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8th Aug 2020

Tobacco giant initiates EU court challenge

  • Around 700,000 people die from smoking-related illnesses in the EU every year, says the European Commission (Photo: Kino Praxis)

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI) wants to challenge new EU rules on tobacco to see if it can get the stricter labelling requirements changed.

The Marlboro manufacturer on Friday (27 June) said the EU’s new tobacco products directive “appears to ban truthful and non-misleading claims on the packaging of tobacco products”.

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“PMI intends to seek review of whether this ban respects the fundamental rights of consumers to information about the products they are choosing,” it added.

The EU’s reformed directive says cigarette packages must have “smoking kills – quit now” and “tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer” labels.

The new labels replace the current printing of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide (TNCO) levels.

Tobacco consumption is said to kill up to 700,000 people every year in the EU and is the EU’s single largest avoidable health risk.

Launched in May, the new EU directive seeks to reduce the number of smokers by further restricting tobacco use, flavourings, and adverts.

It imposes a four-year phase-out on menthols and sets a maximum nicotine concentration level for e-cigarettes, among other rules.

The Swiss-based multinational also has other grievances with the new EU tobacco law.

It says the directive will disrupt the internal market when it comes to tobacco, provoke the illegal trade of menthol cigarettes, and give the European Commission too many discretionary powers.

“The directive includes a mix of product bans, mandates, and delegations of authority that raise serious questions under the EU Treaties about consumer choice, the free movement of goods, and competition,” said PMI in a statement.

PMI filed the case in England because its courts are a “fast and efficient forum for private litigants” when it comes to cases in the lead up to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

A judicial review on EU laws must first be held at the national level before it can be referred to the Luxembourg court.

PMI senior vice president Marc Firestone noted the multinational agrees to strict regulation on tobacco but that the latest EU law needs to “honour the EU treaties”.

The judicial review could take up to three years, says the company.

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