Tobacco firms refused plain packaging appeal permission

Richard Stuart-Turner
Thursday, April 20, 2017

The UK Supreme Court has refused permission for tobacco firms to appeal against the plain packaging for cigarettes legislation that will come into force next month.

Tobacco producers including British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) were looking to appeal on the grounds that they believe the new legislation infringes their human and intellectual property rights.

They took their plea to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal rejected an appeal in November.

In May last year, under a new EU directive, it became illegal in the UK to produce heavily branded packaging for tobacco products. All newly printed packs must be standardised in a dull green colour and covered in graphic health warnings and they may not feature company logos.

As a direct effect of this, there is now no cigarette packaging of any kind being printed in the UK, with the last remaining manufacturers – Amcor in Bristol and MPS in Bradford – closing last year.

Following the final domestic decision made by the Supreme Court, the legislation will come into force on 20 May and companies have until this date to sell off any remaining branded packs.

Mike Ridgway, spokesman for the Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance (CPMA), said: “With plain packaging yet to be seen as an effective force in reducing smoking levels in Australia – where it has been in force since 2012 – the court ruling, although not surprising, is disappointing.

“If the Australian example is further followed in the UK, the growth in the illicit trade based upon HM Treasury figures will see tax losses approaching £3bn being reached over a 12-month period.

“Plain packaging has yet to prove anything other than its introduction on 20 May will lead to a loss of revenue to the government, expropriation of intellectual property rights and brand ownership and identities.”

He added: “The attention will now turn to other sectors where pressure will be exercised to attack brands and packaging, with Public Health England already calling for plain packaging for alcoholic products.

“The future will really be a test of nerves for the packaging industry where areas of consumer product branding could be faced with design regulations significantly affecting the production value of their businesses.”

Students For Liberty, a network of pro-liberty students from across the world, and the Consumer Choice Center are jointly hosting a plain packaged “nanny state store” to protest against such regulations.

Open today (20 April) between 10.30am and 3pm at 3 Cheshire Street, Shoreditch, London, the store is handing out "government approved" soft drinks, crisps and chocolate bars, which the group said will be overpriced due to excessive tax and regulation and will come complete with the latest alarmist health warnings.

Students For Liberty local co-ordinator Alex Christakou said: "It was our goal to start the Nanny State Store in London to mock the increasing level of lifestyle regulations being passed by all levels of government.

“The question we want to ask is: Do we want a government that treats adults like children? Or do we want a society that respects an adult's freedom to choose?"

The group said the UK is subject to some of Europe’s heaviest sin taxes on cigarettes and alcohol and highlighted the plain packaging ruling for cigarettes as a particular concern.

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