Philip Morris Threatens UK Lawsuit Over Cigarette Regulations
As UK officials diligently look for ways to reduce the prevalence of smoking, tobacco companies are fighting back. The latest proposed laws would require cigarette makers to feature graphic warnings that cover at least 65% of the pack. EU regulators also hope to ban menthol cigarettes and require strict tracking procedures to eliminate any contraband cigarette imports. If these laws pass, it could essentially destroy the tobacco industry and make it impossible for brands to market products as distinct from competitors. In response, Philip Morris has announced preparation to fight the new regulations through a lawsuit.
Some tobacco makers fear that the harsh new UK regulations would kill the cigarette industry completely, especially since electronic cigarettes are still easily available and rapidly attracting previous smokers. If cigarette companies are barred from all basic marketing practices, there is no way they will be able to compete against the growing ecig industry long-term.
Philip Morris condemned the proposed packaging restrictions as crossing the legal limits. “Standardized packaging is a euphemism for government-mandated destruction of property… It is unlawful, disproportionate, and at odds with the most basic requirements of the rule of law.” If the proposed tobacco regulations are enforced, Britain will become the second country to essentially ban all cigarette branding and marketing.
Australia was the first to require plain cigarette packaging in late 2012 and the initial results are still unclear. While some insist that the impact on sales is promising, the World Trade Organization is working hard to have the rule reversed. The WTO argues that requiring plain packaging is illegal because it infringes on a brand’s freedom to market its own products. So far, Australia lawmakers are standing by the decision and have made no indications that they will change the packaging requirements in the future.
It’s possible that as more countries require plain packaging for cigarettes, it will give e-cig companies a final push to the top. With tobacco sales already rapidly falling, analysts have predicted that ecigs would surpass the traditional tobacco sales within a decade. The plain packaging rules could actually help e-cigs accomplish market dominance.
What is your take on the plain packaging requirements? Does this cross the line of legal regulations or it just another smart way to discourage smokers from using tobacco products?