Cigarette companies lose last-minute bid to stop plain-packaging EU law

19 May 2016

A judge dismissed a judicial review action brought by the world’s four biggest firms

Tobacco giants have lost their High Court challenge over the Government’s new plain packaging rules, the day before they are due to come into force.

A judge dismissed a judicial review action brought by the world’s four biggest firms, hours before new laws enforcing standardised, green cigarette packets become law.

Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International had challenged the legality of the new regulations, introduced by Parliament shortly before last year’s general election.

At the heart of the ruling given by the High Court are the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, which the companies say will destroy their valuable property rights and render products indistinguishable from each other.

The firms put forward a number of grounds of challenge, including a claim that the regulations violate a number of UK and EU laws, and that they are “disproportionate” and “must be quashed”.

But Mr Justice Green, who heard the case in December, dismissed all grounds for a judicial review.

In his 386-page, 1,000-paragraph written ruling, Mr Justice Green said: “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 ruling found that it was lawful for states to prevent the tobacco industry from continuing to make profits by using their trademarks, on the grounds of protecting public health. While plain packaging curtailed tobacco firms’ property rights, they had not been “expropriated” and there were no grounds for compensation for tobacco firms, Mr Justice Green found.

He added: “In my judgment the regulations are valid and lawful in all respects. There is no basis upon which I could or should strike down the regulations or prevent them coming into effect tomorrow.”