Tobacco giants lose High Court challenge over new plain packaging rules in UK

Tobacco giants have lost their High Court challenge over the lawfulness of the British Government's new plain packaging rules - the day before they are due to come into force.

Tobacco giants lose High Court challenge over new plain packaging rules in UK

Tobacco giants have lost their High Court challenge over the lawfulness of the British Government's new plain packaging rules - the day before they are due to come into force.

A ruling in the case brought by four of the world's biggest firms was given in London on Thursday by Mr Justice Green, who heard the case in December.

Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International had challenged the legality of the new "standardised packaging" regulations - due to come into force on Friday - in a judicial review action.

But Mr Justice Green dismissed all their grounds of challenge.

Heath Secretary Jeremy Hunt had contested the case arguing that the regulations are lawful.

The judge's decision comes after Europe's highest court recently rejected a series of legal challenges.

In his 386-page, 1,000-paragraph written ruling, Mr Justice Green said: "The regulations were lawful when they were promulgated by Parliament and they are lawful now in the light of the most up-to-date evidence."

Earlier this month, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Tobacco Products Directive, which was adopted in 2014 but has been held up by the challenges, is lawful.

Under the directive, picture health warnings must cover 65% of the front and back of every packet of cigarettes, with additional warnings on the top of the pack.

It includes a ban on menthol cigarettes and "lipstick-style" packs aimed at women and a ban on promotional statements such as "this product is free of additives" or "is less harmful than other brands".

The directive also allowed the UK to go further and introduce its own regulations requiring all tobacco packaging to be uniformly olive green with large images designed to act as health warnings.

At the heart of the ruling given by the High Court are the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, which the companies say will destroy their valuable property rights and render products indistinguishable from each other.

The firms put forward a number of grounds of challenge, including a claim that the regulations violate a number of UK and EU laws, and that they are "disproportionate" and "must be quashed".

Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) chief executive Deborah Arnott said: "This landmark judgment is a crushing defeat for the tobacco industry and fully justifies the Government's determination to go ahead with the introduction of standardised packaging.

"Millions of pounds have been spent on some of the country's most expensive lawyers in the hope of blocking the policy.

"This disgraceful effort to privilege tobacco business interests over public health has rightly failed utterly."

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: "Standard packaging is a fabulous result, not just protecting generations to come but also offering a powerful new reason for smokers to quit."

The judge said: "When one stands back from the immense detail of these challenges, as the Secretary of State submitted during the hearings, the essence of the case is about whether it is lawful for states to prevent the tobacco industry from continuing to make profits by using their trade marks and other rights to further what the World Health Organisation describes as a health crisis of epidemic proportions and which imposes an immense clean-up cost on the public purse."

He added: "In my judgment the regulations are valid and lawful in all respects.

"There is no basis upon which I could or should strike down the regulations or prevent them coming into effect tomorrow."

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