Workshop on standardized tobacco packaging in Europe

On 9–10 June 2016, WHO/Europe, the Norwegian Cancer Society and the McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer (Australia) jointly conducted a workshop in Roskilde, Denmark on legal issues relating to the implementation of standardized tobacco packaging in Europe. This event followed on from a workshop jointly held by the Norwegian Cancer Society, Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services and the McCabe Centre in June 2015 in Oslo, Norway. It was conducted as a WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) Knowledge Hub activity.

The workshop brought together over 20 participants, including representatives of government and nongovernmental organizations and academic legal experts, to examine developments in standardized packaging in Europe and explore legal issues at domestic, European Union (EU) and international levels.

Featuring presentations from leading experts in the field, the workshop commenced with a half-day session on the evidence base for standardized packaging, which included evaluations of the impact of plain packaging in Australia and evidence to counter common tobacco industry arguments. The discussion in relation to standardized packaging was then framed in the context of:

  • the WHO FCTC, with an examination of its objectives and obligations
  • Articles 11 and 13 and their implementation guidelines
  • the legal weight and role of the WHO FCTC and guidelines
  • recognition of a global commitment to the WHO FCTC in key international instruments.

Participants shared updates on developments across Europe, including current and potential legal challenges. The workshop then focused on European law in relation to standardized packaging, including a detailed exploration of the development and contents of the EU Tobacco Products Directive (Directive 2014/40) and the unsuccessful challenges to the Directive before the European Court of Justice.

The second day of the workshop began with an overview of domestic legal challenges in relation to standardized packaging. This included a detailed review of the recent High Court of Justice decision upholding the United Kingdom's standardized packaging measure. The review highlighted key lessons for countries implementing or considering introduction of standardized packaging measures. Additional sessions focused on European human rights law and fundamental rights of the EU, and European intellectual property law. The workshop concluded with a panel discussion on the role of nongovernmental organizations in relation to standardized packaging policy development and litigation.

Several key developments, including a number of European countries adopting standardized packaging legislation or taking important steps towards its introduction, have occurred since the Oslo workshop was held in June 2015. This year's workshop provided a valuable opportunity for participants to share knowledge and experience, and strengthen networks critical to the successful development and implementation of standardized packaging measures.