Tobacco giant fails to foil Holyrood in court

An attempt by one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies to stop anti-smoking legislation at Holyrood has been defeated in court.
Scottish ministers intend to ban the open display of cigarettes in shops and to outlaw cigarette vending machines.

However, Imperial Tobacco challenged the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010 as being outwith the legislative scope of the Scottish Parliament.

Yesterday, Lord Bracadale ruled at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that none of several grounds argued by Imperial was valid.

Campaigners against smoking have described the act as bolstering Scotland’s reputation as a world leader in tobacco control. But retailers and the tobacco industry warned that the legislation would have a severe effect on small shopkeepers already reeling from the recession.

Sections 1 and 9 of the act make it an offence to display tobacco products or smoking-related products in the course of business, and to have control of premises on which a vending machine is available. The court was told that a date had still to be set for the legislation to come into effect. Westminster wanted similar provisions for England and Wales, and the plan was for a simultaneous UK-wide introduction.

Imperial claimed that the regulation of the sale and supply of goods and services to consumers was a reserved matter, and beyond the Scottish Parliament’s powers.

But Lord Bracadale said the purpose of the act was to reduce smoking among children and so improve public health, which he said was not a reserved matter.

Another argument by Imperial was that the sections would modify freedom of trade provisions enshrined in the Acts of Union, and such modification was not permitted under the Scotland Act.

However, Lord Bracadale said: “The prohibitions and restrictions introduced by sections 1 and 9 do not interfere with the common market created by article VI of the Acts of Union.”

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “We robustly defended our proposals in court and are pleased that Lord Bracadale has today ruled in our favour in the Court of Session.”

“Banning the display of tobacco products in shops will help to discourage a future generation of smokers.”

ASH Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “I am delighted that Imperial Tobacco has had their legal challenge turned down. Whenever and wherever the tobacco industry is threatened, it always seek to dilute, derail or delay legislation in whatever way it can and it uses the vast profits it makes at the expense of people’s lives to pursue its day in court.

“In April, Imperial Tobacco reported global sales of £13.4 billion and pre-tax profits of £974 million in the six months to 31 March.

It is these huge profits that are being ploughed into challenging the aims of governments around the world to use legislation to reduce the major harm caused by smoking.”

An Imperial Tobacco spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing the judge’s decision and will consider an appeal.”

source: The Scotsman

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