Tobacco giant threatens £11bn lawsuit over plain packaging
Philip Morris International says government plan to enforce plain packaging is 'injustice'
A leading tobacco company is threatening to sue the British government for billions of pounds over its plan to ban branding on cigarette packs.
Philip Morris International said that is ready to "protect its rights in the courts and to seek fair compensation" over damage to its business by the rule requiring plain packaging, reports The Times.
The company claims independent estimates have put the value of the industry's branding in Britain as high as £11bn.
In its official submission to government consultation on the plan, Philip Morris said: "Standardised packaging is a euphemism for government-mandated destruction of property. It is unlawful, disproportionate, and at odds with the most basic requirements of the rule of law."
The government had hoped to implement the plain packaging plan before the general election. It has already been delayed over fears of legal challenges and now faces further disruption.
Being forced to pay a colossal sum to tobacco companies would be a blow to the government as it prepares to go to the polls.
However, health campaigners are urging ministers to press on with the plan. Public Health England said that the evidence in its favour was "irrefutable".
The government announced the move after an independent study found that plain packaging was "very likely to have a positive impact on public health". About 200,000 children aged between 11 and 15 start to smoke in Britain every year.