New rules forcing tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain, olive green packets come into force on Friday. But restrictions on packets are only part of a raft of new EU regulations that include a ban on menthol cigarettes.
Most headlines have focused on standardised packaging, aimed at reducing the appeal of tobacco products, which Parliament voted for shortly before last year’s general election after an amount of prevarication by the Government.
Less publicised is the European Tobacco Products Directive, which the UK legislation builds on but has been held up by legal challenges from big tobacco companies.
Under the directive, picture health warnings must cover 65 per cent of the front and back of every packet of cigarettes, with additional warnings on the top of the pack.
It includes a ban on flavoured and menthol cigarettes and "lipstick-style" packs aimed at women – all packs must have at least 20 cigarettes to leave room for health warnings – and a ban on promotional statements such as "this product is free of additives" or "is less harmful than other brands".
The directive also allowed the UK to go further and introduce its own regulations requiring all tobacco packaging to be uniformly olive green with large images designed to act as health warnings.
While many of the new rules on tobacco, including plain packaging in Britain, come in this week, the ban on menthol tobacco comes into force on 20 May 2020.
The latest legal challenge is being brought by the tobacco firms Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International.
A ruling was expected on Thursday in the High Court on a challenge to the legality of the new British rules on plain packaging.
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
The firms sought a judicial review of the UK’s Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015, which the companies say will destroy their highly valuable property rights and render products indistinguishable from each other.
Earlier this month, in a separate legal challenge, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the Tobacco Products Directive is lawful.
The ruling is likely to have an influence on the High Court's decision, which will be made by Mr Justice Green, and campaigners are confident that the tobacco firms will not succeed.
The new rules are an attempt to cut the number of smokers across the EU by 2.4 million. An estimated 700,000 smoking-related premature deaths are caused in the EU each year, and cancer charities are backing the measures.
Additional reporting by Press AssociationReuse content