Home > Seanad Eireann debate. Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014: Committee and remaining stages (continued).

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate. Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014: Committee and remaining stages (continued). (24 Jun 2014)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

.........(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy James Reill] In most cases, the first cigarette a person smokes will make him or her ill. What is being argued is that electronic cigarettes are somehow harmless products, which is not the case. As Senator Crown noted, they have a wide range of effects and while they are certainly less harmful than tobacco, why should we replace one harm with another? If they were an aid for people to stop smoking, that would be welcome. However, the jury is out on that issue also as they are not any more effective than nicotine patches. Notwithstanding this, it has not been our intention to include electronic cigarettes in this legislation. The Department is preparing another Bill on electronic cigarettes and the exigencies that will apply to them.   The reason I will not accept the amendment is not that I do not share the Senator's concerns but because I have a separate Bill being prepared on the issue that will go before Cabinet shortly. Some of its provisions have already been seen by the Cabinet. With respect, therefore, I will not accept the amendment, although I assure the Senator that I share his concerns, particularly on the practice of smoking electronic cigarettes in any environment, whether a restaurant, bar or other area. A couple of years ago, one of our major airlines promoted the sale of these products during flights.  The Senator's views will help us in respect of the Bill we are preparing on electronic cigarettes. I hope he understands, however, that I will not accept the amendment.  

Senator John Crown: As we stated on Committee Stage, what we wish for the tobacco industry is bankruptcy. We would like all those who are affiliated with the industry to seek alternative lines of work, all the investors involved in supporting it to invest elsewhere and all the retailers of tobacco products to clear their shelves of them. We do not want anybody to profit from the sale of tobacco products.   There is no doubt that there has been a very substantial infiltration, to the point of near domination, of the electronic cigarette market by the traditional cigarette companies, which will be able to use a less regulated product to hook additional addicts for the other products they continue to sell. These companies will also be able to tap up their financial reserves with the profits from less regulated electronic products. This amendment provides an opportunity to strike another blow at our enemies. In pursuit of that objective, and Cabinet confidentiality being what it is, will the new Bill impose a similar level of stringency on the packaging of electronic cigarettes as applies to tobacco products?  

Deputy James Reilly: I am acutely aware of the fact that I could find myself standing in a different type of dock. For this reason, while I share his sentiments, I will shy away from using some of the language of which the Senator has availed. What we are trying to do is protect children from ever taking up this heinous habit and help those who have become addicted to overcome their addiction. We will do whatever is necessary within the law, including introducing legislation, to achieve those objectives.   On the direct question posed by Senator Crown, the new Bill will contain many provisions. I do not wish to comment any further at this juncture because it would be a little premature to do so. I hope the Senator will allow me the latitude to decline to speak further on the issue at this point. I hope to return to the Chamber in the not too distant future with legislation that will address many of the concerns expressed by the Senator.  

Senator John Crown: I do not believe I made my earlier point strongly enough. If our enemies insist on conducting a business which poisons and kills our citizens and addicts our children, we must send the unambiguous message that we want their businesses to fail and we want them out of business and bankrupt. There is zero ambiguity on that issue. It would be preferable if those who are involved in these industries made alternative investments and plans and tobacco farmers grew alternative crops. Unfortunately, I am precluded from providing financial incentives in legislation to encourage ethical shops, retailers and hoteliers to cease selling tobacco products on their premises in return for being offered a preferential VAT rate on all other products they sell on their premises. This would incentivise people to leave the tobacco business because everyone who turns a profit from tobacco, profits from death.     I understand the Minister may find himself defending the position I have advocated in other forums and he will have widespread support when he does so. We should be unambiguous about our ambitions in respect of companies that sell death to citizens. This is a great opportunity, educationally and in every other way, to strike a blow against electronic cigarettes. These products will become a much more compelling gateway drug to one of the major drugs in use in this country, the inhalation of tobacco, than other alleged gateway drugs are to other substances of abuse. Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.    Amendment Nos. 25 to 27, inclusive, not moved.

SECTION 11 Senator John Crown: I move amendment No. 28: In page 14, line 6, after “prescribed” to insert “by the Minister by regulation”. The amendment addresses a technical issue, with a view to making it more difficult for the Minister to be challenged. Rather than providing that the colour of the lining of a packet can be prescribed, the amendment provides that it must be done by the Minister by regulation.   Deputy

James Reilly: While I do not wish to be seen to be declining every amendment, this proposal is not necessary as the Bill states that the Minister for Health may make regulations on any matter referred to in the Act, as prescribed. As such, the inclusion of the phrase, "by the Minister by regulation", as set out in the amendment, is not necessary because it is already provided for in the body of the Bill. My notes indicate I cannot accept the amendment and while I do not believe that is the case, I am not keen to accept it. Section 3(1) on orders and regulations states: "The Minister may by regulations provide for any matter referred to in this Act as prescribed or to be prescribed or for the purposes of enabling any provision of this Act to have full effect."

The matter is comprehensively covered.     Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.   Section 11 agreed to.  

SECTION 12   Question proposed: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."

Senator Sean D. Barrett: Section 12(1) provides that the "tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide content of a tobacco product shall not be printed on a unit packet or any other form of retail packaging of a tobacco product." When we discussed this provision previously the Minister indicated it may be used by a company to promote the view that its death-dealing commodity is less fatal than another company's product. Will the Minister provide information elsewhere - he referred to a specific website - to enable people to ascertain the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide content of these deathly products? Where will this information be made available? While I appreciate it cannot be done under this section, these issues will not go away. The measures to promote these products will not draw attention to the fact that they contain tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide.

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