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EU Court stubs out tobacco firms’ challenge

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The European Court of Justice has dismissed tobacco firms’ legal challenge to EU rules that will see cigarettes sold in standardised packaging.

The Court rejected tobacco firms Phillip Morris International and British American Tobacco’s challenge to the EU rules forcing companies to cover 65% of cigarette packs in health warnings.

The Court stated in its ruling, “In providing that each unit packet and the outside packaging must carry health warnings taking the form of a message and a colour photograph, which cover 65% of the external front and back surface of each unit packet, the EU legislature did not go beyond the limits of what is appropriate and necessary.”

Marc Firestone, senior vice president and general counsel of Philip Morris International, said, “Today’s judgment is specific to detailed aspects of EU law, and reflects the substantial deference that the Court of Justice often shows to the EU institutions when reviewing EU legislation.

“The Court has not considered whether plain packaging is legal or is capable of reducing smoking rates. Those questions are currently under review by the English High Court and the World Trade Organization. We look forward to the outcome of those proceedings, as well as the timely implementation of the Directive in each of the 28 Member States.”

A British American Tobacco spokesperson said, “Despite the decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union, we stand by our belief that the Tobacco Products Directive is a clear example of the European Union overstepping the limits of its authority. The reality is that many elements of the Directive are disproportionate, distort competition and fail to respect the autonomy of the Member States.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of anti-tobacco charity ASH, said, “The European Court of Justice decision is welcome if not surprising.

“The Directive is lawful and the UK is allowed to go further than the Directive in standardising tobacco packs with respect to matters not harmonised by the Directive. We await the UK court judgement, which is expected shortly, but we expect that the court will also confirm that the introduction of standardised packaging in the UK is lawful.”

Deborah added, “From 20th May all packs manufactured for sale in the UK will have to be plain, standardised in the same drab green colour with the product name on the pack in a standard font.”