LONDON (Reuters) - British American Tobacco (BATS.L) expects its legal challenge to the implementation of “plain packaging” of tobacco in Britain to be heard in court in December, with possible final resolution by the end of 2016, a senior executive said.
“We expect a hearing in December,” Jerome Abelman, BAT’s director of legal and external affairs, told reporters on Wednesday, adding that “whatever the decision, there will likely be appeals.”
Britain adopted a law in March that would prohibit tobacco products from being sold with any branding, colors or logos. This “plain packaging” rule, aimed at reducing the lure of smoking particularly to youngsters, will go into effect in May 2016.
BAT and larger rival Philip Morris International (PM.N) are challenging the law.
Abelman said it was hard to judge exactly how long its challenge will take to move through the court system but said it was possible that any appeals could be decided by the end of 2016.
He said he thought the British government should grant a stay to the implementation of plain packaging pending a final decision.
Separately, BAT said it would do a market test this year of a next-generation product that heats tobacco without burning it. It declined to give any details about the product or the test.
Its announcement comes a day after U.S. tobacco company Reynolds American RAI.N, in which BAT owns 42 percent, said it was shelving its own test of a tobacco-heating product due to poor consumer adoption.
Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Susan Fenton