JTI asks government to halt plain packaging legislation
JTI Ireland told ShelfLife that it would not hesitate in launching legal proceedings if the government continue with the legislation
17 February 2015
JTI Ireland has sent a letter to the government demanding that they halt legislation pertaining to plain packaging of cigarettes or face High Court proceedings.
The owner of the Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut brands, has told Ministers James Reilly and Leo Varadkar that it will take legal action if they fail to promise that no further steps will be taken to enact the draft law.
This letter was sent via JTI’s solicitors to both Ministers and copied to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Dr Reilly introduced the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill last year while he was Minister for Health. The aim of the legislation is to remove all tobacco advertising in a bid to make Ireland Tobacco Free by 2025.
The new packaging would see the front-of-pack warning doubled in size, and no logos, which JTI says will cast serious doubt over Ireland’s solid reputation for protection of intellectual property rights.
In response to the letter from JTI, Minister Reilly told TheJournal.ie that it would be progressing with its plan regardless.
He said: “JTI – through its Irish lawyers – have threatened the Irish Government. They are insisting that we halt our move to implement plain packaging while a British case makes its way through the European courts. The response from the Irish Government is clear. We are progressing our plain packaging legislation this very day.”
Igor Dzaja, general manager, JTI Ireland told ShelfLife that it would not hesitate in launching legal proceedings if the government continues with the legislation.
“We have informed the government that we stand ready to file legal proceedings should it continue pushing for a ‘cut and paste’ policy that has failed in Australia. ’Plain’ packaging puts politics before evidence.
“We and numerous Irish and international business groups, trade organisations and legal bodies, have highlighted to the government that banning brands would have far-reaching consequences on the country’s economy, above and beyond the tobacco sector.
“It will further cast serious doubt over Ireland’s solid reputation for protection of intellectual property rights and will undermine the country’s attractiveness for foreign direct investment. Such a measure is in complete contradiction with the Taoiseach’s intention of making Ireland the best small country in the world to do business.”Irish retailers are against the move towards plain packaging due to the belief that it will escalate the black market trade in tobacco products.”
Councillor for The National Federation of Retail Newsagents, Joe Sweeney is in Australia at present meeting local shop owners who have come under severe pressure from the tobacco black market following the introduction of plain packaging there two years ago.
Sweeney met with the Australian Retail Association (ARA) and shop owners in Sydney who have been combatting the growing black market since plain packaging was introduced.
“It is clear that the effects of plain packaging on retailers in Australia have been devastating. Small shop owners are struggling to compete with the black market, which has grown by 25% since the introduction of plain packaging”, said Sweeney.
“Criminals are profiting from the illegal tobacco trade at the expense of shop owners and taxpayers. Cigarettes can be bought on the black market for less than half the price of legal products and are sold in markets and on streets across Australia.”
“Plain packaging has not worked in Australia. It has had no impact on legitimate tobacco sales volumes, but has coincided with the worst black market in seven years. According to one Sydney shop owner, the illegal market has outgrown the legitimate market in some western suburbs.”
A study by KPMG found the black market has grown by a massive 25% in Australia since the introduction of plain packaging costing the Australian government an estimated €800 million in lost taxes in 2014.