Tobacco Cos. to Challenge EU Rules
LONDON (AP) - The maker of Lucky Strike, Dunhill and Pall Mall cigarettes said Friday it plans to make a legal challenge to European Union rules about the packaging and sale of tobacco products.
British American Tobacco PLC claimed the EU directive is counterproductive and said it was pursuing legal action as ``a last resort.''
Another cigarette maker, Imperial Tobacco Group PLC, said later it would join BAT in filing a challenge through Britain's High Court. Imperial Tobacco's brands include Lambert & Butler, Super Kings and Embassy.
``We acknowledge the health risks associated with smoking, and we support sensible legislation achieved through dialogue. However, the EU has gone beyond its powers, and bad law doesn't become good law just because it's tobacco law,'' BAT chairman Martin Broughton said in a statement.
BAT complained that the EU directive, which took effect in May, prohibits descriptive terms such as ``light'' or ``mild,'' while also encouraging smokers to switch to brands that have a lighter content of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide. This rule impaired a manufacturer's ability to inform consumers, BAT said.
The EU also requires health warnings to cover at least 30 percent of the front section of cigarette packs and 40 percent of the back section. BAT said these measures are out of proportion and won't help consumer awareness.
``We think it is totally unnecessary, ... (and) it's infringing on our trademarks,'' BAT spokeswoman Ann Tradigo said.
The company complained of a third rule that bars companies from making cigarettes within the EU that have a higher tar and nicotine content than those permitted to be sold in EU countries. It called this a de facto ban on exports and said it would jeopardize 10,000 tobacco jobs in Europe.
BAT gave no details about the timing of its planned court challenge.
The European Commission is to report by 2004 about the extent of compliance with the directive within EU member countries.