Tobacco giants had a legal challenge against the Government’s new plain packaging rules rejected.
The day before new regulations come into force, a High Court judge in London declared that they are “valid and lawful in all respects”, and rejected a judicial review action brought against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt by four of the world’s biggest firms.
Northern Irish charity Cancer Focus NI was among the groups hailing the move.
Its head of cancer prevention Gerry McElwee said “it’s vital we stop the tobacco industry from recruiting yet another generation to use this deadly product”.
Action on Smoking and Health called the judgement “a crushing defeat for the tobacco industry”.
Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and JTI had challenged the legality of the rules, which will make packets dull green and prohibit any branding except the product’s name, written in plain type.
JTI – which in 2014 announced plans to shut its Ballymena plant, saying that it needed to plan for a downturn in business expected to result from plain packaging rules – plans to appeal Thursday’s court decision.
Simon Clark, director of smokers’ group Forest, said: “Plain packaging treats adults like children and teenagers like idiots. Everyone knows the health risks of smoking and very few people start because of the packaging.”