UK Rules News Business › Tobacco Companies File Lawsuit
Tobacco Companies Sue Plain Packaging Rules

The High Court - and Mr. Justice Green - met four of the biggest tobacco companies in the world. They challenged the legality and lawfulness of plain packaging rules in Britain.

CIGARETTE TRADEMARKS: The government’s new regulations ban logos or branding on tobacco products. The regulations take effect from May 2016.

The big four challenging the heath secretary are:

  • Philip Morris International
  • British American Tobacco (BAT)
  • Imperial Tobacco
  • Japan Tobacco International

Their grievance relates to the impending regulations. The deliberations could stretch out over an expected six-day hearing.

Inside the Courtroom

Inside a packed court, Japan Tobacco International commented:”The claimants manufacture products which are lawful. They contribute around £10bn per year in excise duty alone for the UK exchequer. They get used by some 19% of the adult population – which the secretary of state has never sought to ban.

It is quite wrong when he says that we are trying to protect our ability to market unencumbered by legitimate legislation. The industry gets regulated in a way almost unprecedented in any other field.”

The government continued by stating that the standardized packaging of tobacco products regulations 2015 will discourage people from smoking.

Menthol Cigarettes Ban [Updated 2020]

The ban on menthol cigarettes and rolling tobacco takes full effect from May the 20th 2020. The complete withdrawal means no person may produce or supply a cigarette or hand rolling tobacco with:

  • Filter, paper, package, capsule or other component containing flavourings;
  • Filter, paper or capsule containing tobacco or nicotine (or);
  • Technical feature that allows the consumer to modify the smell, taste, or smoke intensity of the product.

UK Wiping Out Cigarette Trademarks

Tobacco companies British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International (PMI) sued the British government over rules about plain packaging requirements for cigarettes.

In their actions submitted before the English High Court, two companies argued that the new rules will affect their brands. They said it infringes World Trade Organization rules in relation to international trade.

The companies complained that the action is against EU law. The company can use brands in Europe but not in the United Kingdom.

They also claim that the unit packaging law prevents the free movement of goods. Philip Morris International’s Senior Vice-President and General Counsel Marc Firestone stated:

“We respect the government’s authority to regulate in the public interest. But, wiping out trademarks goes too far. Countries around the world have shown that an effective tobacco control can coexist with respect for consumer freedoms and private property.”

British American Tobacco Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Director Jerome Abelman had already commented. His comments referred to what he described as a faulty consultation process.

“The decision is not something we want to do. But the British government has given us no choice.”

Other companies such as Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International have also pledged to take legal action because of new rules in the United Kingdom. The claims for damages could reach more than 11 billion pounds.

Updated June 2016: New Cigarette Plain Package Rulings

New rulings took effect from May in 2016. They got approved by the British legislature in March. The regulations now mean all tobacco products must get produced to look the same.

They will use plain, standardised packs with large picture health warnings. It means that all cigarette and hand-rolled tobacco packaging will look alike.

Cigarette packs will now be a single color and covered with large health warning images. There have been several studies on the health impact of standardized cigarette packs. They suggest it can deter non-smokers from taking up the habit. It may also cut the number of cigarettes smokers get through on a daily basis.

Cigarette Package Changes

  • Text and picture health warnings along with advice on quitting smoking will cover 65% of the front and back of packs
  • Health warnings will appear at the top and side of packs
  • Brand names will be in standard type face, colour and size
  • The shape, colour and method of opening the packet will get standardised
  • The ‘duty paid‘ stamp will remain with covert markings that show the pack is not counterfeit
  • Cigarette packs will also get standardised in size and colour
  • Minimum packs sizes of 20 cigarettes and 30 grams for hand rolled tobacco.

Australia is the only other country that currently mandates plain tobacco packaging. Reports suggest sales in the illicit tobacco market increased by more than 25% since the introduction of plain packaging in Australia in December 2012.


Business and Finance Articles: Key headlines about business regulations and financial rulings.
Candy Flavoured E-cigarettes: Warnings that young children could be attracted to vaping e-cigarettes.
Expats Opening Bank Accounts: Payment Account Regulations 2015 makes PAD operational in the UK.
Gaming Duty Rates: Check a list of current gaming duty bands and rates of gambling duties.
New Gambling Regulations: Rule change could ban gambling operators from day time advertising.

Tobacco Companies Sue Plain Packaging Regulations in the United Kingdom