R (on the Application of) Philip Morris Brands SARL et al. v. Secretary of State for Health
A challenge to the validity of the European Union’s (EU) Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) 2014 brought by Philip Morris and British American Tobacco was dismissed on all grounds by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The amended TPD was adopted in April 2014 and provides a wide range of requirements relating to emissions, reporting, 65% pictorial health warnings, packaging and labeling, a ban on characterising flavors and other additives, and regulates e-cigarettes. Article 24(4) permits member states to adopt further requirements to standardise packaging. The TPD applies to all countries within the EU.
In this case, Philip Morris and BAT brought a judicial review against the United Kingdom based on the government’s intention to implement the TPD requirements in UK legislation. The tobacco companies claimed that parts of the TPD and the Directive as a whole, were invalid because it was incompatible with the EU Treaties; was not proportionate or supported by evidence; was not sufficiently harmonising in nature; and contravened the principle of subsidiarity. The UK court hearing the case referred questions on the interpretation of EU law to the CJEU. The CJEU upheld all aspects of the TPD, including provisions to require pictorial warning labels, to prohibit menthol cigarettes, and to allow countries to prohibit cross-border sales and to adopt additional packaging restrictions, such as plain packaging. The court noted that the EU may act to prevent obstacles to the trade of tobacco products while also ensuring a high level of public health protection. The court found that the packaging and labeling requirements were proportionate and did not go beyond what were necessary and appropriate.
In addition the court highlighted the importance of the FCTC as a tool for interpretation and stated that it could have a 'decisive influence' on the interpretation of both EU law and Member States' tobacco control legislation.
EU Member States are obliged, under the TPD, to implement most provisions of the TPD into domestic law by May 20, 2016 (although a number of states have been late in their implementation).