herald

Saturday 21 October 2017

ONE of the world's largest tobacco firms has launched a legal bid to halt the Government's controversial plain packaging measures, the Herald can reveal.

ONE of the world's largest tobacco firms has launched a legal bid to halt the Government's controversial plain packaging measures, the Herald can reveal.

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) formally lodged papers in the High Court yesterday which name the State, the Attorney General and Health Minister Leo Varadkar as defendants.

While tobacco firms have previously threatened legal action over the plain packaging measures, JTI is understood to be the first firm to launch a legal bid.

The cigarette giant, which owns the Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut brands, is challenging the Government's right under EU law to introduce plain packaging.

The company is considering whether to sue the State over an alleged infringement of property rights, however, this does not form the basis of the current High Court action.

JTI is seeking to halt the plain packaging plans on the basis that the European Court of Justice is currently hearing a case that bears directly on the right of an EU member State such as Ireland to introduce such measures.

The company will argue that Ireland is operating outside of the parameters of EU law. It's expected that the Government will contest this view.

Although Children's Minister James Reilly is spear-heading the measures, which were signed into law by the President earlier this month, he is not named as a defendant in JTI's court papers.

Other tobacco giants, including John Player Blue, are understood to be considering whether to launch a court challenge.

Dr Reilly has said he hopes plain tobacco products will appear in the shops by 2017.

He has insisted the Government will rigorously defend any legal challenge, saying that the laws will save lives and dissaude children from taking up smoking.

Ireland is on course to become the first EU state to introduce plain packaging.

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