Tobacco giants lose High Court battle over plain packaging laws

The world's biggest tobacco brands have lost a case in the UK High Court against a law that will require all cigarette packets to carry a plain "standardised" design.

The legal challenge was rejected by Mr Justice Green today, and as a result the packaging clampdown will go ahead as planned.

Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) had sought to quash the new legislation, challenging its legality on the grounds that it would take brands intellectual property.

The industry giants' put forward an argument claiming that the proposal would breach UK, EU and international laws which stipulate that "deprivation of property" is illegal.

The UK High Court has now dismissed this claim, stating in a 386-page ruling: "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."

The judge's decision comes just one day ahead of the initial date set for the implementation of the law, which will now go ahead as planned tomorrow (20 May), and follows similar action from the European High Court, which recently rejected a series of legal challenges around the sale of tobacco.

The verdict means all distinctive branding, fonts and bright colours will disappear from cartons to be replaced by a uniform green design adorned with health warnings.

Flavoured products like menthols, and smaller 10-packs of cigarettes will also be banned as part of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive

Speaking after the ruling, JTI’s UK managing director Daniel Sciamma, said the firm is braced to appeal the packaging decision.

"We will continue to challenge the legality of plain packaging. The fact remains that our branding has been eradicated and we maintain that this is unlawful," he said.

When the tobacco giants launched action against the UK government, the Department of Health asserted 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 spokesperson.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.