March 4, 2015
Ireland has become the first country in Europe to ban branded cigarette packets.
The Republic’s second chamber, the Seanad, passed the plain packaging law on Tuesday night, which also makes it illegal to sell cigarettes in lipstick-style containers designed for female smokers.
The public health (standardised packaging of tobacco) bill 2014 requires the removal of all industry marketing from tobacco packaging. It has now passed all stages of the Republic’s parliament.
Ireland’s minister for children and youth affairs, James Reilly, said: “The interests of public health will be served when children decide never to take up smoking in the first place and if smokers are persuaded to quit. We have a duty to prevent our children from being lured into a killer addiction.
“Standardised packaging will strip away the illusions created by shiny, colourful cigarette packets and replace them with shocking images showing the real consequences of smoking.”
Japan Tobacco International, the multinational that owns brands such as Silk Cut and Benson and Hedges, has warned it will go to court to challenge the new law. A spokesperson for JTI said that plain packaging is a disproportionate, unjustified and unlawful measure.
But Reilly said the Fine Gael-Labour coalition is prepared to take on any challenge from the tobacco giant. Anti-smoking group Ash Ireland said the ban was vital health legislation.
Ash Ireland’s spokesman, Ross Morgan, said the government and opposition politicians should be complimented for pushing ahead with the ban despite threats of legal actions.
“We would also expect that should the industry mount a legal challenge on any aspect of this health legislation it will be vigorously contested,” he said.
“Ash Ireland is firmly of the view that the successful implementation of this legislation here in Ireland will set the scene for others to follow in Europe as was the case with the workplace smoking legislation some 11 years ago.”
More than 5,200 people die in Ireland each year from the effects of smoking and more than €1bn (£730m) is spent by health services every year treating tobacco-related disease.
Ireland was the first country in the world to ban smoking in public places back in March 2004. It was also the first country in the world to impose a restriction upon smoking outdoors within 3 metres of any public building.
Source: Henry McDonald, The Guardian (March 3, 2015)