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BAT to fight UK plain packaging law

Feb 27 2015 10:45

London - British American Tobacco , the world's second-largest cigarette maker, said on Thursday it would take action against the UK government if it enacts a plan to put cigarettes in "plain packaging".

"If the regulations, as published this week, are passed, we anticipate taking legal action," said Jerome Abelman, BAT's director of corporate and regulatory affairs.

The UK parliament is expected to vote on regulations to ban branding on cigarette packs before it is dissolved on March 30, in preparation for the general election on May 7.

If the legislation is passed, Britain would follow Australia in introducing "plain packaging" with the aim of improving public health and curbing the appeal of cigarettes to young people.

Tobacco companies argue that standardised packs would lead to an increase in counterfeiting and illicit trade and infringe their intellectual property rights.

"It's no different than if a newsagent's stand was taken by the government," Abelman said. "This is our property and we don't think the government is on legal grounds to take the property."

BAT's chief executive Nicandro Durante said it more plainly: "The ambition is to get some sense."

The UK Department of Health "intends to defend this policy robustly against any legal challenge," said a spokeswoman. "We would not be proceeding with the policy if we did not believe it to be defensible in the courts."

Ireland is also planning to impose plain packaging, and has received threats of legal action from Imperial Tobacco Group and Japan Tobacco International .

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