Setback in Campaign Against European Tobacco Laws

12 September 2002

Attempts by two tobacco giants to overturn European legislation on cigarette packaging and labelling look doomed to failure.

British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco are challenging laws passed by the European Parliament last year [WAMN: 01-Mar-01]. Initially heard before Britain’s High Court, the case is now being considered by the European Court of Justice.

Due to come into force in European Union member states at the end of this month, the regulations will ban the use of terms such as ‘mild’ and ‘light’ and enforce the use of larger, more explicit health warnings on packaging.

However, the tobacco companies’ appeal has hit a major stumbling block, as the ECJ’s advocate general, Leendert Geelhoed, has declared in a preliminary statement that, for cigarettes sold in member states, the EU has the right to limit tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide levels and enforce the packaging obligations.

Tobacco products exported outside the EU, said Geelhoed, could also be subject to restrictions on levels of harmful substances, but need not carry the health warnings or altered labelling.

Although the Court is not bound by the advocate general’s preliminary ruling, it follows his advice in around 80% of cases. A final decision is expected in the next few months.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff