in their 20s.
Two cans, a rucksack and a trolley were found near the site, and television footage appeared to show five long knives being laid out by police as possible evidence on the ground outside the building.
Little else is known about the suspect, who is under police supervision with serious burns to his face and legs.
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