With Britain Inching Closer to Standardized Tobacco Packaging, Industry Players Mull Legal Action

After members of the parliament in the United Kingdom ratified their proposal to make standardized packaging mandatory for tobacco industries, the latter is almost certain to take legal action to challenge this move. However, industry experts are of the opinion that despite taking legal action, the tobacco industry would most likely be unsuccessful in stalling the implementation. Australia, which is on course to implement a similar law, has given the tobacco industry a sell-through window of just eight weeks, as compared to one year in the UK.

On March 11, 367 MPs in the UK voted in favor of standardized packaging for cigarettes whereas 113 voted against the legislation. This makes the UK the third country in the world to implement plain packaging for the tobacco industry. As part of the regulations, manufacturers of all branded packaging will be mandated under the law to sell their products in plain packaging across all retail outlets in the United Kingdom. The sale of packaging with brand names will have to cease by 20 May 2016, whereas a complete introduction of un-branded/plain packaging will have to come into effect starting 21 May 2017.

While many companies are mulling taking legal recourse, Japan Tobacco International (UK) has stated publicly that it is considering legal action to prevent this move from being implemented. The managing director of the company said that the move being proposed by the United Kingdom was an exact copy of the same legislation passed in Australia, where he claimed that plain packaging has not been effectual. He stated that this rule also goes against certain obligations under the WTO as well as UK and European laws. If the House of Lords substantiate the decision of the MPs, British American Tobacco said that it would initiate legal proceedings too. Similar thoughts were echoed by Imperial Tobacco.


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