A senior lawyer for the European Union's (EU) top court rejected claims, by US tobacco giant Philip Morris, that the bloc's new law on plain packaging and banning flavors was illegal.
Philip Morris International, maker of iconic brands such as Marlboro, said that it would challenge the rules on the grounds they distorted the EU's single market and undercut consumer choice.
‘US tobacco giant Philip Morris challenged the EU rules on the grounds that they distorted the EU's single market and undercut consumer choice. However, a senior lawyer for the EU's top court has rejected these claims.’
The company, along with British American Tobacco, especially criticized the plain packaging requirement which eliminates manufacturers' branding and product claims in favor of dominant health warnings.
Advocate General Juliane Kokott said, "The EU legislation had been properly adopted in 2014 and aimed to ensure standard practice across the 28-nation bloc so as to combat the health risks associated with smoking. The legislation meant all tobacco manufacturers were on a level playing field and they could not claim discrimination. The European Union's standardization of the labeling and packaging of tobacco products was proportionate."
Citing the special need to make smoking unattractive to younger people, Kokott said, "They make a particular contribution to increasing the visibility of health warnings and maximizing their efficacy. As for a ban on menthol cigarettes, contested by Poland, there was a serious risk that flavored cigarettes will facilitate initiation of tobacco consumption for non-smokers and make it more difficult for habitual smokers to escape nicotine addiction. The necessity of an EU-wide prohibition on all characterizing flavors, including menthol, cannot seriously be called into question, particularly in view of the precautionary principle and the standards of the WHO."
Kokott further added, "The EU was similarly correct in introducing restrictions on e-cigarettes."
The ECJ is the EU's top court and normally it follows the advice given by its Advocate Generals, senior lawyers called on to submit an initial opinion before a formal ruling.