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Public Ministry of Rio de Janeiro v. Rock World SA, Souza Cruz Ltda, and Vega Fina Tabacaria Eireli [Brazil] [November 02, 2020]
The Public Ministry in Rio de Janeiro presented a civil action against Rock World SA, Souza Cruz Ltda, and Vega Fina Tabacaria Eireli for illegal advertising in the festival "Rock in Rio" 2017. On November 2, 2020, the court concluded that the defendants engaged in unlawful advertising during the festival. The illegal advertising included (i) visually ostentatious advertising of smoking products and (ii) "mobile sellers.” On the other hand, the sale of a kit that included cigarettes and a lighter with the logo of "Rock in Rio" was not recognized as an illegal practice. The defendants were sanctioned as follows – (1) Defendants were fined R$ 2,000,000.00 for collective moral damages. For individual material and moral damages, each consumer will need to prove individually the actual damage suffered. (2) Defendants must carry out counter-advertising in partnership with public universities and hospitals informing consumers about the risks, prevention, and treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and smoking cessation.
In addition to bringing this enforcement action against the illegal advertising that took place at the Rock in Rio 2017, the Public Ministry sought an interim judgment barring illegal promotional activities at the then upcoming Rock in Rio 2019 festival. In response to this request, the court issued a series of orders restricting the promotional activities at the 2019 festival.
La Prensa S.A. v. General Directorate of Public Health of the Ministry of Health [Panama] [March 05, 2020]
An amparo remedy was filed against Resolution No. 0573 of February 27, 2019, issued by the General Directorate of Public Health of the Ministry of Health. The resolution sanctioned La Prensa S.A. with a fine of B$ 10,000.00 for publishing a news article on IQOS sponsored by Philip Morris. The article was titled "NEW ALTERNATIVES COMING FOR ADULT SMOKERS". La Prensa was fined as a result of non-compliance with the total ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. La Prensa objected to the fine on the basis that its constitutional rights to be heard, to offer evidence, and to due process were violated. However, the Court declined to grant the amparo and upheld the sanction since the Ministry of Health acted according to its legal powers.
Dir. of CPI of SIC v. Coltabaco S.A.S. et al. [Colombia] [December 27, 2019]
In 2017, the Directorate of Consumer Protection Investigations of the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce ("SIC") opened an investigation following a complaint to prompt the SIC to stop IQOS marketing. The SIC issued a decision in the pending administrative investigation dismissing the complaint.
The SIC closed their decision after taking the following into consideration:
- The Ministry of Health asks for IQOS products to be treated as tobacco products.
- The SIC focused on the fact that only the tobacco sticks for heated tobacco products, as opposed to the IQOS device, are mandated to have health warnings.
- According to the SIC, IQOS does not fall under the authority of the tobacco control law in Colombia (Law No. 1335).
- IQOS marketing practices have not violated consumer protection regulations in Colombia.
ASA Ruling on British American Tobacco UK Ltd. [United Kingdom] [December 18, 2019]
Following complaints by leading health organizations, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that British American Tobacco (BAT) can no longer use any public Instagram account to promote e-cigarettes in the UK. The ruling includes BAT’s use of influencer marketing to advertise e-cigarettes and orders BAT to remove unlawful e-cigarette advertising content currently on Instagram.
UK regulations clearly prohibit online advertising of e-cigarettes, but allow a manufacturer to provide factual product information such as the name, content and price of the product on its own websites. The ASA ruling has clarified that public social media accounts, like @govype run by BAT, are not analogous to a website, and therefore, neither factual nor promotional content for e-cigarettes is permitted.
The Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce v. State of Israel – Ministry of Health, Israeli Knesset, and Knesset Economics Committee [Israel] [November 25, 2019]
The importer and manufacturers' forum of vaporization products at the Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce challenged amendments to the Restriction of Advertising and Marketing of Tobacco Products Law passed in December 2018. The Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce specifically challenged the extension of tobacco-related restrictions to e-cigarettes, including an advertising ban, a display ban, and plain packaging, as well as a nicotine concentration limit of 20mg/ml for e-liquids. This case was dismissed.
National Council of Consumers and Users (Associazione dei Consumatori) v. two electronic cigarette manufacturers [names redacted] [Italy] [November 15, 2019]
The National Council of Consumers and Users, headquartered in Rome, petitioned a civil division at the Court of Rome on September 13, 2019 against two e-cigarette defendants to have their marketing removed on the internet (including via defendants’ own social media accounts), printed publications, and through organizing or sponsoring public events aimed at promoting e-cigarettes.
The Court found in favor of plaintiffs holding that “[i]n view of the "restrictive approach to the advertising of electronic cigarettes and liquid refill containers" aimed at achieving "a high level of protection of human health", clearly stated in Paragraph 43 of Directive 2014/40/EU, the defense argument shall be dismissed..
The Court ordered:
- Defendants’ remove all commercial communications related to electronic cigarettes and refill cartridges deemed unlawful (including content from their websites and social media pages and all unlawful content reposted by Defendants) within 15 days from the date of this judgment;
- Defendants will be fined € 500.00 for each violation and for each day of delay in the execution of this order; and
- Defendants are jointly liable to the reimbursement of all legal costs related to these proceedings in favor of plaintiffs and to a compensation of €6,000.00 in addition to administrative costs, VAT and CPA.
Philippine Tobacco Institute v. City of Balanga, et al. [Philippines] [July 22, 2019]
The Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI), whose members include Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing, Inc. and JTI Philippines, Inc., challenged a City of Balanga ordinance making the City's 80-hectare University Town and its three kilometer radius "tobacco free," meaning the sale, use and marketing of tobacco products and e-cigarettes are banned. In July 2018, the Regional Trial Court declared the ordinance unconstitutional and invalid. The City appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court's decision. The Court of Appeals concluded that the ordinance was invalid because it went beyond the provisions of Republic Act No. 9211, a federal law. (The federal law prohibits smoking in specified places and the sale of tobacco products within 100 meters of schools, playgrounds, and other facilities frequented by minors. The City ordinance, on the other hand, prohibits selling, distributing, using, advertising, and promoting tobacco products within University Town and within a three-kilometer radius.) The City's Motion for Reconsideration was also denied.
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.
National Committee for Tobacco Control v. S.A. Philip Morris Products, et al. [France] [May 15, 2019]
The National Committee for Tobacco Control (CNCT) filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris Products (Philip Morris) and Ducati Motor Holdings (Ducati) to prevent the companies from using their "Mission Winnow" trademark at an upcoming Grand Prix event in France (French motorcycle Grand Prix at Le Mans) because it would amount to unlawful tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. CNCT also sought disclosure of the partnership agreements between Philip Morris and Ducati.
In its decision, the Le Mans High Court agreed that:
- The colors of the “Mission Winnow” project and its logo clearly recall the Marlboro cigarette brand that has long been associated with motorsports.
- Professionals of the sector knew that the “Mission Winnow” project only conceals sponsorship actions from a tobacco manufacturer.
- The “Mission Winnow” name and logo constitute some reference, although indirect, to tobacco and in particular to the Marlboro brand and its owner, Philip Morris.
- The violation of provisions in the Public Health Code is sufficiently obvious that the use of the “Mission Winnow” logo or even the existence of the project, as well as the partnership agreement with Ducati, can be questioned under the law.
As a result of these findings, the Court prohibited either company from using the mark, logo or expression “Mission Winnow” under penalty of €10,000 for each violation, and ordered Philip Morris and Ducati to pay €10,000 to CNCT. Additionally, the Court granted CNCT's request for disclosure of the partnership agreement.
American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. FDA [United States] [March 05, 2019]
In 2016, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in conjunction with seven other health organizations, medical groups, and several individual pediatricians, filed a lawsuit to force the FDA to issue a final rule requiring graphic health warnings on cigarette packing and marketing, as mandated by the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. In September 2018, the District Court ruled in favor of the health groups finding that the FDA had both “unlawfully withheld” and “unreasonably delayed” agency action to require the graphic health warnings.
In March 2019, the District Court ordered that the FDA must issue a final rule by March 2020 for graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging and marketing. The ruling also requires the FDA to finish its study on the labels by April 15, 2019, and submit its proposed rule by August 15, 2019.
For the earlier decision, see: American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. v. U.S. Food & Drug Admin., No. 1:16-cv-11985 (D. Mass. 2018).