Press Release

Ministers Harris and Byrne publish 2016 Annual Report of Tobacco Free Ireland Action Plan

Standardised packaging measures being rolled out for all tobacco products

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, and Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drug Strategy, Catherine Byrne TD, have today welcomed the publication of the 2016 Annual Report on the Tobacco Free IrelandAction Plan.

Tobacco Free Irelandwas launched under the Healthy Ireland framework in 2013 and sets a target for Ireland to be tobacco free (that is, with a smoking prevalence rate of less than 5%) by the year 2025.

A high level action plan for Tobacco Free Ireland was published in March 2015 and one of these actions committed the Department of Health to publish an annual report on the implementation of the actions outlined. The 2016 Annual Report outlines a number of key achievements in 2016, including new legislation banning smoking in cars when children are present (which came into force on the 1st Jan 2016) and the development by the HSE of the QUIT campaign and the enhancement of supports for smokers who wish to stop smoking.

Minister Harris said, “Smoking is the greatest single cause of preventable illness and premature death in Ireland, killing almost 6,000 people a year. On a positive note we have seen a significant and continued reduction in smoking prevalence in children, which tells us that we are on the right track in how we are tackling that part of the problem. It is heartening to see the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Europe using the actions set out in Tobacco Free Ireland as a case study for other countries who wish to get to a tobacco free future. Unfortunately smoking prevalence amongst adults still remains unacceptably high – 22% of the population are current smokers, 18% smoke daily and 4% smoke occasionally. These figures underscore the need to implement all the recommendations in Tobacco Free Ireland.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of the rollout of standardised packaging measures for all tobacco products. Ireland is the only country in Europe and second in the world to introduce standardised packaging for all tobacco products and not just cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco. All tobacco products are harmful and as such all tobacco products must comply with the standardised packaging measures”.

Minister Byrne said, “I am delighted to see the progress that has been made to date in the implementation of the recommendations in Tobacco Free Ireland. That the World Health Organisation (WHO) awarded the Department of Health a prestigious World No Tobacco Day Award for its achievements in the area of tobacco control in 2017 is testament to the work being carried out. Most people who smoke wish they had never started smoking and want to stop, for themselves and for their families. That is why we must continue to prioritise and enhance the supports and encouragement people need to quit smoking once and for all and to never take up the habit in the first place.”

Minister Byrne stated that “All of the achievements under Tobacco Free Ireland will help us in our goal of making Ireland tobacco free by 2025 and I commend the work of my Department, the Health Service Executive and the NGO community for their work in this regard. In particular, I am delighted to have signed regulations in September which sees the introduction of standardised packaging of tobacco which is a key achievement of the tobacco policy. Tobacco packs are the last form of advertising for tobacco products”.

Both Ministers re-iterated their commitment to the continued implementation of Tobacco Free Ireland.

ENDS

Note for Editors:

Full Report: 2016 Annual Report of Tobacco Free Ireland Action Plan

Standardised Packaging of Tobacco

  • The effect of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Regulations 2017 is that all tobacco products manufactured for sale in Ireland from 30th September, 2017 must be in standardised retail packaging. Any products manufactured and placed on the market before that date will be permitted to stay on the market for a 12 month period i.e. until 29 September, 2018.
  • Ireland and Australia are the only countries to date that have introduced the measures for all tobacco products Ireland is therefore, the first in the EU to have standardised packaging for all tobacco products and not just cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco. Tobacco products have been shown to negatively affect health and as such all tobacco products are treated equally under the Irish legislation.
  • The aim of standardised packaging is to make all tobacco packs look less attractive, make health warnings more prominent and prevent packaging from misleading consumers about the harmful effects of tobacco. There is a strong evidence base emerging from Australia that introducing standardised packaging is both effective and proportionate in an attempt to reduce the toll of tobacco use on the population. The measure has withstood challenges in both the European Court of Justice in the EU and in the High Court in the UK

2016 Annual Report on the Tobacco Free Ireland Action Plan

  • The 2016 Annual Report outlines a number of key achievements in 2016, including:
    new legislation banning smoking in cars when children are present came into force on the 1st Jan 2016,
  • the transposition of the EU Tobacco Products Directive in May 2016 and the continued engagement with the HSE and the European Commission in relation to the implementation of the Directive,
  • the continuation of an annual Healthy Ireland Survey and the Health Behaviour in School Children Study which provides data on the prevalence of smoking throughout the population,
  • the publication of the economic cost of smoking in Ireland report
  • the development by the HSE of the QUIT campaign and the enhancement of supports for smokers who wish to stop smoking,
  • the proactive involvement of the NGO sector in supporting Tobacco Free Ireland actions, and the increase in the price of tobacco products in Budget 2017.