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La Republicana S.A. v. State - Executive Branch [Uruguay] [July 24, 2019]
Compañía Industrial de Tabacos Montepaz S.A. and La Republicana S.A. challenged Decree No. 120/2019, issued by the executive branch, that requires plain packaging of tobacco products. The Court rejected the challenge and found that the decree is not clearly illegitimate, and therefore, the plaintiffs did not meet the required standard. The Court further held that Congress was the appropriate institution to approve plain packaging and impose restrictions on the tobacco industry (done via Law No. 19.723), and therefore, the executive branch did not exceed its authority when it issued Decree No. 120/2019. Additionally, the Court found that even though the implementation timeline might be strict (one year), the industry had prior knowledge given that there was a previous decree and a pending bill in Congress.
BAT Uganda Ltd v. Attorney General & Center for Health, Human Rights and Development [Uganda] [May 28, 2019]
British American Tobacco Uganda (BATU), a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, filed a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court of Uganda in 2016 challenging the constitutionality of several key provisions in the Tobacco Control Act, 2015. The Court dismissed the Petition in its entirety and awarded costs to the government. The Court found that the Petition appeared to have been misconceived or brought in bad faith as part of a global strategy to fight tobacco control legislation. The challenged provisions upheld by the Court include provisions:
- requiring 65% or larger picture health warnings;
- banning smoking in all indoor public places and workplaces, on all means of public transport, and in specified outdoor public places;
- banning all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, including product displays at points of sale;
- prohibiting the sale of tobacco products in specified places (health institutions, schools, prisons, and other places);
- prohibiting the import, manufacture, distribution, and sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems, and shisha, smokeless, and flavored tobacco;
- banning the sale of tobacco products through vending machines and through remote means of sale (e.g., mail, internet); and
- implementing WHO FCTC Article 5.3.
Grişciuc, Simion v. Republic of Moldova [Moldova] [April 08, 2019]
On April 8, 2019, the Constitutional Court upheld the Tobacco Control Law’s provision banning tobacco sales from commercial establishments that are smaller than 20 m^2 (i.e., kiosks) and are located within 200 meters of educational and healthcare facilities. This provision was adopted in May 2015 and came into force on September 17, 2015, but the Moldovan Parliament passed an amendment delaying the effective date to January 1, 2019 for commercial establishments that were in existence before July 1, 2016.
A Member of Parliament filed a complaint alleging that the provision violated several articles of the Constitution, including equal protection, freedom of commerce and entrepreneurial activity, and protection of fair competition, among others.
In upholding the measure, the court concluded that the policy serves a legitimate aim – limiting access by minors and protecting the health of minors and patients – and there were no less restrictive alternative measures that would be as effective in achieving the objectives. The court also cited the four-year delay in implementation given to existing commercial establishments, concluding that this time period provided sufficient time to adapt to the new sales restrictions. The decision is final and cannot be appealed.
Planta Tabak-Manufaktur Dr. Manfred Obermann GmbH & Co. KG v. Land Berlin [European Union] [January 30, 2019]
Planta Tabak, a Berlin-based tobacco company that primarily manufactures and markets flavored roll-your-own tobacco, challenged provisions of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (Directive 2014/40/EU) that prohibit characterizing flavors in cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco and prohibit packaging from alluding to flavors, among others. The plaintiffs sought a declaration that these provisions were not applicable to its products and alleged that they violated the principles of legal certainty, equal treatment, and proportionality. Planta Tabak objected to the fact that manufacturers of flavored tobacco products with an EU-wide sales volume of 3% or more in a particular product category were given until May 2020 to comply with the ban on flavorings, while manufacturers of flavored products with a smaller sales volume must comply as of May 2016.
The Court held that flavored tobacco products were particularly attractive to young people and facilitate the initiation of tobacco consumption. While the Court admitted that the ban was a restriction on the EU's free movement of goods, "it was justified by the balancing of its economic consequences against the requirement to ensure a high level of protection of human health." Further, the Court found that the difference in treatment of products based on sales volume was intended to give consumers adequate time to switch to other products and was, therefore, objectively justified. The Court also upheld the ban on any indication of flavor on the product packaging and labeling.
The case now reverts to Berlin's administrative court, where Planta Tabak filed its initial challenge.
B.A.T. v. Executive Branch [Uruguay] [October 11, 2018]
British American Tobacco (BAT) challenged an executive decree requiring plain packaging of tobacco products. While an administrative tribunal (Tribunal de lo Contencioso Administrativo) is considering the initial challenge, BAT also filed a rapid constitutional challenge, called an “amparo,” requesting suspension of the decree until the administrative challenge is decided (which may take up to one year). With regard to the amparo, the Administrative First Instance Court decided in favor of BAT because the plain packaging policy was approved through a decree instead of a law passed by Congress.
Here, the government appealed the decision by the Administrative First Instance Court, and the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the government. The Court of Appeals found that the amparo was not the proper mechanism for the challenge, because there is a pending administrative claim. This decision was final, and BAT cannot appeal the decision. The decision does not address the merits as to whether the policy is constitutional, only that the President did not have the power to enact the policy by way of executive order.
B.A.T. v. State - Executive Branch [Uruguay] [September 18, 2018]
British American Tobacco (BAT) challenged an executive decree requiring plain packaging of tobacco products. While an administrative tribunal (Tribunal de lo Contencioso Administrativo) is considering the initial challenge, BAT also filed a rapid constitutional challenge, called an “amparo,” requesting suspension of the decree until the administrative challenge is decided (which may take up to one year). With regard to the amparo, the court decided in favor of BAT because the plain packaging policy was approved through a decree instead of a law passed by Congress. The decision does not address the merits as to whether the policy is constitutional, only that the President did not have the power to enact the policy by way of executive order.
Note: The government appealed this decision, and the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the government. The Court of Appeals found that the amparo was not the proper mechanism for the challenge, because there is a pending administrative claim. That decision was final and the case cannot be appealed by BAT.
Australia - Tobacco Plain Packaging [Australia] [June 28, 2018]
In 2012 and 2013, Honduras, Indonesia, Cuba and Dominican Republic brought complaints in the World Trade Organization (WTO) claiming that Australia's tobacco plain packaging laws breached the WTO agreements. The complaining countries argued that Australia’s law breached the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) by failing to provide required protections to trademarks rights and because it is an unjustifiable encumbrance on the use of tobacco trademarks; and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) because it is more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill a legitimate objective.
This long anticipated ruling by the WTO rejected all grounds of complaint against Australia's plain packaging laws in a 900 page ruling. The panel's authoritative ruling should be powerful in persauding governments to move forward with tobacco plain packaging and can be used to resist many of the flawed arguments the tobacco industry puts forward to oppose the policy. The WTO considered extensive evidence from Australia and the complaining countries and found the evidence demonstrates tobacco plain packaging works to reduce tobacco use. The panel re-affirmed that states have the right to regulate for public health under WTO law and the policy does not interfere with international trademark rights. The panel made strong findings of fact which undermine many of the other arguments that the tobacco industry tries to use to oppose plain packaging laws. These are detailed in the briefing document that can be downloaded under the 'additional documents' tag.
New Zealand MOH v. PMI [New Zealand] [March 12, 2018]
The Ministry of Health ("MOH") charged Phillip Morris Ltd. with selling tobacco product called “Heets,” a heated tobacco product, in violation of Sec. 29(2) of the Smoke-free Environment Act 1990 (‘the Act’). The Act prohibits the sale of tobacco "labelled, or otherwise described as suitable for chewing, or for any other oral use (other than smoking)." The Court held that the Act was originally intended to control the sales of chewing tobacco and other tobacco products consumed orally, and therefore "Heets" did not fall within Sec. 29(2).
National Confederation of Industry (Confederação Nacional da Indústria) v. ANVISA [Brazil] [February 01, 2018]
In 2012, Brazil banned tobacco additives and flavors. The National Confederation of Industry (Confederação Nacional da Indústria) challenged the ban. The Supreme Federal Tribunal, Brazil’s highest court, upheld the 2012 regulation and affirmed the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency’s (ANVISA) right to regulate tobacco products. The court held that freedom of enterprise does not prevent Brazil from imposing conditions and limitations on private activities. The court found that while businesses have rights, they must be compatible with other fundamental and constitutional rights. In the case of tobacco control, these fundamental and constitutional rights include the right to health and the right to information. The court further held that the risks associated with tobacco consumption justify the tobacco market being subjected to intense health regulations.
Because the court failed to reach a majority (5-5 tie), the decision is not binding on other tribunals, and, by not reaching a majority, the court rejected the constitutionality claim against the ANVISA regulation (“Resolução da Diretoria Colegiada da ANVISA 14/2012”). Although the decision is not binding because of a lack of quorum, it is unlikely that subsequent challenges to the regulation would be decided differently.
Health for Millions Trust v. Union of India [India] [January 08, 2018]
Using the powers conferred by India’s omnibus tobacco control law, the government introduced new graphic health warnings in October 2014 that, among other things, increased the graphic health warning size from 40 percent of one side to 85 percent of both sides of tobacco product packaging and amended the rotation scheme of the warnings. The Karnataka Beedi Industry Association, the Tobacco Institute of India, and other pro-tobacco entities challenged the validity of the 2014 pack warning rules in five cases in the Karnataka High Court – Bengaluru, and the court initially stayed the implementation of the warnings via interim orders. Following a petition by tobacco control advocates, the court lifted the stays, and a division bench of the court affirmed the decision on appeal. The association and others challenged this ruling in the Supreme Court. Paving the way for immediate implementation of the warnings, the Supreme Court, on May 4, 2016, directed that the matter be decided within six weeks in the Karnataka High Court by a bench constituted by the Karnataka Chief Justice and that any stays of the warnings in other high courts not be given effect until the conclusion of the matter. After months of hearings, a two judge bench of the Karnataka High Court struck down the 2014 rules, and the Government and public health groups appealed the matter to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Karnataka High Court order and set final disposal of the matter for March 12, 2018. The Court stated: "[W]e are inclined to think that health of a citizen has primacy and he or she should be aware of that which can affect or deteriorate the condition of health. We may hasten to add that deterioration may be a milder word and, therefore, in all possibility the expression ‘destruction of health’ is apposite." India’s 85% graphic health warning rules accordingly remain in effect for now.