The UK’s big tobacco companies are attempting to derail the government’s plain packaging legislation by lodging formal legal challenges.

JTI, BAT and Marlboro maker PMI have now filed challenges in the English High Court with Imperial Tobacco expected to follow suit shortly.

Announcing JTI UK’s legal challenge yesterday, 26 May, managing director Daniel Torras said: “We have clearly and repeatedly made clear to the UK government that plain packaging will infringe our fundamental legal rights without reducing smoking.

“Despite the lack of evidence that plain packaging works, the government has decided to proceed and JTI must now protect its rights in the Courts.”

PMI also filed a suit against the UK’s plain packaging regulations late last week.

It believes that the regulations “violate English and European Union law.”

Marc Firestone, PMI senior vice president and general counsel said: “We respect the government’s authority to regulate in the public interest, but wiping out trademarks simply goes too far.

“Countries around the world have shown that effective tobacco control can co-exist with respect for consumer freedoms and private property.”

 “The UK government rushed out the regulations, with many serious questions left unanswered. The law protects trademarks because of their essential functions for consumers and in driving competition.

“By contrast, a wholesale ban on branding distorts the market and treats consumers as if they’re not capable of making their own decisions.”

PMI’s filing asserts that:

• The regulations unlawfully deprive PMI of its trademarks. A core doctrine of English and EU law is that there must be fair compensation for deprivations of property, a remedy that the regulations do not provide.

• The regulations violate the EU law that says Community trademarks can be used by identical means throughout the EU, which would be impossible if the UK government bans their use in the UK.

• The regulations obstruct the free movement of goods through means that are neither necessary nor proportionate to achieving the UK government’s public health objectives.