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British American Tobacco Ltd v. Ministry of Health [Kenya] [February 17, 2017]

British American Tobacco appealed a 2016 court decision, which upheld nearly all elements of Kenya’s Tobacco Control Regulations. The appeals court ruled that the tobacco company’s appeal had no merit and affirmed the decision of the lower court. The earlier ruling upheld nearly all elements of the Regulations, which are designed to implement the Tobacco Control Act, including:

  • a 2% annual contribution by the tobacco industry to help fund tobacco control education, research, and cessation;
  • graphic health warnings;
  • ingredient disclosure;
  • smoke-free environments in streets, walkways, and verandas adjacent to public places and in private vehicles where children are present;
  • disclosure of annual tobacco sales and other industry disclosures; and
  • regulations limiting interaction between the tobacco industry and public health officials.

The appeals court agreed with the lower court that the tobacco company had been given adequate opportunities for participation in the development of the regulations and that the regulations do not violate the tobacco company’s constitutional rights. 

Japan Tobacco International and Others v. Ministry of Health (plain packaging laws) [France] [December 23, 2016]

Legal challenges to the plain packaging of tobacco products laws dismissed. 

On December 23, 2016 the Conseil d’Etat (the Council of State, the highest administrative jurisdiction in France) dismissed six legal challenges that were brought against the tobacco products plain packaging laws. Previously, in January 2016, the Constitutional Council had also upheld the law as in accordance with the constitution, on a referral from members of parliament.

In brief, six cases were brought challenging the regulations - four by the tobacco companies, one from the confederation of tobacco retailers, and one from a tobacco paper manufacturer. The Conseil d'Etat dismissed all the claims and held that:

1. The ban on using figurative, semi-figurative signs, and logos on packaging of tobacco products was valid because the brand and variant name is still permitted allowing the identification of the product.
2. Plain packaging constitutes an infringement of property rights, but that this infringement is justified in the light of the objective pursued (public health) and because the measure regulates the use of trademarks but does not completely ban them.
3. There was no 'deprivation' of property rights.
4. For the same reasons, the Conseil d'État held that the national legislation is a quantitative restriction on the importation of goods but this is in conformity with European Union law because the introduction of such restrictions is permitted where they are justified by a public health objective and the protection of human life. The court held that in this case, the challenged provisions must be considered as unable to do anything other than, over time, reduce the consumption of tobacco. The evidence in the case file also showed that neutral packaging would reduce the attractiveness of tobacco products. The measures were therefore proportionate and justified.

A summary of the decisions from the two separate courts is attached in French and English in the section on "Related Documents". 

British American Tobacco Panama v. Panama [Panama] [August 03, 2016]

Decree 611 establishes that Panama's ban on the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products includes a ban on tobacco product display at the point of sale. BAT Panama SA and other tobacco companies filed suit requesting an order declaring Decree 611 illegal, arguing that it violated the right to property including intellectual property and consumers’ right to access information. The Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court of Panama upheld the decree finding that there was no violation of trademark rights as trademark registration and use still were allowed.  The court also found that consumers’ right to access information was assured through the use of the textual listing of products and their prices and through health warnings on packages. Notably, the court used FCTC guidelines to interpret FCTC obligations with regard to tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship.

BAT v. UK Department of Health [United Kingdom] [May 19, 2016]

The judgment dismissed all grounds of challenge against the UK's standardised (or "plain") packaging regulations. The judgment has significant wider implications because Mr Justice Green carefully considered all the evidence as part of the proportionality analysis, which will be similar to the justification analysis for plain packaging in most other jurisdictions. He was highly critical of the evidence put forward by the tobacco industry and provided a damning critique of individual studies and experts as well as making wider criticisms of the tobacco companies including that they failed to disclose any internal documents about their research or consideration of the impact of plain packaging on their business or smoking rates. He also linked his conclusions to the 2006 judgment of Judge Kessler in USA v Philip Morris Inc et al when she found, upon the basis of comprehensive evidence which included internal documents, that the tobacco companies were well aware of the strong causal nexus between advertising and consumer reaction.

The judge's conclusions on whether plain packaging amounts to an expropriation of the tobacco trade marks; on their claim for compensation; on the relevance of the FCTC and its guidelines; and on the compatibility with the WTO TRIPS agreement all have wider international relevance. 

A summary of the key findings that have wider application is in the additional documents. 

The McCabe Centre has produced an analysis of the key points for other jurisdictions which can be found here: http://www.mccabecentre.org/downloads/McCabe_Centre_-_Key_Points_on_UK_plain_packaging.pdf  

R (on the Application of) Philip Morris Brands SARL et al. v. Secretary of State for Health [European Union] [May 04, 2016]

A challenge to the validity of the European Union’s (EU) Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) 2014 brought by Philip Morris and British American Tobacco was dismissed on all grounds by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The amended TPD was adopted in April 2014 and provides a wide range of requirements relating to emissions, reporting, 65% pictorial health warnings, packaging and labeling, a ban on characterising flavors and other additives, and regulates e-cigarettes. Article 24(4) permits member states to adopt further requirements to standardise packaging. The TPD applies to all countries within the EU.

In this case, Philip Morris and BAT brought a judicial review against the United Kingdom based on the government’s intention to implement the TPD requirements in UK legislation. The tobacco companies claimed that parts of the TPD and the Directive as a whole, were invalid because it was incompatible with the EU Treaties; was not proportionate or supported by evidence; was not sufficiently harmonising in nature; and contravened the principle of subsidiarity.  The UK court hearing the case referred questions on the interpretation of EU law to the CJEU. The CJEU upheld all aspects of the TPD, including provisions to require pictorial warning labels, to prohibit menthol cigarettes, and to allow countries to prohibit cross-border sales and to adopt additional packaging restrictions, such as plain packaging. The court noted that the EU may act to prevent obstacles to the trade of tobacco products while also ensuring a high level of public health protection. The court found that the packaging and labeling requirements were proportionate and did not go beyond what were necessary and appropriate. 

In addition the court highlighted the importance of the FCTC as a tool for interpretation and stated that it could have a 'decisive influence' on the interpretation of both EU law and Member States' tobacco control legislation. 

EU Member States are obliged, under the TPD, to implement most provisions of the TPD into domestic law by May 20, 2016 (although a number of states have been late in their implementation).

British American Tobacco Kenya Ltd. v. Ministry of Health [Kenya] [March 24, 2016]

British American Tobacco's Kenyan subsidiary filed a lawsuit claiming that Kenya’s Tobacco Control Regulations are unconstitutional. The court ruled against the tobacco company, finding that the process of developing the regulations was lawful and conducted with sufficient participation by the tobacco industry. The court upheld nearly all elements of the Regulations, which are designed to implement the Tobacco Control Act, including:

  • a 2% annual contribution by the tobacco industry to help fund tobacco control education, research, and cessation;

  • graphic health warnings;

  • ingredient disclosure;

  • smoke-free environments in streets, walkways, verandas adjacent to public places;

  • disclosure of annual tobacco sales and other industry disclosures; and

  • regulations limiting interaction between the tobacco industry and public health officials.

The court specifically noted that the Tobacco Control Act and Regulations are intended to comply with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Additionally, the court acknowledged the harm caused by tobacco products and stated it would make its decision within the context of a public health system balanced against the commercial rights of the tobacco company.

The court struck down a few minor elements of the regulations, ruling that (1) the tobacco industry is not required to provide evidence of its market share to the government; and (2) that penalties for violation cannot exceed the maximums authorized by law.

The court ruled that the regulations should take effect six months after the date of the decision. 

De Bruyn v. Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health [Australia] [March 22, 2016]

A patient at an Australian mental health facility sued to block implementation of the facility’s smoke-free policy. The court upheld the smoke-free policy because: (1) it was within the authority of the mental health hospital to adopt the policy; (2) the state tobacco control law did not create a right to smoke in mental health hospitals; and (3) the hospital properly considered the impact that the policy might have on the patient’s human rights, such as the right to dignity. In particular, the court found that the hospital gathered extensive input on policy over a four-year period and that the policy would be implemented along with psychological and other support systems, including nicotine replacement therapy and cessation counseling. 

Philip Morris Asia v Australia [Australia] [December 17, 2015]

Philip Morris Asia challenged Australia's tobacco plain packaging legislation under a 1993 Bilateral Investment Treaty between Australia and Hong Kong. This was the first investor-state dispute brought against Australia.

Philip Morris Asia initiated the arbitration in November 2011, immediately after the legislation was adopted. Australia responded with jurisdictional objections and sought a preliminary ruling on these issues. The tribunal bifurcated the proceedings and on 18 December 2015 issued a unanimous decision agreeing with Australia's position that the tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear the claim.

The main objection to jurisdiction was that at the time the dispute arose, Philip Morris Asia was not a foreign investor in Australia. The government announced its decision to proceed with plain packaging legislation in April 2010. At that time, 100% of the shares in Philip Morris Asia were owned by the parent company located in Switzerland (which had no investment treaty with Australia). Philip Morris International then undertook a restructure in 2011 which meant that Philip Morris Asia, located in Hong Kong, became the sole owner of the shares in the Australian subsidiaries. 

The Tribunal found that Claimant’s restructure was for the principal, if not the sole, purpose of gaining protection under the Treaty so as to bring a claim against the plain packaging legislation. As such Philip Morris Asia's claim was an 'abuse of rights'. This concluded the arbitration in Australia's favour, subject to finalisation of the costs claim.

British American Tobacco Colombia v. Ministry of Health [Colombia] [September 24, 2015]

British American Tobacco (BAT) Colombia requested that the State Council annul a Ministry of Health administrative decision that did not approve the use of expressions “Click & On,” “Click & Roll,” “Krystal Frost,” “Filter Kings,” and “Frozen Nights” on tobacco products packages.  The Ministry’s administrative decision considered such expressions a form of deceptive advertising and thus prohibited under law 1335. A lower administrative court rejected BAT Colombia’s request, and the State Council, the highest judicial body for administrative matters, upheld the lower court’s decision.  The State Council found the expressions to be deceptive advertising and that economic freedoms must be restricted for the protection of the right to health, the right to life and the public interest.  Notably and responding to BAT’s allegation, the State Council found no expropriation of intellectual property.  The Council observed that intellectual property rights need to be exercised in conformity to human rights obligations. Moreover, responding to the argument that similar expressions had been approved in the past, the Council found that there was no violation of good faith and noted that tobacco control measures are expected to increase in light of further evidence.

Vekony v. Hungary [Hungary] [January 13, 2015]

A tobacco retailer was forced to apply for a new license after a national law created a state monopoly on tobacco sales. The retailer’s application for a tobacco license was denied and, as a result of the lost sales, his shop was forced to close. The retailer claimed that the loss of his tobacco license unjustly deprived him of his property. The court found that the government’s decision not to grant the tobacco license interfered with the “peaceful enjoyment of possessions” guaranteed in the European Human Rights Convention. The court also found that the retailer had to suffer an excessive burden and awarded him 15,000 Euros to compensate for the lost business, plus 6,000 Euros for attorney costs. 

The materials and analysis available at this website are for informational and educational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.