PM welcomes court’s suspension of new Thai health warning requirement

| August 27, 2013

Philip Morris (Thailand) (PMTL) has welcomed Friday’s decision by the Bangkok Central Administrative Court to suspend the implementation of a Ministry of Public Health requirement for enlarged graphic warnings on cigarette packs until the case against this measure has been heard.

“We welcome the court’s recognition that this regulation should be suspended until this case is considered on its merits, and we are grateful to the court for listening to our concerns,” said Onanong Pratakphiriya, manager communications and external affairs for (PMTL). “This is a welcome departure from the Ministry of Public Health, which willfully, and in violation of Thai due process requirements, ignored the voices of thousands of retailers, manufacturers and many other impacted stakeholders when it first issued this notification. Today’s decision now clears the way for us to show the court that this measure is not only illegal but also unnecessary, given that the health risks of smoking are universally known in Thailand.”

PMTL took legal action against the health ministry on June 26, asking the court to invalidate the ministry’s notification that would increase the size of graphic health warnings from 55 percent to 85 percent of the front and back of cigarette packs.

“PMTL claims that the Ministry acted beyond its legal powers and failed to consult with thousands of impacted stakeholders in violation of Thai due process requirements,” according to a note posted on Philip Morris International’s website. “It also claims that the measure substantially impairs the ability of manufacturers and importers to use their trademarks to differentiate their products from competitors’ products and is unnecessary given that the risks associated with smoking are known universally in Thailand. In addition to the lack of credible evidence to prove the effectiveness of such large health warnings, the notification exempts cheap, roll-your-own tobacco, which already makes up half of the Thai market, and is likely to boost smuggled products from outside Thailand, which often have smaller health warnings, no warnings at all, or are counterfeit.

“The Administrative Court based its decision on its finding that the notification was potentially illegal and that allowing enforcement before a full decision on the merits could cause irreparable harm to PMTL.

“While today’s decision was related to the Philip Morris filing specifically, others have also taken legal action against this unnecessary and illogical regulation, including the Thai Tobacco Trade Association (TTTA), representing more than 1,400 retailers across Thailand, an individual retailer and a wholesaler.

“The request for an injunction was the first step in a process that is expected to take more than one year.”

Meanwhile, according to a Bangkok Post story, during the court hearing, the ministry argued that the regulation was in line with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which supported the use of health warnings to prevent the young and nonsmokers from trying tobacco products.

And the ministry pointed out that the National Tobacco Control Board had said that on-package health warnings were the most effective means of reminding consumers of the dangers of smoking.

Category: Breaking News

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