Cigarette display ban verdict due this Friday

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Photo: Fredrik Varfjell
15:23 CEST+02:00
An Oslo court will rule on Friday on the legality of a ban on the display of tobacco products in stores after cigarette maker Philip Morris claimed the two-year-old law violated European competition rules.

Following in the footsteps of several other countries such as Ireland and Iceland, Norway in 2010 banned the display of cigarettes in stores in an attempt to cut impulse buys of tobacco products.

Cigarettes were banished to closed cases and cigarette dispensers do not show brand labels.

The Norwegian state and Philip Morris each called on expert witnesses to help bolster their arguments in the one-and-a-half week trial in June.

James Heckman, a Nobel laureate in economics, testified on behalf of the tobacco giant. He argued there was no scientific proof of a causal link between the display of tobacco products and young people taking up smoking.

Anne Lise Ryel, who heads the Norwegian Cancer Society, represented Norwegian authorities in the case. Contending that the ban was effective in protecting children and reducing the risk of relapses for former smokers, she also highlighted well-documented links between smoking and cancer.

Philip Morris filed its lawsuit in March 2010 claiming the display ban was a violation of European Economic Area (EEA) rules and the Oslo district court requested an advisory opinion from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court before hearing the case.

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That court said last September that the display ban could to a certain extent be seen as blocking the free movement of goods, thus violating EEA rules.

It also pointed out that Norway's aim to reduce tobacco consumption was in line with EEA regulations, thus leaving the final conclusion up to the Oslo court.

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