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Significant mandates: JTI turns to Freshfields in latest tobacco challenge to plain cigarette packaging

The latest firm to win work challenging the UK government’s decision to introduce plain cigarette packaging, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Tom Snelling has launched High Court litigation on behalf of Japan Tobacco International, the maker of Camel, Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut.

The UK’s second biggest cigarette seller after its £9.4bn purchase in 2007 of Gallagher, whose brands included Mayfair, Silk Cut and Hamlet Cigars, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) follows its rivals British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International in filing a suit against the plans to ban branded packaging from May 2017. Snelling is being supported by IP partner Giles Pratt and has instructed David Anderson QC of Brick Court chambers to bring the case before the courts.

The company has so far failed in a similar suit against the Australian government, which became the first nation to implement plain packaging legislation in December 2012 with the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act. The legal battle has not stopped there, however, with Ukraine, Honduras and Dominican Republic bringing a dispute against Australia over its plain packaging rules at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

JTI argues that plain packaging is unlawful and infringes important principles of UK and EU law, and other fundamental rights, and goes against obligations under WTO rules.

Earlier this year, British American Tobacco (BAT) instructed Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) for its challenge against the UK government’s plans, as well as Hogan Lovells to advise on intellectual property issues, while barristers brought in include 39 Essex Chambers’ Nigel Pleming QC and One Essex Court’s Geoffrey Hobbs QC.

MPs voted to back plain packaging legislation by 367 to 113 in March following an independent review by Sir Cyril Chantler that found the measure was ‘highly likely…to reduce the rate of children taking up smoking and implausible that it would increase the consumption of tobacco.’

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