In April of this year, the government of Thailand announced a change that would see the graphic health warnings printed on cigarette packages increase from the current 55% of the cover, to 85%. As a change that poses a high risk to sales, Japan Tobacco Inc. is unsurprisingly not happy. Asia’s largest cigarette maker revealed that it has filed a lawsuit against the Thai government, claiming that the warning label increase is unconstitutional.
Hisashi Sekiguchi, a spokesman for Japan Tobacco, stated in an interview that the lawsuit had been filed on June 19th in an Administrative Court located in Bangkok. In what could be one of the most liberal usage claims by a corporation, the cigarette conglomerate is arguing that the warning label proposal is a violation of the freedom of expression guaranteed in Thailand’s constitution. A representative of the court confirmed that the Tokyo-based tobacco firm had named Thailand’s health minister, Pradit Sintavanarong, along with two other officials, in the lawsuit.
As more and more countries around the world take moves to reduce smoking among the public, by way of restricting cigarette advertising or enlarging warning labels on packaging, tobacco companies find themselves in a global fight against a number of governments. In a landmark law passed law year, Australia now prohibits cigarette packages from featuring any form of branding or logos, requiring plain, drab boxes of a single color that feature large warning labels with pictures of cancer-riddled mouths. The government of New Zealand has said it plans to do the same to discourage the unhealthy habit of smoking.
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