Tobacco companies refused permission to appeal over plain packages rules
It will be illegal to sell branded cigarettes from next month after the Supreme Court refused permission to the tobacco industry to appeal over standardised packaging legislation.
This is the final domestic decision meaning that standardised packaging of cigarettes will come into force on May 20, the Department of Health said.
The UK introduced standardised packaging of tobacco - drab dark brown packs with no graphic branding - in May 2016, and branded packs have been phased out throughout the year.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke of his delight, saying: "Standardised packaging will cut smoking rates and reduce suffering, disease and avoidable deaths. I am delighted with this decision."
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said : "Smoking is the biggest preventable killer in this country and this legislation will save lives so I am thrilled that the tobacco industry will not be allowed to appeal.
"After years of hard work, I look forward to seeing this policy now brought in, and smoking numbers fall even further."
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH, said: "The ruling by the Supreme Court finally puts paid to Big Tobacco's attempts to overturn the UK legislation on standardised packaging.
"This is the latest in a long line of crushing legal defeats for the tobacco industry.
"Over the years the industry has squandered many millions of pounds of its own money in futile legal challenges, but worse still it has wasted public time and money, which could have been much better spent improving public health."
In November last year, 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.
Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Lewison, Lord Justice Beatson and Sir Stephen Richards ruled that the Health Secretary had "lawfully exercised his powers".