Swedish Match Ltd. v. The Ministry of Health and Care Services et al.
Swedish Match Ltd. v. The Ministry Swedish Match et al., Case No.: 17-110415TVI-OBYF, Oslo County Court (2017).
- Nov 6, 2017
- Oslo County Court
Plaintiff Swedish Match Ltd.
- Norwegian Cancer Society
- The Ministry of Health and Care Services
Regulations no. 942 of 22 June 2017 amending the regulations on the content and labelling of tobacco products Act No. 5 of 10 February 2017 amending the Tobacco Control Act (implementing Directive 2014/40/EU and standardized packaging)
Type of Litigation
Challenge to Government Policies Relating to Tobacco Control/Public Health
Tobacco companies or front groups may challenge any legislative or regulatory measure that affects their business interests. Unlike public interest litigation, these cases seek to weaken health measures. These cases frequently involve the industry proceeding against the government. For example, a group of restaurant owners challenging a smoke free law as unconstitutional.
Tobacco Control Topics
Measures to protect health policies from the commercial or other vested interests of the tobacco industry. (See FCTC Art. 5.3)
Packaging and Labeling Measures
Measures to regulate the marketing on tobacco packages. This includes both bans on false, misleading, deceptive packaging, as well as required health warnings on packaging. (See FCTC Art. 11)
Right to Commerce
A violation of the right to carry on trade, business, or profession of a person’s choice. This right may also be called the right to free enterprise or economic freedom. The industry may argue that a business should be able to conduct its business without government regulation, including whether or not to be smoke free.
Right to Property
A violation of property rights, sometimes in the form of an expropriation or a taking by the government. The tobacco industry may argue that regulations amount to a taking of property rights because they prevent the use of intellectual property such as trademarks.
Type of Tobacco Product
Smokeless tobacco products
Tobacco products that are used by means other than smoking, such as chewing, sniffing, or placing between the teeth and gum. Examples include chewing tobacco, dipping tobacco, snuf, snus, gutkha or gutka, and dissolvable tobacco products.
Swedish Match Ltd. ("Swedish Match") sought an injunction in the Oslo County Court to suspend Norway's plain packaging laws for 'snus' (oral tobacco) while it brought a full challenge to the law. The Norwegian law requires plain packaging for cigarettes, hand-rolled tobacco and snus. Swedish Match is the main producer of snus in Europe and Scandinavia. The key legal basis for the claim is that the law violates the EEA Agreement (the trade agreement with the European Union) because it is an unjustified restriction on the trade in goods. Swedish Match argued that snus is the least harmful smoke-free tobacco product on the market and that the government had not considered how important snus is as a harm-reduction product. They claimed it was wrong to treat cigarettes and snus equally in their packaging requirements and that there was no evidence that plain packaging would work to reduce tobacco use.
The Oslo County Court dismissed the application ruling that plain packaging is both suitable, appropriate and necessary and that it does not involve any arbitrary discrimination or hidden trade restriction. Swedish Match was ordered to pay all the government's legal costs.