EU / Ireland
A landmark EU court ruling later this month will decide whether Ireland can go ahead with plans to outlaw tobacco branding. Tobacco companies claim the EU directive is against free movement of goods in the union and the principle of “subsidiarity”, where issues are decided by states rather than by the EU.
Philip Morris and British American Tobacco have brought proceedings in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over an EU directive, which will make health warnings cover 65% of cigarette packets, but Ireland plans to go further and bring in plain packaging on tobacco products.
ECJ will give a preliminary judgement in the case against the EU directive on December 23. In most cases, the court’s final decision follows few months after the opinion published by the advocate general.
In April 2015, Japan Tobacco (JT) began a separate action against Ireland in the commercial court. JT claims Ireland, as a member of the EU, cannot unilaterally introduce plain packaging on products and such a move would prevent trade between member states. The company adds that plain packaging imposes stricter rules than those necessary under the EU directive.
The judge has indicated that if ECJ rules in favor of the directive, the state will win the case at home.
Government ministers have faced pressure from businesses and campaigners to scrap plain packaging tobacco proposals. US congressmen have expressed that the plans would mark the “beginning of a troubling trend” of countries restricting the intellectual property of products.