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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2013: Report and Final Stages.

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2013: Report and Final Stages. (28 Feb 2013)

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An Ceann Comhairle: As there are no amendments on Report Stage, we will proceed to Fifth Stage.

Bill reported without amendment.

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."


Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): I thank the Deputies who have supported the Bill and contributed to the debate on it as it has passed through the House. Their support for the important work of reducing the number of smokers is heartening. The Department of Health and the HSE continuously monitor the marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. As these tactics evolve, so too must our legislative and policy framework. I am pleased that the legislation which was introduced to fulfil our obligation to change our laws on the minimum pricing of tobacco allows me to regulate the industry's various promotion tactics. In that context, I take the opportunity to display an example of the new tactics being used by the industry to promote new products and thereby ensnare young people, including those under the age of 18 years. As I have said previously, the findings of a 2006 survey showed that 78% of Irish smokers started to smoke before they reached that age. Here we have an advertisement that is slim and nicely presented and which has the name of a high-end fashion magazine attached to it.


An Ceann Comhairle: I am afraid we are not allowed to display such items in the Chamber.


Deputy James Reilly: The images being displayed on cigarette packets show the reality of what smoking does to people. We want them to understand the consequences of smoking include peripheral vascular disease, the amputation of legs, rotten lungs and cancer. When they see these images on the front of cigarette packets every time they open them, I hope they will realise the harm they are doing to themselves. We are here to help smokers and want to help them to quit. We are not anti-smoker but anti-smoking.

As has been said on many occasions during the discussion of the Bill, the health, social and economic damage caused by smoking is immense. Every year in Ireland approximately 5,200 people die prematurely from diseases caused by tobacco use. It is estimated that the HSE spends approximately €1 billion each year to treat tobacco-related diseases. We are seeking to reduce the public pay bill by €1 billion. I suggest it would be better if we could reduce the health bill by €1 billion.
I discussed tobacco issues - specifically, the new tobacco products directive - at the EU Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee hearings in Brussels on Monday. I will mention some stark facts revealed at that forum. Some 700,000 people in the European Union die from tobacco-related illnesses every year. It is estimated that EU public health expenditure on treating smoking-related diseases is €25.3 billion annually. Some €8.3 billion is lost in productivity within the European Union each year as a result of deaths, absenteeism and early retirements linked with smoking.
As I have said before, no parent wants his or her children to smoke, regardless of whether he or she is a smoker or a non-smoker. As Minister for Health, I intend to reduce the number of smokers in Ireland. This can only be achieved by means of a combination of measures, including raising awareness, education and price increases. We will develop legislation relating to tobacco products and smoke-free measures. We will support cessation services for those who really want to escape nicotine addiction. Such measures are about saving lives, rather than about interfering with smoker's rights. I am not anti-smoker; as I said, I am anti-smoking. I expect many tobacco measures to be discussed next week when I meet all of my European counterparts at an informal health summit in Dublin.
I conclude by reaffirming the Government's commitment to tackling smoking in Ireland. Our aim is to de-normalise tobacco and make it socially unacceptable for our children and young people to smoke. I again thank the House for its support for the Bill. I will continue to seek its support for the tobacco initiatives I will bring to the Oireachtas in the future. This is about saving lives, protecting citizens and shielding our children from this killer habit.

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