Tobacco Industry Court Case on Standardised Tobacco Packaging Starts Thursday in High Court

Tuesday 08 December 2015

The tobacco industry’s legal effort to block the introduction of standardised (“plain”) tobacco packaging in the UK starts in the High Court this Thursday (10th December). [1]

The four major manufacturers (British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco Limited, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris International) are challenging the UK Government and asking the court to rule that the Regulations bringing in standardised packaging are unlawful [2]. If, as ASH expects, the tobacco industry legal challenge fails, all cigarettes and hand-rolled tobacco will have to be manufactured in standard packs from May 2016. Both the Regulations and the Children and Families Act, which gave the Health Secretary the power to regulate pack design, were passed by overwhelming majorities on free votes in both the House of Commons and in the House of Lords.[3]

The tobacco companies, who make the only consumer products in the world that cause half their long-term users to die prematurely, are claiming that the Regulations infringe their human rights and intellectual property rights.

Meanwhile last week, the French National Assembly voted in favour of standardised packaging, and the Irish Dail passed standard packs legislation in March this year. Other countries that are planning to implement this measure include Norway, Canada and South Africa.[4]

ASH is intervening in the case [5] and will be presenting oral arguments, probably on Thursday 16th November.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:

“The court case brought by the tobacco industry to try to block standardised tobacco packaging in the UK begins on Thursday. This is a desperate last ditch move by the tobacco companies to try to protect their right to promote their products in glitzy brightly coloured packaging, hoping that they will attract children and young people to become the next generation addicted to smoking.

We expect the industry to lose. But of course they still hope that by tying up government officials and the court system for as long as they can, and by making the case as complicated and expensive as possible, they might put off governments in poorer countries than the UK from following our example”


Notes and Links

Please Note: the University of Bath Tobacco Control Research Group “Tobacco Tactics” website has an excellent section on standardised packaging in the UK with details of how the policy debate developed in the UK.
[1] Royal Courts of Justice Cause List
CO/2322/2015 The Queen on the application of British American Tobacco Uk Limited v Secretary Of State For Health
CO/2323/2015 The Queen on the application of Philiip Morris Brands Sarl v Secretary Of State For Health
CO/2352/2015 The Queen on the application of Jt International Sa v Secretary Of State For Health
CO/2601/2015 The Queen on the application of Imperial Tobacco Limited v Secretary Of State For Health
[2] The Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015
[3] On 11 Mar 2015 367 MPs voted in favour of the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 with just 113 against. In the Lords on 16 March the regulations passed without a division.
[4] Plain Packaging: International Overview. Canadian Cancer Society
[5] Acting for ASH pro bono are: solicitors from Leigh Day and barristers Peter Oliver and Ligia Osepciu of Monckton Chambers.