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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 107, 108, 109, 110 & 135, 111, 112 & 136 - Tobacco control measures [38651/14, 38652/14, 38653/14, 38654/14, 38650/14, 38656/14, 38657/14, 38655/14] [Plain packaging].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 107, 108, 109, 110 & 135, 111, 112 & 136 - Tobacco control measures [38651/14, 38652/14, 38653/14, 38654/14, 38650/14, 38656/14, 38657/14, 38655/14] [Plain packaging]. (09 Oct 2014)

External website: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20a...


107, 108, 109 & 110 Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to issues (details supplied) regarding the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38651/14] 

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 107 to 110, inclusive, and 135 together. 

As the Deputy will be aware, Government approval was received on 19 November 2013 to proceed with drafting the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013. The legislation has now been passed by the Seanad and Second Stage of the Bill concluded in the Dáil last week. 

As the Deputy will also be aware, on 17 June 2014, the Bill was formally notified to the Commission and to Member States under the EU Technical Standards Directive (98/34/EC) and the Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU). On the same date, formal notification was made to the World Trade Organisation under the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement under the Technical Standards process. The Commission and Member States had until 18 September to comment or provide detailed opinions on the proposed measures. As the Deputy has noted, detailed opinions on the proposed measures have been received from a number of Member States. For this reason, the standstill period has increased by another three months, i.e. until 18 December 2014. The legislative process cannot continue until after this standstill period. 

As the detailed opinions issued by the Member States in question cannot be released for publication, I do not propose to discuss their contents at this time. Ireland is now obliged to respond to the Commission in relation to the issues raised in the detailed opinions. These documents are currently being considered by officials in my Department.

Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 111, 112 & 136 - Tobacco control measures

111. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he has read the recent position paper (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38656/14]

112. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he is satisfied with the views of the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU that trademarks are universally recognised as rights of property, conferring also the right to use such a property, and the right to registration should not be dependent in any way on the nature of the product, and his views that trademarks should not be subjected to unjustified restrictions on their use; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38657/14] 

136. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health if he has read a recent position paper (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38655/14] 

Minister for Health (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I propose to take Questions Nos. 111, 112 and 136 together. 

I am fully aware that there will be a range of interests which will oppose the introduction of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill. However, as the Deputy will be aware, Government approval was received on 19 November 2013 to proceed with drafting the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013. The legislation has now been passed by the Seanad and Second Stage concluded in the Dáil last week. 

Standardised packaging, also known as plain or generic packaging, means that all forms of branding – trademarks, logos, colours and graphics – would be removed from retail tobacco packaging, except for the brand and variant names, which would be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands on the market. All packs would be in a plain neutral colour, except for the mandatory health warnings and the tax stamp. This measure is considered proportionate from a public health perspective. 

The Deputy refers to the position of the American Chamber of Commerce as presented to the EU in relation to trademarks as being universally recognised as rights of property conferring the right to use such a property, the right to registration of which should not be dependent in any way on the nature of the product, and should not be subjected to unjustified restrictions on their use. 

A trade mark is the means by which a business identifies its goods or services and distinguishes them from the goods and services supplied by other businesses. The main purpose of trade mark law is to protect the rights holders’ investment in the reputation of his goods and services and to assist the consumer in differentiating among competing goods and services in the marketplace. 

The importance of trademarks cannot be understated and Ireland is recognised as having a robust legal framework in place to support this property right. In particular, trade marks have been protected under a number of European and international laws where well-respected principles were established, including the Paris Convention for the protection of Industrial Property dating from 1883 and, the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rights Agreement of 1994 (TRIPs). The TRIPs Agreement introduced intellectual property (IP) into the international trading system for the first time and remains the most comprehensive international agreement on intellectual property to date. 

However, whether at international or domestic level, trade mark rights are not, of themselves, absolute rights and States are permitted to apply derogations that allow for the suspension of part of the legal obligation which can operate to restrict some rights under certain circumstances such as in the pursuit of broader compelling public policy reasons or for greater public interest considerations. The Irish Constitution likewise recognises that the State may delimit by law the exercise of property rights where required by the common good. 

This Government continues to focus on ensuring that Ireland’s intellectual property regime, including its trademark regime compares favourably with best international practice and to work to further reinforce Ireland’s reputation as a country where strong intellectual property rights play a crucial role. 

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, the 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.

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