Tobacco firms lose latest court challenge over plain package rules in the UK

Tobacco giants have lost the latest round of their legal battle against the British Government's new plain-packaging rules.

In May, they suffered what anti-smoking campaigners described as a ''crushing defeat'' at the British High Court.

The day before new regulations come into force, a judge in London had declared that they were ''valid and lawful in all respects''.

Mr Justice Green rejected a judicial review action brought against Britain's Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Leading companies then took their case on to the Court of Appeal.

But on Wednesday, three judges in London rejected their challenge against the High Court's decision.

An example of the packaging on a cigarette box that was to be introduced in Ireland.

A number of companies, including British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International, challenged the legality of the ''standardised packaging'' regulations.

They argued that the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 would destroy valuable property rights and render products indistinguishable from each other.

Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Lewison, Lord Justice Beatson and Sir Stephen Richards ruled that the Health Secretary had "lawfully exercised his powers".

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Ash, said: "This is a victory for public health and another crushing defeat for the tobacco industry.

"This ruling should also encourage other countries to press ahead with standardised packaging, now that the industry's arguments have yet again been shown to be without foundation."

A British American Tobacco spokeswoman said: "Despite today's decision, we remain firm in our belief that plain packaging is an ineffective policy that doesn't work to reduce smoking levels - and it's important to remember this decision by the Court of Appeal is not an endorsement of the effectiveness of this measure.

"In upholding the original decision, we remain concerned that the Court of Appeal has made many of the same fundamental errors of law as the original judge.

"These are issues of significant constitutional and commercial importance which, if left unchallenged, would have serious implications for other legitimate businesses and for the ability of the Government to act first and justify later when it comes to regulation.

"Today's decision is disappointing.

"However, it does not necessarily mark the end of the challenge and, given the importance of this issue, we are considering our options carefully.

"It's important to point out that this decision is not a green light for governments to introduce plain packaging, and those considering it must first ensure that the measure complies with the fundamental rights of businesses in their country, as well as with their international law obligations.

"Governments should also take note that the World Trade Organisation dispute on plain packaging is still ongoing."

The appeal judges gave the tobacco companies until December 9 to make any application to them for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court in the UK.

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