Country: Sri Lanka

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In the matter of Article 122(1)(b) of the Constitution [Sri Lanka] [February 06, 2015]

The Sri Lankan President sought judicial review of the constitutionality of a bill that would amend the tobacco control law to specify that pictorial health warnings should cover 80% of each tobacco pack, as well as increasing the fine for non-compliance.  A tobacco company, Ceylon, intervened in the case.  The tobacco company argued that the threat of illicit trade outweighed the health risks, but the court disagreed and noted that dependence on tobacco is harmful whether legal or illegal. The tobacco company argued that 80% pack warnings were unreasonably large and violated intellectual property laws, but the court disagreed, noting that attending to public health is of high priority, "perhaps the one at the top."  The court also noted that the ability of tobacco companies to engage in lawful trade and use its trademarks would not be hindered by the amendments. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is positively cited throughout the decision.  The Court held that the amendments did not violate any constitutional provisions. 

Ceylon Tobacco v. Minister of Health [Sri Lanka] [May 12, 2014]

The Sri Lanka Ministry of Health adopted regulations requiring tobacco products to contain graphic pictorial health warnings on 80% of the pack. The Ceylon Tobacco Company sued, claiming that the regulations exceed the authority of the Ministry and also violate the company‚Äôs intellectual property rights. In this decision the Court of Appeal found that the national tobacco law does provide the Ministry with authority to require pictorial health warnings, not just textual warnings. However, the court reduced the size of the warnings to between 50% to 60% of the cigarette pack in order to give tobacco companies more space in which to display their trademark. The court said that it was balancing the need to protect the health of citizens against the rights of a business to use its trademarks to help identify and sell its products. The court ordered the Ministry to issue new regulations allocating between 50% to 60% of the package for pictorial health warnings. 

Ceylon Tobacco v. Minister of Health [Sri Lanka] [February 22, 2013]

The Sri Lanka Ministry of Health passed a regulation requiring tobacco products to contain graphic pictorial health warnings on 80% of the pack.  The Ceylon Tobacco Company challenged the regulation as ultra vires the authority of the ministry and sought an interim order to stop the implementation of the regulation until their substantive challenge was concluded.  Here the Court of Appeal denied the tobacco company’s request to delay implementation of the regulation.  The court found the regulation was sufficiently clear for implementation.  The court said the timeline of the regulation provided sufficient time for implementation and the balance of convenience supported the Minister.

Ceylon Tobacco Company Ltd., et al. v. Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva, et al. [Sri Lanka] [June 20, 2006]

Tobacco companies sued government officials, challenging a clause of the tobacco control law that would prohibit smoking in enclosed public places. The clause, based primarily on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), was put into place after observations about the harmful effects of "passive smoking."  The Court stated that exposure to tobacco smoke, which would necessarily result from smoking in public places, is undoubtedly harmful to public health and a law could be validly enacted to prevent such exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places.  Thus, the provision is constitutional.  

The Lion Brewery Ceylon Ltd., et al. v. Hon. Attorney General, et al. [Sri Lanka] [January 16, 2006]

The leading manufacturers/producers of tobacco and alcohol products sued the Attorney General and others challenging the constitutionality of the “National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol” Bill.  The Bill advises the government on the implementation of the Tobacco and Alcohol Policy and recommends measures to minimize harm and eliminate the illicit trade arising from the consumption of tobacco and alcohol products. The Bill also creates new offences, particularly with regard to the sale of tobacco and alcohol products and the promotion of such sale by means of advertising and sponsorship of sports and cultural events.  The manufacturers argue that the production and sale of tobacco and alcohol, directly affected by the Bill, are lawful trades unlike the illicit trade in alcohol and drugs and that since the lawful trade is sought to be restricted in the manner set out in the Bill, it is discriminatory and denies them the freedom of expression and equal protection of the law as guaranteed by the Constitution. The Court found that specific provisions of the legislation were inconsistent with the Constitution but, taken as a whole, the legislation is valid.  The Court noted that it is the duty of the State to take such measures as envisaged in the Bill in the face of the proven risk to public health resulting from the use/consumption of tobacco and alcohol products.