Ireland to join Australia in having plain cigarette packets
30th May 2013
cigarettes‘Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship’ is the theme of this year’s World No Tobacco Day according to the World Health Organization (WHO) – a specialised United Nations agency responsible for monitoring public health and also the pioneers of other world health awareness days such as World AIDS Day and Blood Donor Day. Therefore, ahead of tomorrow’s World No Tobacco Day, Ireland Health Minister James Reilly has announced plans for the Republic of Ireland to follow Australia’s lead and become only the second country to adopt plain cigarette packets. Australia became the world’s first country to implement this innovative anti-smoking agenda back in December 2012. The legislation forced all tobacco company logos to be banned from packages and instead replaced by bland, dreary green/brown-coloured packaging with unpleasant warning text and an accompanying image designed to shock smokers into quitting smoking. Dr Reilly spoke on Tuesday saying there had been government approval for the go-ahead to abolish what he describes as a ‘mobile advertisement’ for tobacco companies who he says use intelligent marketing, with packet sizes, colour and style aimed at luring in younger smokers, particularly girls. “The introduction of standardised packaging will remove the final way for tobacco companies to promote their deadly product in Ireland. Cigarette packets will no longer be a mobile advertisement for the tobacco industry”, he commented. For Dr Reilly, the issue of smoking and what tragic health impacts it can have is a subject close to home. The Health Minister revealed he had witnessed first-hand the effects of tobacco after his brother died of lung cancer and his father lost his sight following a stroke. Both were smokers. Dr Reilly also says that 5,200 people die in Ireland each year from tobacco-related diseases. He said: “One in two of all smokers will die from their addiction. I lost a brother who was a doctor, who understood fully what the cigarettes did, who was so addicted he couldn't give them up. And my father was prematurely blind because of a stroke and spent the last 14 years of his life without being able to see.” The decision to press ahead with plain packaging was agreed by a massive majority of the Cabinet on Tuesday and the aim is to make the products look less appealing and health warnings more obvious and alarming to smokers. Minister Reilly says he is fully aware that tobacco companies will try every trick in the book in an attempt to thwart a plan that could potentially lose them a lot of money. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks the idea of plain packaging is a good move and some believe it will have little effect on its apparent purpose – to reduce smoking rates. The National Federation of Retail Newsagents Ireland President Joe Sweeney says the only groups who will benefit from the Minister’s announcement will be smugglers and criminals. Mr Sweeney warned: “I support the government in its efforts to curtail the use of tobacco and alcohol. In doing this though, it must seek to find a balance between regulating harmful but legal, taxed behaviour and driving consumers into the black market to buy illicit products from criminals and subversives whose activities pose an even greater threat to society. The Minister for Health is sticking his head in the sand on policies towards the tobacco black market in Ireland which are putting retailers out of business. At a time when at least one in four cigarettes smoked in Ireland is illegal, the Minister’s failure to address the growing criminal fuelled trade in tobacco products shows a breath-taking lack of joined-up thinking.” However, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Faculty of Public Health Medicine spokesman Dr Fenton Howell welcomed the news, saying: “Plain packaging will stop the tobacco industry from using the pack as a marketing tool to mislead another generation of young people into thinking that smoking is cool and fashionable, when in reality cigarettes makes addicts of our children and condemns them to a life of unnecessary illness and death 10-15 years ahead of time.”