Thursday 19 May 2016 12:25 pm

Big tobacco companies lose High Court battle over plain packaging

Big tobacco firms have lost a High Court challenge against new plain packaging rules that will be implemented tomorrow. 

Under the new rules, all cigarette packets will look similar, with the same green colour, font, size, case and alignment of text on boxes.

Manufacturers will have to comply with the new packaging legislation from 20 May.

The world's big four tobacco companies were involved in the legal challenge, which was led by Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco. Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and Imperial Brands were registered as "interested parties".

Read more: New laws will stub out menthol cigarettes and 10-packs from tomorrow

JTI swiftly announced that it will appeal the plain packaging High Court 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," Daniel Sciamma, UK managing director of JTI, said. 

JTI said in a statement that the plain packaging ruling will not have the "claimed effect" on smoking rates, and that it sets a "dangerous precedent" for intellectual property rights and investment".

Crushing defeat?

"This landmark judgement is a crushing defeat for the tobacco industry and fully justifies the Government’s determination to go ahead with the introduction of standardised packaging," ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott said. 

"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."

Read more: What you need to know about the new vaping laws coming into force tomorrow

Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, said: "This is a bad day for intellectual property and a good day for counterfeiters. Plain packaging will inconvenience retailers and fuel Britain's already vast black market. Moreover, now that the government has abolished trade marks for one industry, single issue fanatics will be lining up to do the same to alcohol, food and soft drinks. It is a folly on every level."

The domestic legislation goes a step further than new European Union tobacco laws, also introduced tomorrow, which have said that 65 per cent of cigarette packaging must be covered in health warning. 

The EU rules will also clamp down on e-cigarette advertising in print, on television and radio, and limit the strength of nicotine liquids and flavours that can be used for vaping.