Tobacco giants lose appeal over plain packaging

Some of the biggest tobacco companies have lost an appeal in their legal battle against the government's new plain-packaging rules.

In May, they suffered what anti-smoking campaigners described as a "crushing defeat" at the High Court, just one day before new regulations came into force.

A number of companies, including British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International, argued that the new regulations violated UK and EU law, destroying valuable property rights by rendering products indistinguishable.

The tobacco giants challenged a High Court decision which said the regulations were "lawful", taking the case to the Court of Appeal.

But on Wednesday three judges rejected their second challenge, saying that the Health Secretary had "lawfully exercised his powers".

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Ash, said: "This is a victory for public health and another crushing defeat for the tobacco industry.

"This ruling should also encourage other countries to press ahead with standardised packaging, now that the industry's arguments have yet again been shown to be without foundation."

The new rules ban tobacco companies from prominently branding their cigarettes, and require that picture health warnings take up 65% of the front and back of every packet.

Packets of 10 cigarettes are no longer allowed, as they do not have enough room for the health warnings.

Additionally, promotional messages on packets like "is less harmful than other brands" are also banned.

Tobacco companies and shops have a year to get rid of their old stock and implement the changes wholesale - after that, they will face penalties for breaking the law.