Retailer challenges tobacco ban


Philip Morris and an independent retailer from Donegal have announced that they will file a joint lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban on display of tobacco products at retail stores in Ireland.

The lawsuit will be filed before the High Court in Dublin on October 6th, 2009. Philip Morris Limited (PML), Philip Morris Products S.A. (PMPSA) and Maurice Timony will be challenging the tobacco display ban on the grounds that it severely restricts their ability to provide trade and services thus violating Irish constitutional law and EU law.

The tobacco display ban came into effect in Ireland on July 1st, 2009. Outside Ireland, a display ban exists in Iceland as well as some provinces of Canada.

Commenting on his decision to challenge the ban, Mr Timony, owner of Timony News in Donegal, said, “I am a licensed retailer who pays a license fee to the government to sell tobacco products. Currently, the country is swamped in legislation that is making life very difficult for compliant retailers like me.

"The ban on display of cigarettes is just one example of a piece of over regulation that has not been well thought through and has negatively affected my business.

"As a compliant, law-abiding retailer I have a responsibility to my employees to make sure that I can continue to employ them going forward. Simply put, ‘enough is enough.‘ The display ban threatens my business and I have therefore decided to take a stand against it,” he said.

Anne Edwards, spokesperson for PML, said: “We know from our experience in Iceland that a total ban on tobacco display does not work, is costly to implement and ineffective at reducing smoking levels. We support strict tobacco regulation, but this legislation just serves to hand the tobacco business over to smugglers and counterfeiters.

"Ireland already has one of the worst illegal cigarette problems in the EU, and this ban is making it worse. No one likes to litigate, but we have unfortunately arrived at a point where we see no alternative. By taking this action, we ask the Irish Government, ‘what type of industry do you want?’ One that is legitimate, and supports effective regulation, or one that is run by criminal gangs selling cheap, illegal cigarettes on street corners?”’

The plaintiffs are not seeking changes to the law prohibiting smoking in public places or that prohibit tobacco advertising. The goal of the lawsuit is to allow licensed tobacconists and retailers to display tobacco products in their stores.