The European Court of Justice has cleared the way for plain packaging laws for tobacco products in Ireland.
It has made a preliminary ruling this morning against tobacco giants Philip Morris and British American Tobacco.
They had taken proceedings to the ECJ over an EU directive which would see health warnings on two thirds of tobacco packaging.
The Children's Minister James Reilly wants to go one step further in Ireland and ban tobacco branding on packets altogether.
In its ruling this morning, the ECJ said the new EU tobacco directive of 2014 is valid.
The Irish Cancer Society has welcomed the ruling.
“Plain packaging of tobacco saves lives,” says Kathleen O’Meara, Head of Advocacy & Communications.
“Big Tobacco is throwing everything at stopping its introduction in Ireland because they need to recruit 50 new smokers every day in Ireland to replace those dying and quitting.
“Today’s opinion means we’ve overcome a big hurdle. But the tobacco industry has deep pockets and this will not be the last legal challenge to plain packaging either here or at EU level.
“Australia, the first country to introduce the measure, is still fighting off spurious cases from the industry three years on.
“The louder Big Tobacco shout about this, the more we know it works.
“The EU Commission and the Irish government have remained steadfast in the face of enormous and costly legal pressure by the industry,” says Ms O’Meara.
“5,200 people die from tobacco related disease every year. The challenge now is to commit to public health, to commit to plain packaging and to reject the actions of a tobacco industry in crisis.
“The European Courts have given a massive Christmas gift to the Irish people. It’s time now to press ahead and ensure that 2016 marks a significant moment in the tobacco endgame.”