Plain packaging for cigarettes throughout the EU looks unlikely to happen. The European Parliament has recently turned down a suggested amendment to the proposed Tobacco Products Directive which would have seen such packaging - currently the subject of legislation in Australia - be required. This is bad news for the anti-smoking lobby though they can take some consolation from the fact that the minimum proportion of the visible packaging required to carry health warnings is set to increase from its current 30 to 40% up to 65%.
What have the arguments raged about? Health concerns on one side and likely effectiveness, freedom of choice and the economic impact on the other have all played a part but one strong limb has been the alleged invasion of intellectual property rights, and particularly trademarks. Trademarks are a significant tool in cigarette marketing and, depending on how one might interpret the term 'public interest', restriction of the use of such property rights could arguably fall foul of, inter alia, the European Human Rights Convention.
Individual member states are still able to try to move further than the provisions of the Directive if they wish, meaning that those that want to try to introduce mandatory plain packaging (and the Irish and UK Governments are considering it) will be able to do so. In the meantime, the rapporteur has been mandated to negotiate further on the Directive with the Council of Ministers, the whole being now rather closer to adoption.