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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.
Cubacigar Benelux NV v. State of the Netherlands (Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport) [Netherlands] [June 30, 2020]
Cubacigar Benelux NV (Cubacigar) appealed a lower court decision upholding packaging restrictions contained in the Tobacco and Smoking Regulations. Specifically, Cubacigar had challenged restrictions limiting the use of metallic foils and embossing (“glitter and glamor” elements) on cigar boxes. The lower court held that these restrictions in the Tobacco and Smoking Regulations did not conflict with the EU Tobacco Products Directive. The court also determined that although the packaging requirements restricted the free movement of goods, the requirements were justified from a public health point of view because they are aimed at reducing the attractiveness of tobacco products. Further, the requirements of the principle of proportionality were also met.
On appeal, the Court of Appeal upheld the lower court's decision that the packaging requirements under the Tobacco and Smoking Regulations are in line with the EU Tobacco Products Directive. The Court concluded that the government presented sufficient evidence demonstrating that the measures are justified on grounds of public health protection and are proportionate.
Australia - Tobacco Plain Packaging Final Ruling [Australia] [June 09, 2020]
The Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued its final ruling affirming that Australia’s pioneering law requiring plain packaging for tobacco products and finding it entirely consistent with WTO agreements. In particular, the WTO appeal ruling confirmed the original finding that the evidence shows that tobacco plain packaging laws "are apt to, and do in fact, contribute to Australia's objective of reducing the use of, and exposure to, tobacco products."
The appeal ruling also confirmed that:
- Tobacco plain packaging is not more trade-restrictive than is necessary to meet its legitimate public health objective.
- Trademark owners do not have a positive right to use their trademarks under WTO TRIPS agreement, but only the right to prevent third parties from using them.
- Tobacco plain packaging is a justified restriction on the use of trademarks and does not violate trademark protections.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.