The UK Supreme Court has set a date to hear the legal challenge by Imperial Tobacco against the Scottish Government’s legislation to ban unstaffed tobacco vending machines and tobacco displays at point of sale. In response Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland, said:
'These public health measures were passed overwhelmingly by our democratically elected Parliament and have twice been upheld by the Scottish courts.
This is part of a growing international problem. We have heard from partner organisations from Australia to Uruguay that, having lost the battles over scientific evidence and public support, tobacco companies are resorting to delaying valid public health measures in the courts.
Tobacco kills half of its long-term consumers and Imperial Tobacco should accept the public, political and legal judgements that it cannot be treated like an ordinary product.
I am looking for the Supreme Court to rule against Imperial Tobacco and clear the way for Scotland to implement these important public health measures.'She seems to be making a fuss because the courts are being used exactly the way they should be designed to be used: for a company to challenge what it perceives as unfair legislation. But in the eyes of tobacco control a tobacco company that uses the courts in this way is somehow perverse and unreasonable. Her reasoning that tobacco cannot be seen like an 'ordinary product' misses the point that campaigns against other products will gain strength if this one prospers, as we see in the latest embarrassing escapade in the campaign to denormalise alcohol.
She clearly expects a court victory, but one is tempted to conclude that she requires a vote against the tobacco companies in principle, rather than on the legal case presented. That would certainly not be a conclusion that reflected the purpose of the courts: victory should be on legal grounds, not on the basis of whether either side represents tobacco interests.