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Plain packaging to be introduced for cigarettes

30th Nov 2016

The latest attempt by tobacco companies to prevent the introduction of mandatory plain packaging of cigarettes in the UK has been rejected by the court of appeal.

Companies will have to replace their current heavily branded distinctive packs of cigarettes with boxes that are indistinguishable from each other bar the brand name on the packet in standard typeface, colour and size.

The regulations aim to reduce the appeal and uptake of smoking, help smokers to quit, prevent misleading packaging, and give greater prominence to health warnings.

Though some claim that the move would infringe their human and intellectual property rights, the high court rejected their arguments the day before the tobacco products directive of the EU took effect. The companies took the case to the court of appeal last month but the challenge was dismissed.

Lord Justice Lewison, Lord Justice Beatson and Sir Stephen Richards ruled that the health secretary had “lawfully exercised his powers”.

The companies now have the option of appealing to the supreme court.

Nicola Blackwood, the public health and innovation minister, said that “Standardised packaging will help cut smoking rates and reduce suffering, disease and loss of life. We are pleased that this decision will help many people to lead longer and healthier lives.”

Since May, legal challenge notwithstanding, companies have been forbidden from making packets that do not comply with the directive. However, they are allowed to sell off existing cigarette stocks until May next year, which means plain packets will only emerge in the shops gradually.

The new packs will be the same shape, size and colour (green) and 65% of the front and back surfaces will be covered by picture health warnings, with written warnings on the sides.