herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Cuba in bid to halt tobacco package plans

plans in this country to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products have been challenged by Cuba.

Ireland wants to follow in the footsteps of Australia by having non-branded cigarette and cigar packets.

But Cuba, famous for its cigars, has complained to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that the move would violate the body’s protection of trademark rights.

While Cuba acknowledges Ireland’s right to protect “the health of its people”, it cannot compromise its WTO commitments, the Caribbean country has argued.

Cuba stated it is difficult to understand the increasing numbers of countries planning to introduce plain packaging while challenges are under way.

Last March, the WTO granted Indonesia the right to take on Australia’s plain packaging laws, it was reported.

Indonesia was disputing legislation requiring all cigarettes sold in Australia to have uniform green packets with white labelling.

challenge

It made Indonesia the fifth country after Ukraine, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Cuba to be granted the opportunity to challenge the policy.

They argue the rules breach trade and intellectual property regulations.

Now, Cuba wants Ireland to delay introducing its own laws until the WTO adjudicates.

Health Minister James Reilly said in December he expects the tobacco industry to take him to court over his plan to introduce plain packaging.

He said he believes tobacco companies would argue that their intellectual property rights are infringed by graphic photographs on cigarette packets.

He said the strength of the opposition is a sign it will be effective.

“I’ll be astonished if there isn’t a legal challenge,” he said.

But he said it would be an “extraordinary society” that put the intellectual property rights of an industry over the health of its citizens.

If it goes to court, the Government will argue graphic photographs are “an appropriate measure to protect public health”, Mr Reilly said.

comurphy@herald.ie

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