European court rejects challenge to laws on plain packaging for cigarettes

The Irish Cancer Society warns that tobacco companies "will continue to fight these life-saving measures"

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The European Court of Justice has rejected a challenge to laws that could see plain packaging introduced on cigarettes.

The ruling requires that health warnings including a photograph must cover 65% of cigarette packaging.

Reuters reports the court found 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 also rejected a challenge to the ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes from 2020.

A ruling banning advertising and sponsorship deals on e-cigarettes was also upheld following the challenge.

Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, welcomed the ruling.

“Big tobacco knows that plain packaging, as a health measure, works, and are doing everything to prevent its introduction because they need to recruit 50 new smokers every day in Ireland to replace those dying and quitting," he said.

While Mr Buggy says he hopes the formation of a new Government will see the 'speedy progression' of legislation on plain packaging, he also warned that the "tobacco industry has deep pockets and will continue to fight these life-saving measures".

'The EU overstepping its limits' 

While a British American Tobacco spokesperson told Newstalk.com: "We've always said that we support sound regulation that is consultative, evidence-based, delivers its policy aims and that respects our legal rights as a legal business selling a legal product".

"Despite today's decision by the European Court of Justice, we stand by our belief that the Tobacco Products Directive is a clear example of the EU overstepping the limits of its authority".

"The reality is that many elements of the directive are disproportionate, distort competition, and fail to respect the autonomy of the member states".

"It's also important to remember that this decision does not endorse claims by some that the directive authorises member states to adopt plain packaging".

"In particular, what is clear from the directive and the judgment is that measures that go beyond the requirements of the directive, such as plain packaging, must still comply with the wider principles of EU and international law".

"Whether plain packaging meets these requirements is currently the subject of ongoing litigation before the English Courts and the WTO".

"We urge the governments in all member states to carefully consider how they will now interpret the directive in to their own national law, and take in to account all of the implementation costs", it adds.