Norway wins Trial Court fight to Ban Cigarette Displays at the Point of Sale

In its effort to deter cigarette usage amongst its citizens, Norway recently implemented a point of sale ban on all displays of cigarette merchandise at the point of sale.  In other words, a customer wishing to purchase cigarettes would not be able to walk into a place of business and browse the available cigarette brands before making a purchase and would instead have to ask for the cigarettes themselves.  The ban requires store owners to keep the cigarettes in closed cabinets, away from the line of sight of potential customers or alternatively in vending machines with no visible displays.  The Norwegian government passed the legislation in 2010 in an effort to de-normalise smoking (as the government characterized it) within its borders.  Norway has banned advertising for alcohol and cigarettes for over 35 years continues to further its strong stance against the use of cigarettes, as some suspect restrictions on carton displays themselves may be possible in the future.

Philip Morris, the notorious tobacco company, filed a lawsuit in Norway challenging the validity of the ban and asserted that the ban violated the free flow of commerce and violated the terms of international agreements to which Norway had bound itself.  The company further stated that there were less invasive ways for the government to achieve its goals, but the District Court of Osla disagreed and found the display ban as necessary and cited a lack of alternatives that are less invasive and similarly effective in achieving the purported purpose of the legislation.  Philip Morris expressed its disappointment with the result and now has one month to file an appeal of the decision.  The company has lost the battle against similar bans and warning label requirements in other countries as well, such as Australia, Uruguay, and Ireland.

How great of an impact will these bans have on the tobacco industry?

For more on the ruling fall out click here and here.


One comment

  1. I think that the Oslo district court made the correct ruling in upholding the law that bans cigarettes at the point of sale. On the one hand, I sympathize with smokers who may have to inquire at every store they walk into to find out if cigarettes are sold at that location. It is surely an inconvenience to the consumer; however, they likely will know the local stores that sell cigarettes. Additionally, profits of tobacco companies are bound to suffer by removing the cigarettes from the customers’ sight at the point of sale. Point of sale placement is immensely important for products people buy that they don’t necessarily need. The free flow of commerce may be slightly inhibited by the ban, but the district court ruling will reduce impulsive cigarette purchases by smokers in Norway. It will allow smokers to contemplate their purchase with a clearer mind instead of seeing the cigarettes and instinctively asking the cashier to add them to their purchase. Norway has opted to protect the public health instead of protect the tobacco industry and take in the revenue derived from their large profits.

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