Business Irish

Sunday 17 February 2019

Cigarette giant fights ban on advertising in shops

Thomas Molloy

PHILIP Morris, the world's largest cigarette firm, will lodge a High Court challenge tomorrow morning to contest the Government's ban on tobacco advertising in shops.

The US company, which has about 10pc of the Irish market through the sale of Marlboro cigarettes, will lodge the case together with Donegal newsagent Maurice Timony.

The tobacco company will pay all the costs of the case, which is being argued in court by barrister Eoin McCullough.

Philip Morris will argue that the ban on displaying cigarettes in shops is unconstitutional and violates the right to earn a livelihood, the right to engage in commerce and the right to compete against rivals. Other complaints include an alleged infringement on the right to free commercial speech and a restriction to the free movement of goods within the European Union (EU).

""It's just to protect our ability to show our product in stores," Philip Morris spokesman Peter Nixon said. "We are not seeking changes to the law prohibiting smoking in public places or that prohibit tobacco advertising."

Philip Morris, which has a relatively small share of the Irish market, argues that the ban on display advertising prevents the Marlboro brand from gaining market share.

The company also argues that a similar ban in Iceland and some parts of Canada has not worked but there is no independent research on the matter.

Ireland leads most European countries when it comes to clamping down on smoking. The ban on smoking in public places here was the first to be implemented in the EU and is among the most draconian.

Deterrent

Tobacco prices, one of the biggest proven deterrents to smoking, are among the highest in the EU. However, this also encourages smuggling. Tobacco companies have said that up to 30pc of cigarettes smoked in the State are either contraband or counterfeit. Government figures suggest the figure is somewhere between 20pc and 25pc.

Germany's constitutional court struck down a smoking ban last year because it feared that small bars were at a disadvantage because they could not provide separate smoking areas.

Irish Independent

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