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Tobacco companies sue UK over plain packaging regulations

Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco have sued the UK Government over plain packaging regulations for cigarettes.

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In their lawsuits filed in the English High Court, the twocompanies claim that the new regulation directly impacts their trademarks and infringes World Trade Organisation rules with respect to international trade.

The companies say it violates EU law as the companies can use trademarks in Europe, but not in the UK. They also claim that the plain packaging law prevents the free movement of goods.

PMI senior vice-president and general counsel Marc Firestone said: "We respect the government’s authority to regulate in the public interest, but wiping out trademarks simply goes too far.

"Countries around the world have shown that effective tobacco control can co-exist with respect for consumer freedoms and private property."

The new regulations, which are expected to take effect in 2016, were approved by the UK lawmakers in March.

British American Tobacco corporate & regulatory affairs director Jerome Abelman previously said: "Legal action is not something we want to undertake, nor is it something we enter into lightly – but the UK Government has left us with no other choice after running what can only be described as a flawed consultation process."

Other companies including Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International have also pledged to take legal action over new rules in the UK. The compensation claims are expected to be about £11bn.

Australia is the only country that currently mandates plain tobacco packaging. It is reported that since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia in December 2012 , the illegal tobacco market has increased by more than 25%.


Image: PMI and British American Tobacco claim that the new plain packaging regulations in the UK directly impact their trademarks. Photo: courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.