Tobacco Display Ban
Written by Faith Anderson on September 14, 2012
Display Ban Justified for Public Health Reasons
On September 14, the Norwegian court rejected a complaint by tobacco giant Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, which argued that the tobacco display ban violates a free trade agreement subjecting non-EU member Norway to the European Union’s market regulations. According to the court, the display ban on tobacco is not meant to constitute a barrier to trade, and could be justified for public health reasons. “As the court sees it, the display ban is necessary and that there are no alternative, less intrusive measures that can have equivalent results,” it said. Following the court’s decision, Tord Dale, political advisor to the Norwegian Health Minister said, “We are glad that the court has decided that looking after people’s health is more important than the profits of the tobacco industry.”
Norway May Implement Plain Packaging and Graphic Warnings
Since 2010, tobacco products and cigarette packages have been covered up in Norwegian stores and are not visible to buyers, a move intended to discourage tobacco use in the country amid public health concerns. In April 2012, Britain implemented a similar tobacco display ban for large vendors, although small vendors have until 2015 to conform to the new legislation. In addition, the European Commission is expected to propose a revision of European Union rules regarding tobacco products by the end of this year, which will likely include more prescriptive health warning requirements on product packaging.
A spokesperson for the Commission confirmed that the organization’s proposals would include new regulations for tobacco packages, but declined to comment on speculation that the plans would implement a single pack size for all cigarettes requiring health risk warnings to cover 75% of the pack. Norway has said however, that if the tobacco display ban was upheld, it would follow in Australia’s footsteps and require plain packaging of tobacco. Beginning on December 1, 2012, all cigarettes and tobacco products in Australia will be sold in drab olive green packets with graphic health warnings, including pictures of mouth cancer and other illnesses related to smoking.
Philip Morris May Appeal Court’s Decision
“I know that this ruling will be read carefully in other European countries,” said Knut-Inge Klepp, director of the Norwegian Health Directorate. “Currently we are waiting for a new strategy from the government on tobacco legislation. We are in dialog with other European countries on the issue. Tobacco company Philip Morris, on the other hand, disapproves of the new tobacco display ban and may move to appeal the court’s decision. Philip Morris spokesman Nordan Helland said, “We are not happy with the ruling. We will now look carefully at the court’s decision and assess if we are going to appeal.”