Tobacco distributor fights plain packaging change

A distributor of a number of well-known tobacco brands says the Government cannot unilaterally introduce plain packaging on its products as a member of the EU.

JTI Ireland Ltd says this would be contrary to EU harmonisation objectives and an obstacle to trade between member states.

JTI also claims the rules, due to come in next month, will distort and impair the dynamics of competition in the tobacco market. They will dramatically reduce the ability of consumers to engage in “informed switching” and are likely to lead to a fall in the average price of tobacco products as a whole, it is claimed.

JTI is seeking High Court orders preventing the minister for health, Ireland and the attorney general from commencing the provisions of the recently passed Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015. The law means all tobacco products must come in standard plain paper packaging.

JTI supplies 3,100 retailers with brands including Benson and Hedges, Silk Cut, Camel, Hamlet cigars, roll-your-own such as Amber Leaf and Old Holborn, and pipe tobacco.

Paul Sreenan, counsel for JTI, asked Mr Justice Brian McGovern to adjourn for two weeks an application to admit the case to the fast-track Commercial Court division. The judge, who was told it was on consent, agreed to the adjournment.

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