LUXEMBOURG/LONDON The European Union's highest court on Wednesday upheld a tough EU law that will standardize cigarette packs, ban menthol flavoring and restrict e-cigarette advertising, paving the way for its adoption this month and dealing a blow to Big Tobacco.
The European Court of Justice's rejection of a legal challenge brought by Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco (BAT) could weigh on profits for the industry and sets a precedent for other governments to crack down on a habit that causes nearly six million deaths a year worldwide.
"The court finds that, in providing that each unit packet and the outside packaging must carry health warnings ... the EU legislature did not go beyond the limits of what is appropriate and necessary," the court said in its decision, which reflected the opinion a court adviser had published in December.
The legal challenge, which was also supported by Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands, can now be taken no further and the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) will take effect on 20 May, though wholesalers and retailers will be given a year's grace to sell stocks manufactured before that date.
The TPD will ban menthol cigarettes by 2020, standardize packs and impose rules on e-cigarettes, such as limits on nicotine strength, tank size and advertising.
The court also said that member states may introduce further packaging requirements, such as the "plain packaging" measures proposed in Britain, France and Ireland.
These regulations, aimed at reducing the lure of smoking by forcing tobacco to be sold in uniformly drab packs with no branding, are due to come into force in the UK on 20 May, though the English High Court is expected to rule on another legal challenge brought by the tobacco companies in the coming weeks.
Action on Smoking and Health, an advocacy group, said the decision was "welcome if not surprising."
Japan Tobacco International, a leading player in the UK with brands such as Benson & Hedges and Camel, said the ruling "endorses the proliferation of different regulations for the same product" and "brings additional confusion."
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Published Date: May 05, 2016 12:45 am | Updated Date: May 05, 2016 12:45 am