Tobacco companies have lost the latest court challenge over plain packaging

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Tobacco giants have lost the latest round of their legal battle against the Government's new plain-packaging rules.

In May, they suffered what anti-smoking campaigners described as a "crushing defeat" at the High Court.

The day before new regulations come into force, a judge in London had declared that they were "valid and lawful in all respects".

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) of standardised packaging for cigarettes
(ASH/PA)

Mr Justice Green rejected a judicial review action brought against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Leading companies then took their case on to the Court of Appeal, but now three judges in London have rejected their challenge against the High Court's decision.

A number of companies, including British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International, challenged the legality of the "standardised packaging" regulations.

They argued that the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 would destroy valuable property rights and render products indistinguishable from each other.

Cigarettes
(John Stillwell/PA)

Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Lewison, Lord Justice Beatson and Sir Stephen Richards ruled that the Health Secretary had "lawfully exercised his powers".

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity Ash, said: "This is a victory for public health and another crushing defeat for the tobacco industry. This ruling should also encourage other countries to press ahead with standardised packaging, now that the industry's arguments have yet again been shown to be without foundation."

British American Tobacco
(Jason Alden/Newscast/PA)

A British American Tobacco spokeswoman said: "Despite today's decision, we remain firm in our belief that plain packaging is an ineffective policy that doesn't work to reduce smoking levels - and it's important to remember this decision by the Court of Appeal is not an endorsement of the effectiveness of this measure."

The appeal judges gave the tobacco companies until December 9 to make any application to them for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In countries like Australia it has been law since December 2012 for companies to sell their cigarettes in a logo-free, dark green packaging.