Government announces intentions on plain packaging legislation


The Irish government has announced that it intends to introduce legislation requiring standardised (plain) packaging for tobacco products. The press release confirmed that the intention is to "remove all form of branding – trademarks, logos, colours and graphics. The brand name would be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands, and the packs would all be in one plain neutral colour".

The Irish minister for health has already stated that he expects that the legality of the legislation will be challenged by the tobacco industry.

This follows the introduction of a private member's bill in 2012 which covered the same issue. A private member's bill is a proposal for legislation made by an individual rather than the government, and which often has the effect of prompting action from the government to introduce its own bill, rather than surviving to become legislation.

This appears to be separate from the consultation which is in progress on the proposal for a revised Tobacco Products Directive (2001/37/EC), which does not currently incorporate any obligations regarding standardisation of packaging (plain packaging), although member states can still impose such requirements, provided that those provisions are compatible with the Treaty and with World Trade Organisation obligations. It can be expected that any legal challenge to the Irish legislation, when published, may focus on these provisos and the Irish constitutional provisions on property rights, as flagged in a recent Law Society of Ireland conference (synopsis here).

Niamh Hall, FRKelly, Dublin and Belfast

A slightly different version of this article was first published on the Marques blog, Class 46.

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