Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 164 - Tobacco control measures [52168/13] [Plain packaging].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 164 - Tobacco control measures [52168/13] [Plain packaging]. (04 Dec 2013)

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164. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Health if he fears that plain packaging cigarettes will lead to an increase in the illicit trade, counterfeit and contraband; the amount this costs the exchequer in lost revenue at present; if medical professionals are reporting any unusual conditions as a result of counterfeit tobacco product consumption; if he has studied the effects of plain packaging in Australia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52168/13] 


Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): The Office of the Revenue Commissioners is responsible for dealing with tackling the illicit trade in cigarettes and tobacco products, and treats it as an issue of high priority. Revenue has advised me that the tax stamp, which contains a range of sophisticated security features, is a key means for them to distinguish between legal and illegal products, irrespective of the way in which the cigarettes are packaged.


Research carried out by Revenue, in conjunction with the HSE National Tobacco Control Office, indicates that contraband represents the majority of illicit cigarettes and not counterfeit products. Figures from 2012 indicate that the proportion of smokers classified as having an illegal pack was 13%. These findings indicate that the level of consumption of illicit product is being contained, although Revenue remains determined to confront the illegal trade in tobacco products, to optimise levels of seizures of illicit tobacco product and to pursue those found to be involved in this illegal activity. In this regard, Ireland is party to legally binding agreements between the EU and three major tobacco companies which aim to strengthen anti-smuggling measures. The Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was agreed at the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference of the Parties in November 2012, and it is anticipated that Ireland will sign and ratify that protocol.


On the issue of standardised packaging, the Deputy will be aware that Government approval was received on 19th November 2013 for the publication of the General Scheme of a new Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013 and to proceed with the drafting of the legislation based on this General Scheme. Australia was the first country in the world to introduce standardised packaging, in December 2012. We are in on-going contact with our Australian colleagues. While it is too soon to fully evaluate the impact of this policy in practice, there is a wealth of evidence on the effects of tobacco packaging in general and on perceptions and reactions to standardised packaging which supports the introduction of the measure.


Finally, I would like to point out to the Deputy that tobacco consumption is today the greatest single cause of preventable illness and premature death in Ireland, killing over 5,200 people a year; that smokers die on average 10 years sooner than non-smokers; that one in every two children who experiment with cigarettes goes on to become a smoker, and that one in every two of them will die from a tobacco related disease. In this context, my priority is to reduce the consumption of tobacco across the board, to meet our policy target of making Ireland tobacco free (i.e. with a smoking prevalence rate of less than 5%) by 2025.


Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Drug Type
Tobacco / Nicotine
Intervention Type
Crime prevention, Policy
4 December 2013

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