Type of Tobacco Product: E-cigarettes and other ENDS products

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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.

Vap Labs v. Mexico [Mexico] [January 13, 2021]

Vap Labs asked the Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) about the requirements needed to import and commercialize electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). COFEPRIS responded that the commercialization of e-cigarettes was banned under the scope of Article 16(vi) of the General Law on Tobacco Control, which states: “It is prohibited to trade, sell, distribute, display, promote or produce any object that is not a tobacco product which contains some of the brand elements or any type of design or auditory sign that identifies it with tobacco products.” Vap Labs filed an Amparo action based on alleged violations of constitutional principles. The District Court agreed and ordered COFEPRIS to authorize the importation, sale and marketing of e-cigarettes in Mexico. The COFEPRIS and the Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of Mexico requested the revision of the District Court's decision. They argued that the District Court decision should be void since the import and commercialization ban incorporated in Article 16(vi) does not violate the Mexican Constitution; Article 16(vi) instead establishes reasonable and proportionate restrictions on the exercise of Vap Labs economic freedom. The Supreme Court of Justice for the Second Chamber agreed and ordered the District Court's decision revocation and amendment, declaring Art. 16(vi) constitutional. This is the fifth decision on this issue of the Second chamber. Similar to a previous case, the Court distinguished between systems that operate exclusively with tobacco and those that do not. The Supreme Court of Justice for the Second Chamber clarified that Article 16(vi)’s ban applied only to e-cigarettes, and not to heated tobacco products as these were tobacco products. This ruling applies only to the plaintiff who was a party to this case. See also Saborn Hermanos Sociedad Anonima v. Mexico, 853/2019, Mexican Supreme Court (2020).

Saborn Hermanos Sociedad Anonima v. Mexico [Mexico] [November 25, 2020]

Saborn Hermanos Sociedad Anónima, a chain of cafés, asked the Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) about the requirements needed to manufacture, import, and commercialize electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). COFEPRIS responded that the commercialization of e-cigarettes was banned under the scope of Article 16(vi) of the General Law on Tobacco Control, which states: “It is prohibited to trade, sell, distribute, display, promote or produce any object that is not a tobacco product which contains some of the brand elements or any type of design or auditory sign that identifies it with tobacco products.” Saborn filed an Amparo action alleging a violation of the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The District Court agreed and declared Article 16(vi) contrary to the Political Constitution. However, the COFEPRIS and the Chamber of Deputies of the Congress argued before the Supreme Court of Justice for the Second Chamber that Article 16(vi) establishes reasonable and proportionate restrictions on the exercise of Saborn’s economic freedom. The Supreme Court of Justice for the Second Chamber agreed and ordered the District Court's decision revoked.  This is the fourth decision regarding this issue in the Second chamber, but this marked the first time that the Supreme Court of Justice for the Second Chamber declared Art. 16(vi) constitutional. However, it distinguished between systems that operate exclusively with tobacco and those that do not. The Supreme Court of Justice for the Second Chamber clarified that Article 16(vi)’s ban applied only to e-cigarettes, and not to heated tobacco products as these were tobacco products. This ruling applies only to the plaintiff who was a party to this case.

Korea Electronic Cigarette Association v. Ministry of Health and Welfare [Republic of Korea] [March 17, 2020]

The Korea Electronic Cigarette Association challenged the constitutionality of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s guidance urging the public to stop using e-cigarettes at least until a safety management system could be put into place and research into human toxicity was completed. The Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, holding that the guidance did not infringe on e-cigarette companies' constitutional rights. The ministerial guidance did not amount to an "exercise of government power" because it had no direct legal effect on the rights and duties of the people and is, therefore, not subject to adjudication on a constitutional complaint.

ASA Ruling on British American Tobacco UK Ltd. [United Kingdom] [December 18, 2019]

Following complaints by leading health organizations, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that British American Tobacco (BAT) can no longer use any public Instagram account to promote e-cigarettes in the UK. The ruling includes BAT’s use of influencer marketing to advertise e-cigarettes and orders BAT to remove unlawful e-cigarette advertising content currently on Instagram.

UK regulations clearly prohibit online advertising of e-cigarettes, but allow a manufacturer to provide factual product information such as the name, content and price of the product on its own websites. The ASA ruling has clarified that public social media accounts, like @govype run by BAT, are not analogous to a website, and therefore, neither factual nor promotional content for e-cigarettes is permitted.

The Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce v. State of Israel – Ministry of Health, Israeli Knesset, and Knesset Economics Committee [Israel] [November 25, 2019]

The importer and manufacturers' forum of vaporization products at the Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce challenged amendments to the Restriction of Advertising and Marketing of Tobacco Products Law passed in December 2018. The Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce specifically challenged the extension of tobacco-related restrictions to e-cigarettes, including an advertising ban, a display ban, and plain packaging, as well as a nicotine concentration limit of 20mg/ml for e-liquids. This case was dismissed.

National Council of Consumers and Users (Associazione dei Consumatori) v. two electronic cigarette manufacturers [names redacted] [Italy] [November 15, 2019]

The National Council of Consumers and Users, headquartered in Rome, petitioned a civil division at the Court of Rome on September 13, 2019 against two e-cigarette defendants to have their marketing removed on the internet (including via defendants’ own social media accounts), printed publications, and through organizing or sponsoring public events aimed at promoting e-cigarettes.

The Court found in favor of plaintiffs holding that “[i]n view of the "restrictive approach to the advertising of electronic cigarettes and liquid refill containers" aimed at achieving "a high level of protection of human health", clearly stated in Paragraph 43 of Directive 2014/40/EU, the defense argument shall be dismissed..

The Court ordered:

  1. Defendants to remove all commercial communications related to electronic cigarettes and refill cartridges deemed unlawful (including content from their websites and social media pages and all unlawful content reposted by Defendants) within 15 days from the date of this judgment;
  2. Defendants will be fined € 500.00 for each violation and for each day of delay in the execution of this order; and
  3. Defendants are jointly liable to the reimbursement of all legal costs related to these proceedings in favor of plaintiffs and to a compensation of €6,000.00 in addition to administrative costs, VAT and CPA.

[Unnamed Actor] v. México [Mexico] [October 02, 2019]

An agent from the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) confiscated electronic cigarettes from the plaintiff under Article 16(VI) of the General Law on Tobacco Control, which states: "It is prohibited to trade, sell, distribute, display, promote or produce any object that is not a tobacco product which contains some of the brand elements or any type of design or auditory sign that identifies it with tobacco products." The plaintiff filed an Amparo action challenging the interpretation of Article 16. The Ministers of the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) decided unanimously that it is unconstitutional to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes while, on the other hand, the sale of tobacco products is allowed in Mexico. The Court considered that even though the law seeks to protect the right to health, this cannot be done at the cost of an excessive affectation of other goods and rights. The Ministers agreed that prohibiting the sale of electronic cigarettes while the sale of tobacco products is allowed violates the right to equality, and that the measure is not the least restrictive to guarantee other constitutionally protected rights. As a result, they revoked the order from COFEPRIS and ordered the return of the seized goods to the plaintiff.

This ruling applies only to the plaintiff who was a party to this case. However, if the same court issues five judgments with identical holdings, the decision would be binding nationally. This is the third such decision by the Second Chamber.

Plume Vapour Private Ltd. v. Union of India [India] [October 01, 2019]

Plume Vapor challenges the government's ordinance banning the sale of e-cigarettes and seeks a stay on the ban's implementation.  The government asserts that a stay at this interim stage before affidavits and hearing is inappropriate.  In an interim order, the Kolkata High Court refused to stay the ban, but stayed the requirement for sellers to prepare a list of their existing stock of e-cigarettes and submit such stock to authorities for disposal.

(Heard along with a similar challenge from Woke Vapors.)