Philip Morris prepared to sue UK over plain packaging

Philip Morris International , the world's largest tobacco company, is prepared to sue the British government should it implement a law requiring plain packaging of cigarettes, a document seen by Reuters showed.

The UK government has conducted a consultation with its Department of Health on potential legislation which would force cigarette makers to sell their products in plain packages with graphic health warnings and no branding.

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes "is prepared to protect its rights in the courts and to seek fair compensation for the value of its property," the company has told the UK government in response to its consultation.

The UK government said in April it wanted to implement plain packaging after a review found it could reduce the incidence of children taking up smoking. It published draft regulations in June, and launched a six-week consultation that ended last week.

Philip Morris submitted its response to the UK government after the consultation.

"'Standardized packaging' is a euphemism for government-mandated destruction of property," Philip Morris said in its submission, seen by Reuters on Tuesday. "It is unlawful, disproportionate, and at odds with the most basic requirements of the rule of law."

If it goes ahead, Britain would be the second country after Australia to ban cigarette branding.

Australia is already facing challenges at the World Trade Organization over complaints the laws create illegal obstacles to commerce.

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