The High Court has upheld a decision of the District Court dismissing a prosecution against PJ Carroll & Co. Ltd (“PJC”) over a promotional scheme involving its “Pall Mall” brand of cigarettes.

Under the “Pocket a Packet” scheme sales assistants were encouraged to respond to customers looking for a competing cigarette brand with the catchphrase, “We also stock Pall Mall, the best value cigarette on the market”. Mystery shoppers were engaged to attend at participating shops. If an assistant used the catchphrase when visited by a mystery shopper, he would win a €30 voucher and the shop would be entered into a draw for a larger cash prize.  

The HSE sought to prosecute PJC under tobacco legislation which bars the giving of financial assistance to retail outlets in consideration of the promotion of a tobacco product.

The prosecution was dismissed by the District Court on the basis that “financial assistance” had not been proven. The Court found that the voucher was in effect a prize or an award and did not constitute “financial assistance”.

The High Court agreed that with the district judge’s view that the term “financial assistance” does “not sit logically or sensibly with a once-off prize or reward of a small sum”.