Japan Tobacco Inc. is concerned over proposed European Union rules against the use of words such as “mild” and “light” on tobacco packaging, which would exclude two of JT’s most popular brands, Mild Seven and Mild Seven Lights, from the 15-nation EU market.
The former Japanese tobacco monopoly has been in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry, which has jurisdiction over the tobacco industry, with a view to trying to block enactment of the new EU rules, according to JT officials.
But both ministries are largely trying to distance themselves from involvement in the case for fear that any attempt to protect the tobacco industry could trigger an outcry by antismoking groups, although some have claimed the rules violate those laid down by the World Trade Organization.
“The rules would violate WTO rules, so if they are enacted, we should take the case to the WTO,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
JT is gearing up its efforts to expand into the EU market following its acquisition of RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp.’s international tobacco business last year.
JT officials said the fate of the proposed EU rules is expected to become clear early next year. “We are watching developments closely,” one JT official said.
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