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Argument: Tobacco Control Law Violation

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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.

    S. Suresh v. Union of India [India] [February 05, 2019]

    S. Suresh, a media consultant for the Tobacco Free Kerala Campaign, seeks implementation of the Rules relating to point of sale advertising framed under COTPA Section 5.  The court disposed of the matter, reserving Mr. Suresh's rights to file a new case that contained specific instances of violations of the Rules.  

    J. Anbazhagan v. Union of India [India] [April 26, 2018]

    J. Anbazhagan, a member of the legislative assembly in the State of Tamil Nadu, filed a writ petition to highlight the illegal manufacture and sale of gutka and pan masala in the state and to urge the High Court of Madras to order an independent investigation into the matter. Mr. Anbazhagan alleged such sales were carried out in collusion with several high dignitaries and bureaucrats, such as central excise officials, central government officials, officials from different state governments, including the Government of Tamil Nadu, councilors of the Chennai Corporation, and officials of the food safety department, among others. The Court observed that it was compelled to take up the case as the issues involved the right to health and directed that the Central Bureau of Investigation investigate the matter, since, among other reasons, central government officials allegedly were involved.  In response to arguments made by the respondents, the Court also clarified that the definition of “food” under Section 3(j) of the Food Safety Act includes any substance, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, which is intended for human consumption and that the definition undoubtedly was wide enough to include gutka, and other forms of chewable tobacco/nicotine products intended for human consumption. The Court further clarified that India’s omnibus tobacco control law, COTPA, and the Food Safety Act were not in conflict, but were meant to be read in conjunction with each other as COTPA does not contain a non-obstante clause that excludes operation of other laws.

    Esperanza Cerón Villaquirán et al v. Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio (SIC) [Colombia] [November 17, 2017]

    Tobacco control advocates challenged the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio – SIC) resolutions that regulated point of sale tobacco product displays.  Tobacco control advocates alleged that these resolutions violated the complete ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship established through Law No. 1335. The Colombian State Council held that these resolutions violated Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and its guidelines that state that product display should be considered a form of advertisement. Consequently, the State Council mandated the SIC to repeal the resolutions, which was done through Resolution No. 1/2018.

    B v. Waitemata District Health Board [New Zealand] [June 14, 2017]

    A patient at a mental health facility sued the Waitemata District Health Board claiming that the Board’s smoke-free policy violated the Smoke-free Environments Act because it did not provide a smoking room for patients. The patient also claimed that the smoke-free policy violated his right to be treated with respect for dignity. In two earlier decisions, the High Court and the Court of Appeals found the smoke-free policy did not violate either the Smoke-free Environments Act or the Bill of Rights. The patient appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

    In this decision, the Supreme Court upheld the smoke-free policy. The Court found that the smoke-free policy did not violate the Smoke-free Environments Act because the law states that a smoking room “may” be provided. As a result, the Board is not required to provide a smoking room for patients. Further, the Supreme Court found the patient’s rights were not violated because smokers were given nicotine replacement therapy, which was a humane and meaningful treatment for nicotine withdrawal symptoms, consistent with the Bill of Rights. 

    Central Arecanut Marketing Company v. Union of India [India] [September 23, 2016]

    This order was one among a series of intermediary orders issued by the Supreme Court of India in a public interest litigation addressing non-compliance with a ban on manufacture and sale of gutka and pan masala with tobacco and/or nicotine under the Food Safety Standards Act, 2006 and Regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011. The amicus curiae in this matter observed that 23 States and five Union Territories had prohibited the manufacture and sale of such products.  Notwithstanding the ban, however, the amicus noted that manufacturers were flouting the prohibition by selling separate pouches of pan masala and flavored chewing tobacco together, meaning for the pouches to be mixed as one.  The Supreme Court directed that representatives of the States and Union Territories that had not prohibited the manufacture and sale of such smokeless products indicate why they had not taken action.  The Court also directed that all States and Union Territories representatives file affidavits regarding their total compliance with the ban before the next date of hearing.

    Pranvesh v. Union of India [India] [June 30, 2016]

    A University of Allahabad student filed a writ petition alleging the unabated sale of tobacco to minors and adults in the city of Allahabad. The High Court of Allahabad found that temporary and permanent shops located near schools and other public institutions were making such sales. The Court also found that certain tobacco manufacturers presented misleading information about their products in print and visual media and failed to comply with the requirement for pictorial warnings on tobacco products.  The Court passed the following directions: (1) that all temporary/permanent establishments selling tobacco within a 100 yard radius of educational institutions be removed; (2) that all temporary/permanent establishments selling tobacco within 500 meter radius of the High Court and the District Court be removed; (3) that the sale of tobacco to persons seated in parked cars on roads and road sides be stopped; and (4) that strict action be taken against tobacco manufacturers who violate the requirement for compulsory statutory warnings on their products.

    S. Cyril Alexander v. Union of India [India] [June 22, 2016]

    Cyril Alexander, a tobacco control advocate, filed a public interest lawsuit requesting that the government exclude tobacco companies from the corporate social responsibility (CSR) requirements mandated by Indian law in order to prevent the companies from earning goodwill. The court directed the government to determine how tobacco companies can best meet their CSR obligations and to take appropriate action within four months of the decision. Not satisfied that the government had undertaken the court's requested actions, Mr. Alexander filed a contempt petition. The court dismissed the petition on the basis that a May 2016 government circular clarifies that tobacco industry CSR shall not contravene India's omnibus tobacco control law. Although Mr. Alexander maintained that his request seeks a general prohibition on tobacco industry CSR, the court held that such a request cannot be the subject matter of the contempt petition. 

    Black v. Secretary of State for Justice [United Kingdom] [March 08, 2016]

    A prisoner claimed that smoking should be prohibited inside a state-run prison. The lower court ruled that the national law prohibiting smoking in workplaces also applied to prisons, including state prisons. The Secretary of State for Justice appealed the decision. The appeals court found that the state is not bound by the national law prohibiting smoking in the workplace. Therefore, the prison is not required to implement the smoking ban. 

    R.J. Reynolds v. United States Food and Drug Administration [United States] [January 15, 2016]

    Tobacco companies challenged the composition of the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC), which was established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to advise the agency on scientific issues related to tobacco products, including the use of menthol in cigarettes. The tobacco companies alleged that three of the scientific members of the Committee had both an actual and a perceived conflict of interest because each consulted with companies that developed nicotine replacement therapies and testified as expert witnesses in lawsuits against tobacco manufacturers. The court ruled in favor of the tobacco companies, finding that the challenged committee members had both financial conflicts of interest and an appearance of conflicts of interest, which fatally tainted the composition of the Committee and its work product, including the 2011 Committee report on menthol in cigarettes. The court issued an order requiring the FDA to reconstitute the Committee’ membership to comply with ethics laws and barred the agency from using the Committee’s menthol report, which had recommended removing menthol cigarettes from the marketplace.  The FDA appealed, and a three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously reversed the lower court ruling, finding that plaintiffs had not shown imminent injury from the appointment or the actions of challenged Committee members.