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Tobacco Industry Loses Landmark Court Rulings in India & EU, Upholding Graphic Tobacco Warnings (and Other Health Measures in EU)

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 04, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC – In landmark victories for global health and major defeats for the tobacco industry, high courts in India and the European Union today upheld strong measures to reduce tobacco use, including requirements for large, graphic health warnings on tobacco products and, in the EU, a ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol, and authority for countries to adopt standardized plain packages. Together, these rulings provide a powerful boost to worldwide efforts to combat a tobacco epidemic that will otherwise kill one billion people this century. They also represent a resounding rejection of the tobacco industry’s scorched-earth tactics that put profits before lives.

In India, the country’s Supreme Court ordered tobacco companies to comply with a requirement that tobacco packages include graphic health warnings covering 85 percent of the front and back of packs. Tobacco companies have fiercely fought the requirement, filing multiple lawsuits, lobbying Parliament to weaken the warnings and even shutting down factories in an attempt to get their way by disrupting India’s economy. Today’s ruling does not fully resolve the multiple lawsuits against the warnings because the Indian Supreme Court returned the cases to a lower court for final resolution, but it sends a powerful message of support from India’s highest court and means the warning requirement will have to be implemented while the lower court follows the Supreme Court’s order.

In the European Union, the EU Court of Justice upheld new tobacco regulations set to take effect on May 20, rejecting lawsuits filed by Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco. Among other things, the regulations (called the EU Tobacco Products Directive) require graphic health warnings covering 65 percent of the front and back of tobacco packs; ban flavored tobacco products, including a phased-in prohibition on the use of menthol; and establish regulations for electronic cigarettes, including health warnings and marketing restrictions.

Today’s ruling also provides critical support for countries to go beyond the specific EU regulations and require that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging, free of colorful logos and branding. The United Kingdom, France and Ireland have passed laws requiring plain packaging and will soon join Australia in implementing this innovative new strategy to accelerate progress in reducing tobacco use. Other countries are considering such laws, and today’s ruling adds momentum to these efforts.

The India and EU rulings should embolden countries to move forward with implementing proven strategies to reduce tobacco use, as required by the international tobacco control treaty, the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Governments must stand firm against the tobacco industry’s inevitable efforts to block life-saving progress.