EU rules in favour of plain packaging for cigarettes

EU rules in favour of plain packaging for cigarettes

by Stephanie Bodoni and Sam Chambers  2016-05-05 05:52:31.0

CIGARETTE makers Philip Morris International, Imperial Brands and British American Tobacco (BAT) lost a fight against European Union (EU) curbs on their products in a ruling that may pave the way for governments to impose plain packaging.

The EU measures from 2014 that include a requirement that health warnings cover 65% of cigarette packs, did not go “beyond the limits of what is appropriate and necessary”, the EU Court of Justice said on Wednesday in Luxembourg.

British judges in 2014 sought the top EU tribunal’s view on whether the new European rules are valid.

The UK has, in the meantime, approved legislation that would force tobacco companies to sell their cigarettes in austere brown packs, with corporate logos replaced by graphic images of diseases blamed on smoking.

Philip Morris, BAT, Imperial Brands and Japan Tobacco went to court again, this time claiming the UK measures violate the companies’ intellectual property rights.

The contested EU rules replaced a 2001 EU tobacco law forcing cigarette makers to put health warnings at the top of packages.

Countries must ensure firms apply the measures, which also include a message that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 cancer-causing substances.

“Clearly, we are disappointed with today’s judgment,” Imperial Brands said. “At 65 pages, however, the judgment is lengthy, and we will take our time to carefully review the document over the coming days.”

The UK cigarette maker, which dropped the word ‘‘tobacco” from its name this year, yesterday reported first-half profit that beat analysts’ estimates, as newly acquired brands in the US gained market share.

BAT said the EU law “is a clear example of the EU overstepping the limits of its authority”.

“Many elements of the (law) are disproportionate, distort competition, and fail to respect the autonomy of (EU countries).

Japan Tobacco said the ruling was a “regrettable (and) inexplicable decision, which may lead member states to believe that they can infringe the principle of free movement of goods within the EU.”

The EU court “has not considered whether plain packaging is legal, or is capable of reducing smoking rates,” said Marc Firestone, general counsel of Philip Morris. “Those questions are under review by the English High Court and the World Trade Organisation.”

Tobacco kills as many as 695,000 people a year in the EU, according to the European Commission, which says a third of European adults smoke. Smoking is the largest avoidable health risk in Europe, causing more problems than alcohol, drugs, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or obesity, according to the commission, which proposed tougher rules in 2012.

The UK and Ireland, together with France, are the first European countries to back plain packaging, stamping out one of the last ways cigarette manufacturers can market their products.

“Governments who are considering plain packaging should ask themselves — can they really justify introducing a policy that has no hard data to prove that it actually works to reduce smoking,” BAT said.

“The ruling reinforces the idea” that providing “the highest possible level of health-protection supersedes almost any rights the tobacco industry has,” said Shane MacGuill, a tobacco analyst at Euromonitor International. “It’s very difficult for the industry to persuade the court that legislation is unlawful or unconstitutional if there is even a marginal prospect that the legislation could be beneficial to public health.”

The court also backed an EU ban on menthol cigarettes, and restrictions on e-cigarettes, on the premise that they can act as a “gateway” for users to begin smoking conventional cigarettes.

Bloomberg

HOLY SMOKES: Japan Tobacco called the EU court’s ruling on plain-packaging requirements for cigarettes regrettable and inexplicable. As many as 695,000 people a year in the EU die from tobacco-related illnesses. Picture: BLOOMBERG

HOLY SMOKES: Japan Tobacco called the EU court’s ruling on plain-packaging requirements for cigarettes regrettable and inexplicable. As many as 695,000 people a year in the EU die from tobacco-related illnesses. Picture: BLOOMBERG

CIGARETTE makers Philip Morris International, Imperial Brands and British American Tobacco (BAT) lost a fight against European Union (EU) curbs on their products in a ruling that may pave the way for governments to impose plain packaging.

The EU measures from 2014 that include a requirement that health warnings cover 65% of cigarette packs, did not go “beyond the limits of what is appropriate and necessary”, the EU Court of Justice said on Wednesday in Luxembourg.

British judges in 2014 sought the top EU tribunal’s view on whether the new European rules are valid.

The UK has, in the meantime, approved legislation that would force tobacco companies to sell their cigarettes in austere brown packs, with corporate logos replaced by graphic images of diseases blamed on smoking.

Philip Morris, BAT, Imperial Brands and Japan Tobacco went to court again, this time claiming the UK measures violate the companies’ intellectual property rights.

The contested EU rules replaced a 2001 EU tobacco law forcing cigarette makers to put health warnings at the top of packages.

Countries must ensure firms apply the measures, which also include a message that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 cancer-causing substances.

“Clearly, we are disappointed with today’s judgment,” Imperial Brands said. “At 65 pages, however, the judgment is lengthy, and we will take our time to carefully review the document over the coming days.”

The UK cigarette maker, which dropped the word ‘‘tobacco” from its name this year, yesterday reported first-half profit that beat analysts’ estimates, as newly acquired brands in the US gained market share.

BAT said the EU law “is a clear example of the EU overstepping the limits of its authority”.

“Many elements of the (law) are disproportionate, distort competition, and fail to respect the autonomy of (EU countries).

Japan Tobacco said the ruling was a “regrettable (and) inexplicable decision, which may lead member states to believe that they can infringe the principle of free movement of goods within the EU.”

The EU court “has not considered whether plain packaging is legal, or is capable of reducing smoking rates,” said Marc Firestone, general counsel of Philip Morris. “Those questions are under review by the English High Court and the World Trade Organisation.”

Tobacco kills as many as 695,000 people a year in the EU, according to the European Commission, which says a third of European adults smoke. Smoking is the largest avoidable health risk in Europe, causing more problems than alcohol, drugs, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or obesity, according to the commission, which proposed tougher rules in 2012.

The UK and Ireland, together with France, are the first European countries to back plain packaging, stamping out one of the last ways cigarette manufacturers can market their products.

“Governments who are considering plain packaging should ask themselves — can they really justify introducing a policy that has no hard data to prove that it actually works to reduce smoking,” BAT said.

“The ruling reinforces the idea” that providing “the highest possible level of health-protection supersedes almost any rights the tobacco industry has,” said Shane MacGuill, a tobacco analyst at Euromonitor International. “It’s very difficult for the industry to persuade the court that legislation is unlawful or unconstitutional if there is even a marginal prospect that the legislation could be beneficial to public health.”

The court also backed an EU ban on menthol cigarettes, and restrictions on e-cigarettes, on the premise that they can act as a “gateway” for users to begin smoking conventional cigarettes.

Bloomberg

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