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Tobacco firms threaten to legal action after parliament votes to ban cigarette branding - UK

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Leading firms in the tobacco industry have threated legal action after Parliament yesterday approved legislation to ban branding on cigarette packs.

After years of political debate, private lobbying and public consultation, the legislation was passed by a margin of 367 votes to 113. If the House of Lords also approves the move, every packet cigarette packet from May 2016 will look the same except for the make and brand name, with graphic photos accompanying health warnings.

The new rules would initially take effect in England, although though the Welsh government has said it will follow suit and Northern Ireland and Scotland are considering a similar move. The Irish Republic passed a similar law earlier this month and Australia has had plain packaging since 2012.

Health campaigners applauded move, whilst Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: "We want all children in our country to grow up free from the burden of disease that tobacco brings."

But the Tobacco Manufacturer's Association has argued there is a "complete lack of evidence that the policy will work". Simon Clark, of the smokers lobby group Forest, said: "Consumers are fed up being patronised by politicians of all parties. Smokers know there are health risks associated with tobacco. Plain packaging won't make any difference.

"What next? Standardised packaging for alcohol and sugary drinks?"

Tobacco companies argue that standardised packs will lead to an increase in counterfeiting and infringe their intellectual property rights with the major manufacturers saying they are likely to challenge the legislation in court.

Speaking to Reuters, British American Tobacco (BAT) said that it anticipated launching a legal challenge within 30 days of the legislation's final approval. Meanwhile, Imperial Tobacco said that if the measure became law the firm would be "left with no choice but to defend our legal rights in court". JTI said it expected to challenge the legislation and Philip Morris International said it was prepared to seek compensation.

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