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Home > Minister James Reilly: Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014.

[Department of Children and Youth Affairs] Minister James Reilly: Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014. (02 Oct 2014)

Speech by Dr James Reilly TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.
Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014
Dáil Éireann - Second Stage

I would firstly like to thank all the TDs who have contributed to the second stage debate on this Bill.

While Deputies have raised issues about the Bill, I am pleased that the overwhelming majority support this initiative. The objective of this measure and many other tobacco control measures is of course to dissuade people from starting to smoke, encourage current smokers to quit – and ultimately save lives.

Notification to the EU

During the debate the issue of the notification of this Bill to the EU was referred to. I want to clear up any misunderstanding regarding this matter.

Directive 98/34/EC, commonly known as the Technical Standards Directive imposes an obligation to inform the Commission and other Member States, of technical regulations in draft format. This Bill falls into the categories for notification set out in that Directive, as did the recent Sunbeds legislation.

Ireland notified this Bill to the EU on the 17th June thereby fulfilling our obligations under European Law.

The Commission and Member States had until 18th September to comment or provide detailed opinions on the proposed measures. As detailed opinions have been received, the standstill period has increased by another three months, i.e. until 18th December 2014. The legislative process cannot, therefore, continue past Second Stage until after this standstill period.

We welcome the recent decision of the French government to introduce standardised packaging.

I want to take the opportunity to refer to the inclusion of cigars and pipe tobacco in the Bill. As Deputy Ó Caoláin stated back in July, the UK in their draft standardised packaging regulations do not include cigars and pipe tobacco. If the UK decides to go ahead with this initiative the resulting regulations will be made under the Children and Families Act 2014. The consultation document released by the UK refers to the low prevalence rate among young people in relation to cigars and pipe tobacco. This Bill being discussed today is not confined to any specific age group. While the core aim is to prevent young people from starting to smoke, we also want to assist current smokers to stop. All tobacco products have been shown to negatively affect health and as such all tobacco products should be treated equally under this Bill. Evidence shows that standardised packaging encourages existing smokers to quit. It also encourages those who have given up to remain as non-smokers. With this in mind the Bill covers all tobacco products similar to the Australian legislation

I would like to respond to those Deputies who have stated that they remained unconvinced that this measure alone would stop people smoking. Standardised packaging is the latest strand to the comprehensive range of tobacco control legislation already in place in Ireland which aim to denormalise the practice of smoking.

It is the combination of past, present and future tobacco control measures that will reduce tobacco consumption in Ireland and not one measure in isolation. All of the measures outlined in our Tobacco policy, Tobacco Free Ireland will have a role in reducing the prevalence of smoking in Ireland.

However, standardised packaging is important as it is the next step in tackling tobacco advertising and promotion specifically.

Ireland is adopting an approach recommended by the World Health Organisation. Guidelines devised under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control ask countries to consider introducing standardised packaging for tobacco.

Standardised packaging is not, therefore, a new concept. As we know Australia acted upon this WHO recommendation.

Twenty two months on from the introduction of standardised packaging in Australia the latest figures show that the total consumption of tobacco products in Australia was the lowest ever recorded. In relation to the illicit trade of tobacco, the Tobacco Industry’s estimates of the size of that market are not considered to be accurate. Recent industry reports identify an Australian illicit trade market of 13.3% whereas Government data indicates that 1.5% of smokers use illicit trade tobacco.

There is a wealth of evidence indicating that standardised packaging will have a positive impact. But no matter what evidence we produce, the tobacco industry will produce evidence to contradict this. This is a well-known and documented tactic of the tobacco industry.

I am confident that the Irish public, including our TDs and Senators will act in the public good. Arguments put out there by the tobacco industry regarding increased illicit trade and supposed job losses from the retail sector should not deflect us from doing what is right.

Another well-known tactic of the Tobacco Industry is the threat of legal challenges. While a legal challenge by the tobacco industry cannot be ruled out, I am confident that the research available to us demonstrates that standardised packaging will have a positive impact on health and is a proportionate and justified measure. The threat of legal challenges should not be an obstacle to progressing public health policies. We must press on with our mission to make Ireland tobacco free by 2025.

We should be heartened, encouraged and proud of the support expressed by Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO on her visit to Dublin in June. She made it clear that while Ireland may face the wrath of the tobacco industry, the WHO wholeheartedly supports Ireland in our endeavours in relation to standardised packaging.

In 1998 33% of Irish people smoked. Today 21.5% of Irish people smoke. I thank all deputies for their support the measures being put in place to stop future generations from smoking. We know that this measure will help protect our children from ever starting to smoke and so will enhance their lives and add many years of life to their bright and better futures.
I commend the Bill to the House.

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