Major tobacco firms have launched a legal challenge against a European directive that could increase the price of the cheapest packs of cigarettes by 70p.
Philip Morris International is leading the challenge in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against the revised EU Tobacco Products Directive, also known as TPD2, which was adopted in May 2014 but has been delayed by a series of court cases.
British American Tobacco will also launch a legal challenge and Imperial Brands is listed as an “interested party” to the case, reported the Sunday Times. The case will be decided on 4 May.
After the ruling tobacco firms will have a year to implement the changes contained in TPD2, which include introducing a minimum pack size for cigarettes, a minimum weight for hand rolling tobacco – set at 30g – and a ban on menthol from 2020. Industry insiders, according to the Sunday Times, have said some low-cost brands will increase by around 70p.
Cigarettes will have to be sold in packs of 20 if the directive is enforced, putting pressure on cheaper brands such as Lambert & Butler (owned by Imperial Brands) and Silk Cut, which typically sell packs of 16 or 17. Britain will be disproportionately affected by the directive as the UK is one of the only countries in the EU to sell packs of 10, which will be outlawed.
“Our key concern is that some of the aspects of TPD2, notably the minimum pack sizes for cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco, as well as the ban on menthol, will simply play into the hand of smugglers and counterfeiters by driving the trade in illicit tobacco products,” an industry source said.
Later in May the UK government will also announce its decision on plain packaging, which would replace all branding on cigarette packs with health warnings.