The background was a request made by Poland to annul some provisions in the EU Directive. Their challenge was supported by Romania. The two countries hoped that the ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes would be lifted, as well as regulations on packaging and health warnings. In addition, two tobacco companies brought an action before the British High Court, whereupon it submitted questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) regarding legalities, proportionality and the subsidiarity principle contained within the Directive.
Menthol cigarettes, which are very popular in Poland, may no longer be sold from 20 May 2020. In its verdict, the Court justified the ban because it reduces the attractiveness of such tobacco products and thus helps to better protect health. Furthermore, according to the ECJ, the uniform labelling of cigarettes packets and special health warnings, including shock imagery which illustrate the damaging effects of smoking on health, are proportionate. The Court considers that this protects consumers from the health risks associated with tobacco use. A special provision for electronic cigarettes queried by the High Court was confirmed by the ECJ, which noted the different characteristics of electronic cigarettes from tobacco products.
The Directive is a result of figures published by the EU Commission which state that annually there are 700,000 deaths in the EU as a result of smoking. According to the EU, the aim of the Directive is to protect young people in particular because around 70 per cent of all smokers become addicted as adolescents. The tobacco industry is protesting against the measures, since it is expected that sales will decline in the future.