September 26, 2023

Tobacco Companies Lose Court Battle Over Plain Packaging Rules

Tobacco companies, including British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco International, have lost their latest court battle against government regulations mandating plain packaging for cigarettes. In May, the Department of Health issued guidance stating that cigarette packs must be in “standardised packaging” in a non-shiny, drab dark brown color.

The companies challenged the guidance in court, arguing that the regulations would infringe on property rights and make their products indistinguishable from each other. However, the High Court ruled that the guidance was “valid and lawful in all respects.” The companies then appealed to the Court of Appeal to overturn the verdict.

On Wednesday, Lord Justice Lewison, Lord Justice Beatson, and Sir Stephen Richards dismissed the appeal and upheld the original decision, stating that the Health Secretary had lawfully exercised his powers. The court’s ruling was seen as a victory for public health and a defeat for the tobacco industry.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Ash, welcomed the decision as a victory for public health. However, a British American Tobacco spokeswoman expressed disappointment, emphasizing that the decision does not give the government the green light to introduce plain packaging. The company remains firm in its belief that plain packaging is an ineffective policy that does not reduce smoking levels.

While the companies have until December 9 to apply for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal’s ruling is significant and could have implications for other businesses and government regulation.

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