Ten years on from the workplace smoking ban, new Bill will discourage young people becoming addicted to cigarettes which kill half of all long-term users

10th June 2014 – The Irish Cancer Society says today is a landmark day in public health in Ireland. The publication of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 will eliminate the last marketing tool of the tobacco industry and discourage young people from taking up the habit that kills 5,200 Irish people every year.

“The Irish Cancer Society has fought very hard for the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco,” says Kathleen O’Meara, Head of Advocacy & Communications.  “Ten years on from the workplace smoking ban, Ireland will once again be taking a massive step to improving public health.  It will be the second country, after Australia to introduce plain packs.

“In order to maintain profits, the tobacco industry needs 50 new smokers every day in Ireland to replace those dying or quitting. Eight in ten smokers begin before they turn 18-years old. Plain packaging has been shown to reduce the appeal of tobacco by young people, and to increase negative feelings towards tobacco.”

Between 1998 and 2010, the smoking prevalence rate among 15-year olds had halved, from 33% to 17%. This government has set a target, that Ireland will be tobacco-free by 2025.  This goal can only be achieved with the introduction of plain packaging.

Ms. O’Meara commended the government and Minister for Health Dr. Reilly for resisting the pressure applied by the tobacco industry and associated interests during the consultation phase. “The tobacco industry will continue to argue that plain packaging doesn’t work and say that the illicit trade will increase,” Ms O’Meara continued. “But the tobacco industry has never had an interest in public health. Their recent attempt at showing the illicit trade in Australia has increased was rubbished by Customs Officials who said that plain packaging has had ‘no impact’ on the illicit tobacco trade.

“In fact, tobacco industry data in Australia shows sales of cigarettes have fallen since the introduction of plain packaging, so it is in their best interests to block its introduction in Ireland.”

In Australia, initial studies after the introduction of plain packaging found a staggering 78% rise in calls to the Quitline printed on packs.  The Irish Cancer Society welcomes the decision to include the National Smokers’ Quitline, run by the Society and the HSE, on the new packs.

The Irish Cancer Society will continue to ensure that plain packaging of cigarettes is brought in as quickly as possible.

“No one wants to see their child smoking,” Ms O’Meara concluded. “This Bill has the power to ensure that young people are protected from the tactics of the tobacco industry, which does target them.

“This opportunity to protect the lives of the next generation and to make smoking history in Ireland.”