Press Release

World No Tobacco Day – WHO Award for the Department of Health

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has awarded the Department of Health a prestigious 2017 World No Tobacco Day Award for its achievements in the area of tobacco control.

Ireland is a world leader in tobacco control, and the team at the Department of Health has led the implementation of many of the measures that the WHO calls for today.

This year on World No Tobacco Day, the WHO is highlighting how tobacco threatens the development of nations worldwide, and is calling on governments to implement strong tobacco control measures, including banning marketing and advertising of tobacco, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free.

Speaking today, Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD said. “We can be proud of the progress we have made in Ireland, and that this progress has been rewarded not only in the improved health of Irish people, but in this recognition from the WHO for the work the Department has undertaken. Ireland ranks second out of 34 European Countries in relation to tobacco control initiatives. Recent measures, like the commencement of legislation for the standardised packaging of tobacco, to come into force in September 2017, have kept Ireland to the fore in this area.

“I want to thank all the stakeholders involved, including the HSE and the many charities, advocacy groups and individuals who have supported this work over many years.”

The Minister warned, however, that complacency shouldn’t be allowed to set in. “Approximately 6,000 people die from diseases caused by tobacco use each year. I and the rest of Government are committed to continuing to implement the Tobacco Free Ireland policy, with a view to reducing the number of smokers and reducing the numbers who start smoking”.

On World No Tobacco Day, Minister Corcoran Kennedy is asking smokers to consider their health and is encouraging them to seek help in quitting the harmful habit of smoking.

“Whether you are thinking about stopping smoking or not, or if you have someone close to you who smokes and you are worried about them, why not take a first step today and have a look at the HSE website I am asking you to think about your health and the well-being of those who love you and depend on you. There is support out there for you.” the Minister said.

A recent study undertaken by HIQA has shown that smoking cessation interventions which support people who want to quit are more successful when compared to unassisted quitting.

The WHO theme for this year’s No Tobacco Day is “Tobacco – a threat to development”. The WHO campaign focuses on the threat that tobacco poses to all countries including the health and economic well-being of citizens. The WHO is encouraging all governments to step up their tobacco control efforts.

Notes for Editors

On 29th March 2004, smoking was prohibited in most enclosed workplaces in Ireland. The ban was essential to protect the health of workers from the well documented ill health effects of second-hand smoke. An analysis looking at the long term effects of the ban published in 2013 found that nearly 4,000 lives had been saved as a result of the introduction of the smoking ban.

Legislation for the standardised packaging of tobacco is to come into force in September 2017, following the signing of the commencement order by Minister Corcoran Kennedy for the relevant provisions of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015. The aim of standardised packaging is to make tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers, to make health warnings more prominent and to prevent packaging from misleading consumers about the harmful effects of tobacco. The signing of this order means that all tobacco products manufactured for sale in Ireland from 30th September 2017 must be in standardised retail packaging. There will be a wash through period allowed, meaning any products manufactured and placed on the market before the September date will be permitted to stay on the market for a 12 month period (i.e. until 30th September, 2018).

Standardised packaging means that:

  • all forms of branding – trademarks, logos, colours and graphics – are to be removed from tobacco packs,
  • the brand and variant names would be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands and
  • the packs would all be in one plain neutral colour.

Regulations transposing the EU Tobacco Products Directive were signed into Irish law in May 2016.  The Regulations provide for more stringent rules for tobacco and related products and, from a public health perspective, focuses on limiting their appeal, in particular to young people.

The Regulations include a number of measures as such: –

  • A ban on cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco with characterising flavours such as fruit flavours or vanilla;
  • A  ban on tobacco products containing certain additives;
  • A ban on any misleading labelling (such as “natural” or “organic”);
  • Increased size for combined health warnings and a requirement to place them on the front and back of the product;
  • Additional reporting requirements for tobacco products;
  • Notification requirements for electronic cigarettes, refill containers, herbal and novel tobacco products;
  • Registration requirement for cross-border distance sales of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes or refill containers;
  • Introduction of a tracking and tracing system;
  • Regulation of electronic cigarettes and refill containers;
  • Stricter rules on advertising/sponsorship for electronic cigarettes and refill containers;
  • Mandatory safety and quality requirements for electronic cigarettes and refill containers;

Every year, on 31 May, WHO and partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2017 is “Tobacco – a threat to development.”

Further information on the World No Tobacco Day Awards is available online

Smoking kills at least 1 in every 2 smokers in Ireland. This translates to just under 6,000 deaths annual from tobacco related diseases.

The current smoking prevalence is 23%, with those who smoke daily at 19% and those who smoke occasionally or less than daily at 4%

Given the higher risk of disease and death in smokers, the economic cost of smoking in Ireland is substantial. In 2013, the estimated cost to the healthcare system was over €460 million, the cost of lost productivity was over €1 billion, and the cost of loss of welfare was over €9 billion. Smoking cessation substantially reduces the risk of developing most of the smoking-related diseases and reduces the risk of death.

The Government’s tobacco policy, Tobacco Free Ireland sets out a suite of measures to reduce smoking prevalence in Ireland and is available online.