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European Court judgement clears way for plain packaging of tobacco in Ireland

Big Tobacco arguments rejected by CJEU

The Irish Cancer Society has today welcomed a Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) judgement that has stopped attempts by the tobacco industry to block the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco in Ireland in 2016.

The CJEU judgement upholds the rights of EU member states to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco products, where it is justified on grounds of public health.

The Court considered that that prohibition protects consumers “against the risks associated with tobacco use”.

The Irish Cancer Society says that this is a defeat for the tobacco industry who knows plain packaging works.

Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society said: “Plain packaging of tobacco will save lives. The rejection of the tobacco industry’s case against the tobacco products directive (TPD) highlights the fatuous nature of their arguments and their fear that plain packaging will eat into profits.”

“Big tobacco knows that plain packaging, as a health measure, works, and are doing everything to prevent its introduction because they need to recruit 50 new smokers every day in Ireland to replace those dying and quitting.”

The CJEU found that the standardisation of labelling and packaging is a ‘proportionate’ measure and that EU legislature allowing for its introduction from May 20 is “appropriate and necessary”. The judgement clears the way for the introduction of plain packaging here in Ireland this summer.

Mr. Buggy said: “Today’s ruling represents the overcoming of another legal hurdle to the introduction of plain packaging in Ireland. What remains to be done now is the passing of minor technical amendments to legislation here so that plain packaging can be introduced in the very near future.”

The formation of a Government will, according to Mr. Buggy, “hopefully see the speedy progression of this legislation through the Oireachtas very shortly”.

The Irish Cancer Society warned however, that this will not be the last legal challenge to plain packaging either in Ireland or at EU level.

Mr. Buggy said: “The tobacco industry has deep pockets and will continue to fight these life-saving measures. Australia, the first country to introduce the measure, is still battling spurious cases from the industry four years on.”

Figures from the Australian Government show that since the introduction of plain packaging the number of people smoking has dropped to historically low numbers. Daily smoking rates have fallen from 15.1% in 2010 to 12.8% in 2013 – compared to 19% in Ireland. And among 12-17 year olds, only 5% smoke in comparison to 8% here.

“The louder Big Tobacco shout about this, the more we know it works.”

Mr. Buggy commended the efforts of the European Commission and Irish Government in “remaining steadfast in the face of enormous and costly legal pressure by the industry”.

“5,870 people die from tobacco related disease every year. The challenge now is to commit to public health, to commit to plain packaging and to reject the actions of a tobacco industry in crisis.”

Mr. Buggy said: “This is another big step towards achieving the goal of a tobacco-free Ireland by 2025”.

The Department of Health have committed to a Tobacco Free Ireland by 2025 – which means an overall smoking rate of less than 5%.

Today’s CJEU judgement also dismissed actions against the prohibition of menthol cigarettes and special rules concerning warnings, content and advertising of e-cigarettes.

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