Feature Briefing

What next for tobacco’s legal war against regulation?

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g5770 (Published 24 September 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g5770
  1. Adrian O’Dowd, freelance journalist, London, UK
  1. adrianodowd{at}hotmail.com

Worldwide, the tobacco industry is engaged in more legal action against product controls than ever before, Adrian O’Dowd reports

What is the latest legal challenge from the tobacco industry in the UK over tobacco control measures?

Philip Morris, the UK affiliate of one of the largest tobacco firms in the world, Philip Morris International (PMI), is strongly opposed to government’s plans to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco products.1

In its response to a recent Department of Health consultation2 on the regulations governing introduction of such packaging, Phillip Morris said such a move was equivalent to taking away its intellectual property without compensation.3

“Standardised packaging is a euphemism for government-mandated destruction of property. It is unlawful, disproportionate, and at odds with the most basic requirements of the rule of law. If necessary, however, PMI is prepared to protect its rights in the courts and to seek fair compensation for the value of its property,” said the response.

Why is the tobacco industry so opposed to standardised packaging?

Australia was the first country to introduce standardised packaging for tobacco products, in December 2012. Three of the largest tobacco companies launched a constitutional challenge to its plain packaging laws, claiming that their intellectual property had been acquired and that the law would encourage fake products to enter the market. The challenge was rejected by Australia’s High Court.

But the Australian government is still fighting challenges over plain packaging from Philip Morris Asia over the bilateral investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong, and from several countries who have complained …

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