Marlboro maker Philip Morris International (PMI) has joined forces with an independent retailer to sue the Irish government for outlawing tobacco displays, and says it will not rule out similar action in the UK.

The manufacturer, which has a 10% share of the Irish tobacco market, claims that a display ban is anti-competitive and damaging to business.

PMI spokeswoman Anne Edwards told C-Store that taking legal action to overturn the ban had been a last resort.

"We had hoped that common sense would prevail in the end, but clearly this hasn't happened," she said.

"This legislation totally favours the bigger players. We don't have a large share of the market in Ireland and now that products are hidden from view it's a further disadvantage."

At just 7% PMI commands an even smaller share of the tobacco market in the UK meaning that a display ban here could be even more harmful to the company.

Joining PMI in its fight to bin the ban is independent retailer Maurice Timony from County Donegal. Maurice believes that the legislation, which was introduced on July 1, is restricting his right to make a living and be treated equally, and is damaging his business by handing trade to the black market.

"Many people who used to buy cigarettes from me are now purchasing untaxed, sometimes fake cigarettes from people selling them out of car boots. This has resulted in a significant loss of trade for my shop and a massive loss of revenue for the state," he said.

"From this action I seek to achieve a reversal of the display ban, meaning that I can conduct my business openly, honestly and without interference from illegal trade," he added.

PMI also launched a new website, www.productdisplayban.com this week, to provide factual information on the impact of display bans on retailers, manufacturers, enforcement agencies and public health.

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