Wednesday

20th Mar 2019

Tobacco giants win judicial review on EU bill

  • The tobacco directive was one of the most heavily lobbied EU bills in history (Photo: lanier67)

The EU's recently-agreed tobacco directive will be challenged at the bloc's top court after cigarette giants won a judicial review to examine whether the bill's provisions of more health warnings and product bans is disproportionate and infringes single market rules.

At the High Court in London on Monday (3 November), High Court judge Justice Turner referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, the ultimate arbitrator on the validity of EU law. The ECJ is expected to take two years before making a decision, during which time the directive will remain in force.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The case was lodged in June by Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco manufacturer, among a list of claimants including British American Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.

Any judicial review of EU legislation must be initiated from national courts, and the tobacco giants chose the UK's High Court because of its reputation as a “fast and efficient forum for private litigants”, according to a statement issued by the claimants.

The legislation, which was signed off just before May's European elections, was subject to a bitter battle between MEPs and ministers and was one of the most heavily lobbied EU bills ever.

The rules eventually agreed by lawmakers will phase out the selling of menthol cigarettes, require manufacturers to put 'smoking kills' labels covering 65 percent of packets, and impose limits on the amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes.

The final bill, subject to over 1300 amendments, was a significantly watered down version of the proposal tabled by former EU health commissioner Tonio Borg, leading MEPs from the European Parliament's centre-left groups to accuse conservatives and liberals of being in the pocket of 'big tobacco'. Research for the European Commission has found that smoking kills around 700,000 people every year across the bloc.

In particular, lawmakers shied away from the move already taken by Australia to require plain packets for cigarettes, a total ban on advertising.

But the tobacco firms argue that the bill gives too much power to the European Commission and would lead to an illegal market for menthol cigarettes, which have become particularly popular among young people.

In a statement, Marc Firestone of Philip Morris said that the review marked "an important first step". The directive "purports to improve the internal tobacco market, yet instead includes a mix of product bans, mandates, and delegations of authority that raise serious questions under the EU Treaties," he said.

EU lawmakers agree tobacco bill

EU lawmakers reached an agreement on the new tobacco products bill after negotiators clashed on electronic cigarettes earlier in the week.

MEPs set up anti-tobacco group

A cross-party handful of MEPs have set up a group to tackle tobacco lobbying and its influence on policy-making.

Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK

Ahead of the crucial summit of EU leaders on Brexit this week, the EU's chief negotiator warned Theresa May's government to have a clear objective for an extension that she still needs to request formally from the EU.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: I will fight to the 'last hour' for orderly Brexit
  2. EU affairs ministers demand Brexit clarity from London
  3. Nordic MEP candidates in first ever joint EU election debate
  4. UK announces EEA trade deal ahead of EU summit
  5. Four European cities among world's most expensive
  6. Violent 'yellow vest' protesters ban in Paris
  7. Russia celebrates fifth anniversary of Crimea annexation
  8. Blow for May as third vote on Brexit deal ruled out

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  2. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance
  3. EU rolls out €525m for military projects, but bars illegal tech
  4. May to seek Brexit extension amid UK 'constitutional crisis'
  5. Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides
  6. My plan for defending rule of law in EU
  7. Anti-corruption lawyer wins first round of Slovak elections
  8. The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us