Philip Morris (Thailand) Ltd. Welcomes Administrative Court Decision
Bangkok - Philip Morris (Thailand) Ltd. (PMTL) welcomed Friday’s decision by the Bangkok Central Administrative Court to stop the implementation of Ministry of Public Health requirement to print oversized graphic warnings on cigarette packages until the case against this measure is heard on its merits.
Commenting on the Court’s ruling Ms. Onanong Pratakphiriya, Manager Communications & External Affairs, PMTL said, “We welcome the Court’s recognition that this regulation should be suspended until this case is considered on its merits, and we are grateful to the Court for listening to our concerns. This is a welcome departure from the Ministry of Public Health, which willfully, and in violation of Thai due process requirements, ignored the voices of thousands of retailers, manufacturers and many other impacted stakeholders when it first issued this notification. Today’s decision now clears the way for us to show the Court that this measure is not only illegal but also unnecessary given that the health risks of smoking are universally known in Thailand.”
PMTL took legal action against the Health Ministry on June 26, 2013, asking the Court to invalidate the Ministry’s Notification that would increase the size of graphic health warnings from 55% to 85% of the front and back of cigarette packs.
PMTL claims that the Ministry acted beyond its legal powers and failed to consult with thousands of impacted stakeholders in violation of Thai due process requirements. It also claims that the measure substantially impairs the ability of manufacturers and importers to use their trademarks to differentiate their products from competitors’ products and is unnecessary given that the risks associated with smoking are known universally in Thailand. In addition to the lack of credible evidence to prove the effectiveness of such large health warnings, the Notification exempts cheap, roll-your-own tobacco, which already makes up half of the Thai market, and is likely to boost smuggled products from outside Thailand, which often have smaller health warnings, no warnings at all, or are counterfeit.
The Administrative Court based its decision on its finding that the Notification was potentially illegal and that allowing enforcement before a full decision on the merits could cause irreparable harm to PMTL. While today’s decision was related to the Philip Morris filing specifically, others have also taken legal action against this unnecessary and illogical regulation, including the Thai Tobacco Trade Association (TTTA), representing more than 1400 retailers across Thailand, an individual retailer and a wholesaler.
The request for an injunction was the first step in a process that is expected to take more than one year.
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Recent court ruling on graphic health warnings in the United States:
In 2012, a Federal Court of Appeals in the United States reviewed a proposal from the Food and Drug Administration to implement 50% graphic health warnings. The Court ruled: “The FDA did not provide ‘a shred of evidence – much less the ‘substantial evidence’ required … showing that the graphic warnings will ‘directly advance’ its interest in reducing the number of Americans who smoke.” The Court also noted that while much is made of the ‘international consensus’ surrounding the effectiveness of large graphic warnings, there is no evidence showing that such warnings have directly caused a material decrease in smoking rates in any of the countries that now require them.
About the company:
Philip Morris (Thailand) Limited Thailand Branch (PMTL) is an affiliate of Philip Morris International Inc. PMTL began importing and distributing cigarettes in Thailand in 1991 and currently employs more than 350 people in the country.
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