Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 528- Tobacco control measures [28222/14] [Plain packaging].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 528- Tobacco control measures [28222/14] [Plain packaging]. (01 Jul 2014)

528. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to any evidence of international best practice in the context of plain cigarette packaging, apart from Australia; to what extent this evidence has been incorporated into the new Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [28222/14]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): I thank the Deputy for her question, which gives me the opportunity to draw my colleagues' attention to the wealth of evidence available to support the introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco products. In preparing the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014, my Department commissioned an international expert in the field, Prof. David Hammond, to carry out an Evidence Review on Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products. Prof Hammond's review found that the evidence on standardised packaging has rapidly evolved and is now notable for its breadth and diversity. Research has been conducted in 10 different countries, using a range of methodologies, including consumer perceptions, eye-tracking technology, neuroimaging, measures of consumer demand and behavioural tasks.

  Prof Hammond's review unequivocally found that tobacco packaging is a critically important form of tobacco promotion, particularly in countries like Ireland which have comprehensive advertising and marketing restrictions. The evidence showed that standardised packaging:

- reduces false beliefs about the risks of smoking,

- increases the efficacy of health warnings,

- reduces consumer appeal among youth and young adults, and

- may promote smoking cessation among established smokers.

  Overall, Prof Hammond found that there is very strong evidence that standardised packaging would be effective with regard to four of Ireland's tobacco control policy objectives, namely:

- preventing children and young people from starting to smoke,

- encouraging current smokers to quit,

- reducing the risk of those who have quit from relapsing, and

- encouraging the denormalisation of smoking in society, thereby protecting children from the marketing practices of the tobacco industry.

  Two systematic reviews of the research evidence covering 54 studies were published by Moodie et al   in 2012 and in 2013. These reviews, and other studies, suggest that standardised packaging can:

- Reduce the appeal of tobacco products, for both adults and children.

- Increase the noticeability, recall and impact of health warning messages; and

- Reduce the ability of packaging to mislead consumers into believe that some products are less harmful than others.

  Moodie's review concluded that the evidence shows that standardised packaging: “has the potential to contribute to reductions in the harm caused by tobacco smoking now and in the future”. In the UK, Sir Cyril Chantler's independent review on Standardised packaging of tobacco also indicated overwhelming support for the measure. In reviewing the evidence, Sir Chantler made a connection between exposure to tobacco advertising and promotion and the likelihood of taking up smoking, particularly among children. He concluded that branded packaging contributes to increased tobacco consumption. In his judgment, the evidence shows that standardised packaging is very likely to have a positive impact on public health by causing “a modest but important reduction over time on the uptake and prevalence of smoking”.

  A year on from the introduction of plain packaging in Australia, we have a limited amount of research on the effects of the policy. One study found that following the introduction of plain packaging and larger pictorial warnings on packs, smoking in outdoor areas declined by 23%. It also found that personal pack display (where packs are clearly visible on tables) declined by 15%, particularly in venues where children were present. Another Australian study found a 78% increase in the number of calls to the smoking cessation helpline. This increase was due to the introduction of plain packaging. The researchers found it was not attributable to other causes, such as anti-tobacco advertising or cigarette price increases.

  The UK has now announced that it is minded to introduce regulations to provide for standardised packaging following a short consultation. This consultation was initiated on 26th June. As the Deputy will be aware, Australia was the first country in the world to introduce this measure in December 2012 and we are in on-going contact with our Australian colleagues to ensure our initiative benefits from their experience. New Zealand initiated the legislative process to introduce standardised packaging in February 2014, and Scotland has also indicated its intention to follow suit.

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