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 characterizing flavors and other additives, and regulates e-cigarettes. Article 24(4) permits Member States to adopt further requirements to standardize 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 the TPD was incompatible with the EU Treaties; was not proportionate or supported by evidence; was not sufficiently harmonizing 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).


The Queen on the Application of Philip Morris Brands SARL et al. v. Secretary of State for Health, Case C-547/14, Court of Justice of the European Union (2016).

  • European Union
  • May 4, 2016
  • Court of Justice of the European Union



  • The Queen, on the application of British American Tobacco UK Ltd
  • The Queen, on the application of Philip Morris Brands SARL
  • The Queen, on the application of Philip Morris Ltd


Third Party

  • Deutsche Beckert GmbH & Co. KG
  • Gallagher Ltd
  • Imperial Tobacco Ltd
  • Ireland
  • Joh. Wilh. von Eicken GmbH
  • JT International SA
  • Tann UK Ltd
  • Tannpapier GmbH
  • The Council of the European Union
  • The European Commission
  • The European Parliament
  • The French Government
  • The Hungarian Government
  • The Italian Government
  • The Kingdom of Norway
  • The Polish Government
  • The Portuguese Government
  • The United Kingdom Government
  • V. Mane Fils

Legislation Cited

International/Regional Instruments Cited

Related Documents

Type of Litigation

Tobacco Control Topics

Substantive Issues

Type of Tobacco Product