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Topic: Ban on menthol cigarettes

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Korea Electronic Cigarette Association v. Ministry of Health and Welfare [South Korea] [March 17, 2020]

The Korea Electronic Cigarette Association challenged the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s directive, which held that e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are not safer alternatives for smokers who are trying to quit cigarettes. The association also disagreed with the claim that small amounts of vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent that has been linked to vaping-related lung injuries, had been found in some products. The Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the Ministry of Health and Welfare because directives do not infringe on e-cigarette companies' constitutional rights, as they are only recommendations and are not legally binding.

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.

British American Tobacco Kenya, PLC v. Ministry of Health [Kenya] [November 26, 2019]

British American Tobacco Kenya filed a petition to the Kenya Supreme Court appealing a 2017 Court of Appeal decision upholding nearly all elements of Kenya’s Tobacco Control Regulations. The Supreme Court ruled that the tobacco company’s appeal had no merit, dismissed the petition in its entirety and affirmed the decision of the lower court.

Both lower courts 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;
- picture health warnings;
- ingredient disclosure;
- smoke-free environments in streets, walkways, 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 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:

  1. 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;
  2. Defendants will be fined € 500.00 for each violation and for each day of delay in the execution of this order; and
  3. 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.

Plume Vapour Private Ltd. v. Union of India [India] [October 01, 2019]

Plume Vapor challenges the government's ordinance banning the sale of e-cigarettes and seeks a stay on the ban's implementation.  The government asserts that a stay at this interim stage before affidavits and hearing is inappropriate.  In an interim order, the Kolkata High Court refused to stay the ban, but stayed the requirement for sellers to prepare a list of their existing stock of e-cigarettes and submit such stock to authorities for disposal.

(Heard along with a similar challenge from Woke Vapors.)

Council for Harm Reduced Alternatives v. State of Karnataka [India] [August 27, 2019]

Council for Harm Reduced Alternatives (Council) challenged a June 15, 2016 Government of Karnataka circular that prohibits the manufacture, sale, distribution, trade, import, and advertisement of e-cigarettes.  Public health group, Verve Foundation Trust, intervened.  At an initial hearing, the court refused to stay implementation of the circular.  In a subsequent hearing, the court observed, "it is expressly clear that the petitioner which is . . . claiming to act in public interest is in fact espousing the cause of manufacturing units of ENDS."  The court further stated that the petitioner has abused the court's jurisdiction and wants only to lift Karnataka's ban on e-cigarettes to ensure that manufacturing companies are benefited.  Without ruling on the merits of the ban, the court accordingly dismissed the litigation and imposed costs on the Council in the amount of Rs. 1,00,000/-.

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.

Philippine Tobacco Institute v. City of Balanga, et al. [Philippines] [July 22, 2019]

The tobacco industry challenged as unconstitutional and invalid a City of Balanga ordinance making the City's 80-hectare University Town and its 3 kilometer radius tobacco-free, where the sale, use and marketing of tobacco products and e-cigarettes are banned. PTI filed the case on July 31, 2017 and a decision from a Regional Trial Court was issued in July 2018 in favor of the industry. The City is appealing to the Court of Appeals.