The tobacco companies refused to receive the subpoenas on grounds that are only subsidiaries, and therefore these should be sent directly to their parent companies in the UK and the US.
Last year, the Brazilian solicitor general’s office sent subpoenas to Souza Cruz Ltda, Philip Morris Brasil Industria e Comercio Ltda and Philip Morris Brasil SA. These tobacco companies, who produce 90% of the cigarettes sold in Brazil, refused to receive them.
The tobacco companies claimed that they are only subsidiaries and that notifications had to be sent directly to their parent companies in the UK and the US. However, the federal judge hearing the case in Porto Alegre, Graziela Bündchen, ruled that these companies are the operational wings of the parent companies and are therefore fully capable of relaying the notifications to their head offices.
To this effect, last month she gave them 30 days to present their defenses. The lawsuit was heralded as historic by groups advocating for reduced tobacco consumption, such as the Alliance to Control Smoking (ACT). “It is very important that international headquarters are also held accountable,” said ACT legal director Adriana Carvalho. “They profit from the business in Brazil and have always exercised power of control over their Brazilian units.”
Big tobacco and loopholes
Meanwhile, a report published in the British Medical Journal’s BMJ Open publication a few months back, had pointed out that the world’s major tobacco companies have adopted subtle techniques, to bypass plain packaging regulations and make their packets more recognizable.
Written by academics at the University of Bath, the report is drawing attention to the fact that the world’s major tobacco companies have adopted subtle marketing techniques in order to replace traditional cigarette branding, which in 2016 was banned across the UK. In fact, one of the MPs who had devised the plain packaging legislation, is urging ministers to review the measure in order to eliminate loopholes as detailed in the report.
The report’s lead author, Dr Karen Evans-Reeves, said the tobacco industry is “engaged in activities that undermined and continue to undermine the legislation.” She added that lawmakers should keep in mind that tobacco companies will always try to find loopholes.
“Major tobacco companies will always try to find a way to market their products. Based on the number of innovations we found in this study, we would encourage all governments considering implementing plain packaging legislation to consider how tobacco companies have adapted to the legislation in other countries and where possible, close any remaining loopholes.”
Read Further: Reuters
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