Big tobacco firms aim to stub out new plain packaging laws via appeal

 
Francesca Washtell
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Last Thursday the High Court ruled against a legal challenge against plain packaging from big tobacco firms (Source: Getty)

Two of the big four tobacco companies are set to launch an appeal in the coming weeks against last Thursday's High Court ruling that paved the way for new plain packaging laws on cigarette boxes.

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and British American Tobacco (BAT) have both said they will appeal against the High Court's decision on the new domestic law, delivered on Thursday, which ruled it was legal to enforce new standardised packaging across the tobacco industry.

City A.M. understands there are a number of grounds that lawyers for the companies are considering to seek an appeal on. These could include claiming compensation for loss of earnings and property confiscation, although the precise areas have yet to be confirmed.

Read more: Plain packaging: New UK cigarette rules are "plain crazy"

The legal challenge the High Court ruled against last Thursday was led by Marlboro-maker Philip Morris International and BAT, while JTI and Imperial Brands were registered as "interested parties", and focused on the deprivation of intellectual property rights, moves against trademark regulations and unjustified restriction on free movement of goods.

Since Friday, all cigarette packets manufactured share the same dark green base colour, as well as the same font, size, case and alignment of text.

To comply with the European Union's Tobacco Products Directive, which also came into force on Friday, health warnings now also cover 65 per cent of the front and back of packets.

Read more: Plain packaging: The starting gun has been fired on the tobacco industry

Of the other two major tobacco firms, PMI has said it will not seek to appeal the decision. A spokesperson for UK-based Imperial Brands said it was still considering its options on whether to appeal.

"We will continue to challenge the legality of plain packaging," Daniel Sciama, UK managing director at JTI, said after the High Court ruling was announced. "The fact remains that our branding has been eradicated and we maintain that this is unlawful."

Read more: This chart shows plain packaging's impact on cigarette sales in Australia

A spokesperson for BAT said the decision was "by no means the final word on the lawfulness of plain packaging".

"We believe that the judgement contains a number of fundamental errors of law and we are applying for leave to appeal the decision. The judgement, if left to stand, should also raise real concerns for many other legitimate businesses as it creates a worrying precedent whereby public policy concerns can ride roughshod over long established fundamental commercial rights," the spokesperson added.

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