ECJ Court ruling on Tobacco Products Directive due Wed 4th May

The European Court of Justice is releasing its ruling tomorrow, Wednesday 4th May on whether the Tobacco Products Directive of 2014 is lawful. [1] The Directive was adopted in February 2014 but was subjected to three different legal challenges. In December 2015, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice issued an Opinion dismissing these challenges. [2] Although not legally binding, Opinions of the Advocate General help to inform the European Court’s decision.

In the view of Advocate General Kokott, the Directive is based on the correct legal basis for internal market harmonisation measures and does not infringe the principles of equal treatment, free competition, proportionality or the fundamental rights of manufacturers the right to conduct a business – which the tobacco companies had challenged.

In particular she stated that the standardisation of the labelling and packaging of tobacco products (such as size, minimum content, and health warnings) are valid and that there is scope for Member States, like the UK, to go further in standardising the pack.

The Opinion also dismissed a case brought by the Polish Government which challenged the ban on menthol flavouring of cigarettes and a separate case brought by a manufacturer of electronic cigarettes which had challenged the regulation of e-cigarettes.

ASH will issue a comment once the Court has published its final ruling which is expected early tomorrow morning.

In the UK, the case being brought by the tobacco manufacturers against the Government in relation to its proposals to introduce standardised “plain” packaging [3] was heard in December 2015 and a judgment is expected shortly.


Notes and Links: 

[1] EU Tobacco Products Directive
[2] See ASH news release of 23 Dec. 2015 summarising the Advocate General’s Opinion and details of the legal challenges.
[3] From 20th May the tobacco manufacturers are required to manufacture packs to a standard format and colour as shown here: ASH media advisory of 5th April 2016

There is a year transition period after which all packs on sale have to conform to this standard.