Standardised tobacco packaging moved a step closer today with the news that the big tobacco firms had failed to block new European Union laws, known as EUTPD II.
Europe’s highest court upheld EUTPDII, which will standardise packaging, see the end of packs of 10, abolish RYO packs smaller than 30g and ban the advertising of e-cigarettes.
The Court of Justice found the laws “did not go beyond the limits of what is appropriate and necessary”.
Under the new rules health warnings will have to cover 65% of the front and back of cigarette packaging (a mock-up of how packs are likely to look is pictured above).
The rules are due to take effect from May 20, but the new packets will not be on sale until stocks of existing cartons have been cleared over the next year. After May 2017 it will be illegal to sell non-compliant stock.
Marlboro maker Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco (BAT), famous for brands such as Pall Mall and Lucky Strike, challenged the proposed legislation.
They argued that the European Union was overstepping its authority to direct laws in member states.
Reacting to the court’s findings a BAT spokesperson said: “We stand by our belief that the Tobacco Products Directive is a clear example of the EU overstepping the limits of its authority. The reality is that many elements of the directive are disproportionate, distort competition, and fail to respect the autonomy of the Member States.”
In the UK, the government wants to introduce tobacco packs with plain packaging – a move which is also being challenged by the tobacco manufacturers.
The law was supposed to come into effect later this month, but that could be delayed, as on May 18 the High Court is due to rule on the legal challenge to the legislation from the tobacco industry.
“What is clear from the [EU] directive and the judgment is that measures that go beyond the requirements of the directive, such as plain packaging, must still comply with the wider principles of EU and international law.” said the BAT spokesperson.
“Whether plain packaging meets these requirements is currently the subject of ongoing litigation before the English Courts and the WTO [World Trade Organization].”
“It is regrettable that the Court has decided to endorse the proliferation of different regulations for the same product across the European Union”, said Vassilis Vovos, JTI’s Western Europe regional president. “This ruling goes against a fundamental purpose of the EU treaty which is to further improve the functioning of the internal market by way of harmonized legislation. Instead, we are left with an inexplicable decision which may lead Member States to believe that they can infringe the principle of free movement of goods within the EU.”
“There are only 16 days left before TPDII comes into force. Yet the legislation is still not transposed in the majority of Member States. This leaves the industry with little clarity from the Commission and Member States on many issues. The CJEU rulings bring additional confusion.”
“This outcome does not end the main arguments in the legal case underway in the UK – that plain packaging illegally destroys our brands.”
Whatever the High Court’s decision later this month, the losing side is almost certain to launch an appeal.