Tobacco giants file High Court action claiming plain packaging goes "too far"

Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco have filed what could be the biggest corporate damages claim in legal history against the government.

Challenging plans for plain packaging on cigarettes the tobacco giants case with the High Court will argue that the move robs them of trademarks and the "deprivation of property" is a breach of UK, EU and international laws.

Speaking to the press, senior vice president and general counsel for PMI, Mark Firestone, said that though the companies "respect the government's authority to regulate in the public interest" plain packaging goes "too far".

"Countries around the world have shown that effective tobacco control can coexist with respect for consumer freedoms and private property," he added.

The Department of Health countered that it would not be "held to ransom by the tobacco industry."

"We would not have gone ahead with standardised packaging unless we considered it to be defensible in the courts," said a health department spokesman.

Legal papers filed at the High Court claim the proposed regulations do not provide PMI, the producers of Marlboro, enough compensation with Firestone remarking that the government's rushing out of new regulations sees "many serious questions left unanswered."

PMI is thought to be drawing on legal opinion from Lord Hoffman which concludes banning branding could be a breach of trademark law and by blocking internationally recognised trademarks in the UK could be in breach of the principle of free movement of goods in the EU.

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