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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages (Continued)

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 [Seanad]: Report and Final Stages (Continued). (26 Feb 2015)

As stated on Committee Stage last week, I am bringing forward amendments on Report Stage today which relate to technical drafting issues. In Part 4 of the Bill, there are references to the full Short Title of the proposed Act, namely, the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2014. There is also a reference to the full Short Title of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002. The full Short Titles are being amended to more appropriately refer to the Act of 2015 and the Act of 2002. This is dealt with in amendments Nos. 2 to 14. To accommodate these amendments, a new definition is to be inserted by amendment No. 1. The definition of the Act of 2015 is being inserted in the 2002 Act definition section.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy James Reilly): I thank the Deputies for their views and comments today and their support throughout the course of this Bill. In bringing the debate to a close, I have to remind us all again that Ireland has always been a leader in tobacco control. We have ranked at the forefront in introducing measures to protect our country's health from the scourge of smoking. Standardised packaging is the latest strand in the comprehensive range of tobacco control legislation we already have in place. Tobacco control experts in Ireland and internationally recognise that no one element in isolation can be effective in reducing tobacco consumption and moving us towards a smoke-free State by 2025. I am confident that the research available to us demonstrates that standardised packaging will have a positive impact on health and that it is a proportionate and justified measure. No conversation around tobacco should ever omit the fact that 5,200 of our citizens die prematurely every year from its effects.


There is a wealth of evidence that shows that standardised packaging will have a positive impact. Research shows that standardised packaging can reduce the appeal of tobacco products and increase the effectiveness of health warnings. It also reduces the ability of branded tobacco packaging to mislead people about the harmful effects of smoking. These are important points when we consider that almost 80% of smokers start when they are children.


I am pleased that the Irish public, including our Deputies and Senators, have not and will not allow themselves to be manipulated by the arguments of the tobacco industry against this measure. Arguments by the tobacco industry will not deflect us from introducing public health measures which will ultimately save lives. Two years on from the introduction of plain packaging in Australia, the research is vindicating its introduction of this and other measures. Figures released by the Australian Department of Health show that in March 2014, the total consumption of tobacco products in Australia was the lowest ever recorded. Studies are showing that the packs are not as appealing to young people. Thinking about quitting and quit attempts have increased. Smokers have reported lower satisfaction from their cigarettes since the packs changed.


We had the good news here last week that our rate of smoking in Ireland has fallen again from 21.5% in 2013 to 19.5% last year. However, we still have some way to go to meet our target of 5% by 2025, so we must press on in our mission. The misrepresentation of evidence by the tobacco industry is a well recognised tactic. The threat of legal challenges is another. The threat of legal challenges should not be an obstacle to progressing public health policies. Our aim should always be nothing less than a tobacco-free Ireland.


I thank all the Deputies who participated in the debates and who gave their time to work on this Bill. It gives me immense satisfaction to be here with them today. Together we are creating legislation that will be historic and will be of real importance to the area of public health. Together, and in the face of significant opposition from the vested interests, we have worked to put Ireland at the forefront of tobacco control. We are on the verge of being the first country in the EU to pass a law on plain packaging and the second country in the world to pass such a law. I would like all Deputies to share in the sense of satisfaction at this development. We do so despite legal threats from lawyers for the tobacco industry and an extraordinary legal letter demanding that we stop immediately and give a written undertaking not to progress the Bill. We in this House will not be intimidated by such action. We will pass such laws as we believe to be correct. I know Deputies will forgive me if, as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, I send a message to children across the country on a lesson to be learned here. Remember that if a bully tries to intimidate you with actions, you should stand firm and be true to what you believe to be right, and stay the course.


I commend the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 to the House.


Deputy Billy Kelleher: In commending the Bill to the House, I commend the Minister on his personal efforts in bringing this legislation to the House. I know he has had a very strong personal commitment to the reduction of tobacco use in this State. The Government is resolute. The Government, Parliament and people should be resolute and stay the course in the face of threats, intimidation and bullying tactics from organisations whose sole purpose is to sell a product that harms and kills people on a daily basis in this country. The Minister's final words summed it up. There were children in the Visitors' Gallery some minutes ago. The legislation the Minister is bringing forward today will discourage some of them from starting to smoke and will, in effect, save their lives. That is what this is about, so I commend the Minister and the Bill.


Deputy Mattie McGrath:  I support the Minister's proposals. A transition year student from Cashel is with me this week. On behalf of her school and the young people of Ireland, she presented to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children on this issue last year and I think she met the Minister. The Minister should stand up to the bullies and intimidation, but big companies should also be checked out.


[Deputy Mattie McGrath:] These big companies are advising other Departments and are being paid huge fees for doing so, which is a direct conflict of interest.

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