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UK’s policy on standardised tobacco packaging given EU backing

Plans to introduce plain, standardised packaging for cigarettes in the UK have been given European backing.

The European Court of Justice ruled (link is external) that the EU Tobacco Products Directive is lawful and has overturned the tobacco industry’s challenge to it.

The court also confirmed that EU Member States can go further than the requirements set out in the Directive with regard to packaging.

This, essentially, allows countries to bring in standardised packaging. The directive, along with standardised packaging, will now enter into force on May 20.

George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK’s tobacco policy manager, said: “This court decision tells us what we knew all along – that the Tobacco Products Directive is an effective and proportional set of measures to stop children taking up smoking.

“This will help to lower smoking rates in the UK and protect more people from developing cancer.

“It’s truly shameful that the tobacco industry has poured so much time, effort and money trying to undermine it. UK laws can now continue as planned and from May 20 the rollout of plain, standardised packaging begins.”

The UK, France and Ireland have already passed legislation on standardised packaging.

This new ruling will give support to other member states who also wish to proceed with the measure.

The Court also dismissed other legal challenges claiming regulations on e-cigarettes were disproportionate and the ban on menthol flavouring was unjustified.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said the Court’s decision was “welcome”.

“The Directive is lawful and the UK is allowed to go further than the Directive in standardising tobacco packs with respect to matters not harmonised by the Directive,” she added.

“We await the UK court judgement, which is expected shortly, but we expect that the court will also confirm that the introduction of standardised packaging in the UK is lawful.

“From May 20, all packs manufactured for sale in the UK will have to be plain, standardised in the same drab green colour with the product name on the pack in a standard font.”

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