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Open pack of cigarettes on old wooden table

As from May 2017, all cigarette packs in the UK must be sold in plain packaging, with nothing to distinguish them from one another besides the brand names at the bottom of the packs and very prominent health warnings which will cover 65% of the packet surface, back and front.

The regulation’s aim is to reduce the appeal of cigarette packets, making them less attractive, (less cool), in particular for individuals of an impressionable age such as children and young adults. This verdict will prove to be a heavy blow for cigarette companies who will have to replace their heavily branded packets with plain ones, and is expected to be devastating from a marketing perspective.

Devastating blow for Big Tobacco

The regulation’s aim is to reduce the appeal of cigarette packets, making them less attractive, (less cool), in particular to children and young adults.
Big Tobacco Companies British American Tobacco, (BAT),  Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Philip Morris, claim that this move infringes their human and intellectual property rights.

An article published on The Guardian last Wednesday pointed out that Simon Clark, the director of the smokers’ group Forest, (a group supported by some of the companies aforementioned), said “Tobacco is a legal product. The law should not impose excessive regulations on consumers who know the health risks and don’t need this type of finger-wagging measure.”

Following the announcement of the directive last May, the high court rejected big tobacco’s protests, after which the companies took the case to the court of appeal. Last Wednesday the three judges, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, dismissed their appeal. In what will prove a triumph for Public Health, Lord Justice Lewison, Lord Justice Beatson and Sir Stephen Richards ruled that the health secretary had “lawfully exercised his powers”. The Big Tobacco Companies’ last resort is now to appeal to the supreme court.

Victory for Public Health

Public health and innovation minister, Nicola Blackwood said: “Standardised packaging will help cut smoking rates and reduce suffering, disease and loss of life. We are pleased that this decision will help many people to lead longer and healthier lives.”

Standardised packaging will help cut smoking rates and reduce suffering, disease and loss of life. Nicola Blackwood, Public health and innovation minister

Since last May, the companies have been forbidden from manufacturing new packets that do not comply with the directive. However, they will be allowed to sell their existing stock with the old packaging up to May next year, hence cigarettes in plain packaging will be emerging slowly.

Other countries should be encouraged to follow suit

Chief executive of the health charity Ash, Deborah Arnott, said: “This is a victory for public health and another crushing defeat for the tobacco industry. This ruling should also encourage other countries to press ahead with standardized packaging, now that the industry’s arguments have yet again been shown to be without foundation.”