Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco (BAT) have sued the British government over plain-packaging legislation passed in March. The law, which would take effect from May 2016, requires cigarettes to be sold in packages of uniform shape and size that feature only the brand name and contain prominent graphic health warnings. England is the third and most populous country to introduce plain-packaging laws, following Australia and Ireland.
PMI argues that England’s plain-packaging regulations “unlawfully deprive PMI of its trademarks” and should therefore be overturned, according to an article in The New York Times. London-based BAT stated that the British government had left the company “with no other choice” and released a statement saying that “any business that has property taken away from it by the state would inevitably want to challenge and seek compensation.” Japan Tobacco International has also indicated it would challenge England’s legislation. The tobacco companies are seeking unspecified damages, which could total billions of dollars if granted.
A statement released by the English Department of Health said it would “not allow public health policy to be held to ransom by the tobacco industry” and that it “would not have gone ahead with standardized packaging unless we had considered it to be defensible in the courts.”