Argument: Tobacco Control Law Violation

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British American Tobacco France vs. National Committee for Tobacco Control [France] [October 07, 2021]

British American Tobacco France (BAT France) appealed a lower court ruling (in "urgent proceedings") ordering the deletion of materials and content promoting e-cigarettes from the website "govype.com/fr" and ordering BAT to pay certain costs and damages. The appellate court ruled that some of the disputed content clearly constituted messages of an advertising nature, having the effect of promoting the quality and safety of the products (e.g., "Vype is a pioneer in the science of vaping"), touting the sensations that can be expected during consumption (e.g., "freshness is in the spotlight"), encouraging consumption through a loyalty program (e.g., "subscribe & save"), and highlighting the advantages of the product by comparing it to tobacco products (e.g., "vaping on average can cost 3 times less than a pack of traditional cigarettes"). These types of statements on a website that sells e-cigarettes do not fall within the exception in the law permitting posters "placed inside establishments marketing [e-cigarettes] and not visible from the outside." The court concluded that the "notion of a poster refers to the obvious requirement for a paper medium and not a virtual one." As a result, the court ordered BAT France to delete a number of promotional statements from the website and pay the National Committee for Tobacco Control damages (€30,000), irrevocable costs under the French Code of Civil Procedure (€8,000), and legal costs.

National Committee for Tobacco Control v. British American Tobacco France [France] [February 12, 2021]

This order for urgent proceedings was brought by the National Committee for Tobacco Control (CNCT) against British American Tobacco France (BAT France), which had posted on a website marketing an e-cigarette called "VYPE ePod" in violation of tobacco advertising and promotion laws. CNCT asked the Nanterre Judicial Court to compel BAT France to delete the site; to disclose to CNCT data on sales volumes and related information through the site; and to pay both advance compensation and compensation under relevant articles of the the French Code of Civil Procedure.

The Court referred the parties to appeal on the substance of the dispute, and provisionally reserved judgment as to the parties' claims. It dismissed CNCT's claims for the disclosure of sales data. It ordered deletion of certain language on the website and ordered BAT France to pay CNCT €1,000 as an advance payment on its claim for damages, €5,000 to CNCT in irrecoverable costs under the French Code of Civil Procedure, and legal costs.

La Prensa S.A. v. General Directorate of Public Health of the Ministry of Health [Panama] [March 05, 2020]

An amparo remedy was filed against Resolution No. 0573 of February 27, 2019, issued by the General Directorate of Public Health of the Ministry of Health. The resolution sanctioned La Prensa S.A. with a fine of B$ 10,000.00 for publishing a news article on IQOS sponsored by Philip Morris. The article was titled "NEW ALTERNATIVES COMING FOR ADULT SMOKERS". La Prensa was fined as a result of non-compliance with the total ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. La Prensa objected to the fine on the basis that its constitutional rights to be heard, to offer evidence, and to due process were violated. However, the Court declined to grant the amparo and upheld the sanction since the Ministry of Health acted according to its legal powers.

National Committee for Tobacco Control v. S.A. Philip Morris Products, et al. [France] [May 15, 2019]

The National Committee for Tobacco Control (CNCT) filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris Products (Philip Morris) and Ducati Motor Holdings (Ducati) to prevent the companies from using their "Mission Winnow" trademark at an upcoming Grand Prix event in France (French motorcycle Grand Prix at Le Mans) because it would amount to unlawful tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. CNCT also sought disclosure of the partnership agreements between Philip Morris and Ducati.

In its decision, the Le Mans High Court agreed that:

- The colors of the “Mission Winnow” project and its logo clearly recall the Marlboro cigarette brand that has long been associated with motorsports.
- Professionals of the sector knew that the “Mission Winnow” project only conceals sponsorship actions from a tobacco manufacturer.
- The “Mission Winnow” name and logo constitute some reference, although indirect, to tobacco and in particular to the Marlboro brand and its owner, Philip Morris.
- The violation of provisions in the Public Health Code is sufficiently obvious that the use of the “Mission Winnow” logo or even the existence of the project, as well as the partnership agreement with Ducati, can be questioned under the law.

    As a result of these findings, the Court prohibited either company from using the mark, logo or expression “Mission Winnow” under penalty of €10,000 for each violation, and ordered Philip Morris and Ducati to pay €10,000 to CNCT. Additionally, the Court granted CNCT's request for disclosure of the partnership agreement.

    S. Suresh v. Union of India [India] [February 05, 2019]

    S. Suresh, a media consultant for the Tobacco Free Kerala Campaign, seeks implementation of the Rules relating to point of sale advertising framed under COTPA Section 5.  The court disposed of the matter, reserving Mr. Suresh's rights to file a new case that contained specific instances of violations of the Rules.  

    J. Anbazhagan v. Union of India [India] [April 26, 2018]

    J. Anbazhagan, a member of the legislative assembly in the State of Tamil Nadu, filed a writ petition to highlight the illegal manufacture and sale of gutka and pan masala in the state and to urge the High Court of Madras to order an independent investigation into the matter. Mr. Anbazhagan alleged such sales were carried out in collusion with several high dignitaries and bureaucrats, such as central excise officials, central government officials, officials from different state governments, including the Government of Tamil Nadu, councilors of the Chennai Corporation, and officials of the food safety department, among others. The Court observed that it was compelled to take up the case as the issues involved the right to health and directed that the Central Bureau of Investigation investigate the matter, since, among other reasons, central government officials allegedly were involved.  In response to arguments made by the respondents, the Court also clarified that the definition of “food” under Section 3(j) of the Food Safety Act includes any substance, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, which is intended for human consumption and that the definition undoubtedly was wide enough to include gutka, and other forms of chewable tobacco/nicotine products intended for human consumption. The Court further clarified that India’s omnibus tobacco control law, COTPA, and the Food Safety Act were not in conflict, but were meant to be read in conjunction with each other as COTPA does not contain a non-obstante clause that excludes operation of other laws.

    R (on the application of Black) v. Secretary of State for Justice [United Kingdom] [December 19, 2017]

    A prisoner claimed that smoking should be prohibited inside a state-run prison. The lower court ruled that the national law prohibiting smoking in workplaces also applied to prisons, including state prisons. The Secretary of State for Justice appealed the decision. The appeals court found that the state is not bound by the national law prohibiting smoking in the workplace.  Therefore, the prison was not required to implement the smoking ban. The prisoner then appealed the decision.  The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal. It held that Parliament must have intended that the Crown not be bound by the smoking ban, since it would otherwise have made express provision for it in the 2006 Health Act.

    Esperanza Cerón Villaquirán et al v. Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio (SIC) [Colombia] [November 17, 2017]

    Tobacco control advocates challenged the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio – SIC) resolutions that regulated point of sale tobacco product displays.  Tobacco control advocates alleged that these resolutions violated the complete ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship established through Law No. 1335. The Colombian State Council held that these resolutions violated Article 13 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and its guidelines that state that product display should be considered a form of advertisement. Consequently, the State Council mandated the SIC to repeal the resolutions, which was done through Resolution No. 1/2018.

    B v. Waitemata District Health Board [New Zealand] [June 14, 2017]

    A patient at a mental health facility sued the Waitemata District Health Board claiming that the Board’s smoke-free policy violated the Smoke-free Environments Act because it did not provide a smoking room for patients. The patient also claimed that the smoke-free policy violated his right to be treated with respect for dignity. In two earlier decisions, the High Court and the Court of Appeals found the smoke-free policy did not violate either the Smoke-free Environments Act or the Bill of Rights. The patient appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

    In this decision, the Supreme Court upheld the smoke-free policy. The Court found that the smoke-free policy did not violate the Smoke-free Environments Act because the law states that a smoking room “may” be provided. As a result, the Board is not required to provide a smoking room for patients. Further, the Supreme Court found the patient’s rights were not violated because smokers were given nicotine replacement therapy, which was a humane and meaningful treatment for nicotine withdrawal symptoms, consistent with the Bill of Rights. 

    Central Arecanut Marketing Company v. Union of India [India] [September 23, 2016]

    This order was one among a series of intermediary orders issued by the Supreme Court of India in a public interest litigation addressing non-compliance with a ban on manufacture and sale of gutka and pan masala with tobacco and/or nicotine under the Food Safety Standards Act, 2006 and Regulation 2.3.4 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011. The amicus curiae in this matter observed that 23 States and five Union Territories had prohibited the manufacture and sale of such products.  Notwithstanding the ban, however, the amicus noted that manufacturers were flouting the prohibition by selling separate pouches of pan masala and flavored chewing tobacco together, meaning for the pouches to be mixed as one.  The Supreme Court directed that representatives of the States and Union Territories that had not prohibited the manufacture and sale of such smokeless products indicate why they had not taken action.  The Court also directed that all States and Union Territories representatives file affidavits regarding their total compliance with the ban before the next date of hearing.