ECJ rules against minimum cigarette prices

The minimum price for a pack of cigarettes in Austria is a violation of EU guidelines, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled today (Thurs).The ECJ said minimum prices were an inappropriate way to try and safeguard public health and suggested higher taxes on tobacco products would be more effective.The Austrian government had imposed a minimum price of 3.25 Euros for a pack of cigarettes in May 2006, resulting in 56 brands, some of which were below three Euros a pack, suddenly becoming more expensive.The European Commission filed a complaint against Austria in January 2008 for hindering competition and ensuring manufacturersÂ’ profits through a minimum price for a pack of cigarettes.Peter Trinkl, who represents cigarette sellers in the Federal Economic Chamber (WKO), said the finance ministry would quickly move to hike taxes on tobacco products.The media have reported that the health ministry supports such a move.