Standardised packaging: Tobacco sector claims for compensation “blown out of the water”

In April 2014, the UK government wanted to review plain cigarette packing after a report revealed the increasing amount of children taking up smoking. This was followed by a set of draft rules in June.

But in a submission to the Department of Health, tobacco giant Philip Morris, who is in the process of suing the Australian government over their plain cigarette package rules, said: “PMI is prepared to protect its rights in the courts and to seek fair compensation for the value of its property. “

He also quoted an Exane BNP Baripas report, which estimated that the value of compensation for tobacco branding could be between £9bn and £11bn. The Marlboro-maker is prepared to sue should its branding be affected.

MPs are today debating the regulations prior to a vote. And a Legal Opinion has been published, which concludes that standardised packaging is compatible with European law, and compensation would therefore not be due the tobacco industry.

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Alison Cox, director for Cancer Prevention at Cancer Research UK, said: “The public health community has been united in calling for the introduction of plain, standardised packaging of tobacco products across the UK. The growing weight of peer-reviewed evidence that standard packs reduce the appeal of smoking to children has crushed the tobacco company counter claims. 

“Now international legal experts have exposed the fatal weakness of the industry threats against EU countries who want to protect their children from tobacco marketing. This report systematically knocks away every leg of Big Tobacco’s arguments, and leaves them floored. Standardised packaging is evidenced based, legal and supported by 72 per cent of UK adults. We urge MPs to vote to for this vital public health measure when they get the opportunity.”

This was echoed by Deborah Arnott, CEO of health charity ASH, who suggested that the report “blows out of the water the ludicrous and unjustified claims by the tobacco industry” that it would be due billions of pounds in compensation if the UK proceeds with standardised packaging. 

“It clearly demonstrates that the UK government has a robust case for the regulations under European law,” she explained. “We are also confident that MPs will vote for the standardised packaging regulations by a large majority this week. There is strong support amongst parliamentarians from right across the political spectrum for this important public health measure to protect children and save lives.”

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