All of the claimants challenging the English ban on displaying tobacco products in shops, including JTI UK and JTI Sweden, have notified the English High Court that they will not be continuing with their judicial review challenge.
A statement from JTI UK said the decision had been taken in light of the very significant delays in the adoption of the relevant regulations defining the scope of the ban. The final regulations still have not been made by the UK Department of Health and cannot be made any earlier than March 2012, despite the ban taking effect for large retailers on April 6, 2012 (and in April 2015 for small retailers). The company said the "serious and unfortunate delay" had made it less likely that the English High Court could make a decision on the legality of the ban before it begins (the case should have been heard in October 2011), and means that many retailers in England could not wait for the Court’s decision before taking the significant logistical steps necessary to comply.
Martin Southgate, managingdirector of JTI UK, commented: "The delays experienced in the English display ban regulations being put in place mean that we have been left with no other alternative but to discontinue this challenge. We remain strongly of the view that display bans are ineffective, bad for retailers and will only put extra pressure on legitimate business at a time when they least need it. Our focus now is in assisting the retail trade to adapt to this significant change to their businesses."
Imperial Tobacco also issued a statement: "While it is disappointing that the Government has continued to pursue this unnecessary legislation, particularly in such a difficult economic environment, we will now be focusing our efforts on working with retailers to help them prepare for the introduction of the new legislation.
"We remain concerned about the unintended consequences of this legislation, particularly the impact on illicit trade and effect of that on Government tax revenues, and the livelihoods of retailers who are already struggling in the current economic climate. We will seek to work with the Government to minimise these unintended consequences and continue to highlight our concerns.
"We continue to support rational legislation which is both proportionate and is backed by evidence that properly supports its objectives. However, where this is not the case we will continue to take a robust approach, including legal challenge as a last resort, in order to protect the interests of our customers and our consumers."