Global tobacco giant Philip Morris said Tuesday it planned to take the Norwegian state to court in an attempt to overturn a law in the Scandinavian country banning the display of cigarettes in stores.
"Philip Morris Norway (PMN) will today start legal proceedings to overturn the ban on displaying tobacco products in retail stores," the company said in a statement.
Following in the footsteps of several other Western countries like Ireland and Iceland, Norway on January 1 this year banned the display of cigarettes in stores in an attempt to cut impulse buys of tobacco products.
In Norway, cigarettes have been banished to closed cases, while cigarette dispensers may no longer display brand labels.
"Display bans have had no impact on reducing smoking in the countries that have implemented them, a fact acknowledged by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services," PMN spokeswoman Anne Edwards said in the statement.
"These regulations prevent adult consumers from seeing the available product range and overly restrict competition," she said, adding that "we have raised these issues with the government to no avail, which has regrettably left us with no choice but to litigate."
Norwegian health officials did not appear troubled by the pending litigation.
"This shows that we are on the right track. If Philip Morris really felt the ban would not reduce the consumption of tobacco they would not worry about this law," Bjoern-Inge Larsen, who heads up the Norwegian Directorate of Health, told public television NRK.
"On the contrary, I think this legal action is an indication that the ban will contribute to reducing tobacco consumption in the long term," he said.
In June 2004, Norway became the second country in the world after Ireland to ban smoking in public places, including bars, restaurants and night clubs.
Some 21 percent of Norwegians aged 16 to 74 smoked on a daily basis in 2009, while an additional nine percent smoked occasionally, according to Statistics Norway.