“Only a first step in the right direction” – Pro Rauchfrei welcomes as well as regrets the decision of the Federal Court of Justice

26.10.2023 After several years and two rulings by the European Court of Justice, the German Federal Court of Justice has drawn a first line in the sand with today’s ruling*: In future, vending machines with images that resemble cigarette packs must also display the legally required warnings.

After years of tug-of-war against expert opinions from the tobacco industry, Pro Rauchfrei has thus achieved a partial success on its way to pushing cigarettes out of the checkout area and into licensed specialist stores.

Association chairman Weinberger welcomes and regrets the decision: “We would certainly have preferred the court to find that the concealment of the warning signs by the vending machines themselves is inadmissible. But even so, it is now clear that the buttons must carry warnings if their design is reminiscent of cigarette packets. The industry must therefore retrofit or design its vending machines differently.”

Weinberger calls on the industry and retailers to rethink: “The ruling should be seen as an opportunity for redesign – many retailers don’t like it when the checkout area, which children also pass through, is decorated with unattractive photos and texts. The checkout area is the premium area of retail, not only for impulse purchases, but also for product presentation.”

Pro Rauchfrei’s ultimate aim with the lawsuit is that tobacco products should not be visible or available to minors in public.

If retailers do not ensure that every display that resembles a packet is provided with a warning following the ruling of the Federal Court of Justice, Pro Rauchfrei will have to take further legal action, if necessary, again all the way to the ECJ. “It is not enough to simply display an example of a warning on a vending machine,” Weinberger emphasizes. “EU law simply does not permit such a tobacco industry-friendly interpretation.”

*1. The defendant is ordered to refrain from offering tobacco products, namely cigarettes, for sale in the course of trade in such a way that images of the packaging without health warnings are presented instead of the product packaging, if this is done as in the illustration reproduced below:

2. The defendant is threatened with an administrative fine of up to € 250,000 for each case of infringement of the obligation under clause 1, alternatively imprisonment for up to six months, or imprisonment for up to six months.