Tobacco manufacturers have lost their fight against new European laws that will ban the production of cigarettes in packs of less than 20 from 20 May.

Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco had challenged the proposed legislation, arguing that the European Union was overstepping its authority to direct laws in member states.

However, Europe’s highest court, the Court of Justice, upheld the law, saying that it “did not go beyond the limits of what is appropriate and necessary”.

Under the new rules, rolling tobacco in packs of less than 30g will also be banned and health warnings will have to cover 65% of the front and back of packaging.

A number of new laws will also hit electronic cigarettes, including a ban on products with a nicotine content of more than 20/mg/ml.

JTI’s Western Europe regional president Vassilis Vovos said the decision was “regrettable.”

“This ruling goes against a fundamental purpose of the EU treaty which is to further improve the functioning of the internal market by way of harmonized legislation. Instead, we are left with an inexplicable decision which may lead Member States to believe that they can infringe the principle of free movement of goods within the EU.”

“There are only 16 days left before EUTPD2 comes into force. Yet the legislation is still not transposed in the majority of Member States. This leaves the industry with little clarity from the Commission and Member States on many issues.”

“This outcome does not end the main arguments in the legal case underway in the UK – that plain packaging illegally destroys our brands,” Vovos added.

Plain packaging legislation, which is also set to be introduced for manufacturers from 20 May, is also being challenged by UK tobacco companies.

The High Court ruling on plain packaging is due on 18 May.