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UK court quashes tobacco firms’ packaging challenge

LONDON — A High Court judge Thursday quashed the tobacco industry’s challenge to U.K. rules to require drab packaging stripped of logos and other branding on cigarettes and other products.

The 386-page judgment addressed all 17 grounds on which the tobacco industry challenged the U.K.’s rules, and sided with the government.

“I have found that the Secretary of State has adduced ample evidence to support the suitability and appropriateness of the Regulations,” the ruling reads.

The U.K. law is part of the country’s effort to implement the EU’s tobacco products directive, which comes into force on Friday.

The British standardized packaging regulations also take effect that day. Health warnings will have to cover 65 percent of the front and back of cigarette packaging. Anti-smoking advocates praised the decision.

“This landmark judgment is a crushing defeat for the tobacco industry and fully justifies the government’s determination to go ahead with the introduction of standardized packaging,” said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, an anti-smoking charity.

Cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco will be sold in plain brown packages, which have had all the attractive features and colors removed. This so-called plain packaging is not required by the EU, but member countries can go beyond the floor set by the directive.

However, new packets will not be on sale until stocks of existing cartons have been sold over the next year.

The U.K.’s biggest tobacco firm, JTI, and British American Tobacco, both said they will challenge the ruling.

“We will continue to challenge the legality of plain packaging. The fact remains that our branding has been eradicated and we maintain that this is unlawful,” Daniel Sciamma, U.K. managing director of JTI, said in a statement on the decision.

ASH supported the government’s defense and provided written evidence and gave oral testimony to the court.

According to Arnott, who was in the London court, the judgment rejected every argument the industry put forward.

It was “highly critical” of the industry’s use of commissioned expert evidence, its failure to disclose any internal assessments on how packaging design affects children and young people, and the effect of standardized packaging on sales, according to Arnott.

The case was the first challenge to plain packaging laws, coming into force in France and Ireland among other countries.

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