Approval for the Drafting of a New “Public Health and Tobacco Bill”
Wednesday 28 February 2001, Ash Wednesday – National No-Smoking Day
The Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, T.D., today announced a number of initiatives aimed at preventing people taking up the smoking habit and assisting those who have already done so to quit. The Minister announced today’s Government approval for the drafting of a Public Health and Tobacco Bill to give effect to the proposals in the policy document “Towards a Tobacco Free Society”, launched in March last year. The drafting of the Bill will be given priority in the Government’s legislative programme.
“The new Tobacco Bill will represent the most comprehensive anti-tobacco legislation ever published in this country and confirms that the battle against tobacco is one of the most important public health challenges to be faced and is one of my main priorities as Minister for Health and Children. Tobacco is a significant burden to individuals, families and society through death, illness and medical costs. Smoking related illnesses account for about 7,000 deaths each year in Ireland” said the Minister.
The Minister will now proceed, in conjunction with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government, with the drafting of the Bill, as a matter of priority, with a view to having it introduced in the Houses of the Oireachtas at the earliest possible date.
The main provisions of the proposed Bill will include:-
- The establishment, on a statutory basis, of an independent Office of Tobacco Control (OTC). This office is already in place on an administrative basis and in fact presented the Minister with their first Business Plan this week. The Bill will assign responsibility to the office for monitoring, co-ordinating and, in certain circumstances, enforcing the anti-tobacco legislation.
- The introduction of a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and on all forms of sponsorship by the tobacco industry;
- A system of registration for retailers of tobacco products;
- A ban on the sale of ten packs of cigarettes and on self service;
- Full disclosure to the public of all aspects of tobacco;
- Improved protection for people against passive smoking;
- Tougher enforcement provisions.
The Minister has already allocated an additional £1million to the health boards in 2001 to enable them recruit about 30 environmental health officers and some administrative support to improve enforcement and compliance with the anti-tobacco legislation.
“I am particularly concerned over the reported increase in the level of smoking among children and teenagers. Many of the provisions of this new Bill, in particular, the ban on the sale of ten packs of cigarettes and on self service and the comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, will ensure that young people’s exposure to tobacco products and incentives to purchase tobacco products will be greatly reduced. The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2000, currently before the Houses of the Oireachtas will also raise the age at which tobacco products can be sold to young persons from sixteen to eighteen years and will raise the maximum fine on persons convicted for selling to underage persons from £500 to £1500” said the Minister.
The Minister is making Nicotine Replacement Therapy available to medical card holders with effect from 1st April this year. The full range of therapies, i.e. patches, gum, sprays, tablets etc. will be available to medical card holders free of charge on prescription by their GP. The cost of this initiative is estimated at£3million per annum and is in line with the recommendations of the Cardiovascular Health Strategy Group and the Advisory Forum established to support the Task Force in the implementation of Strategy.
Minister Martin also announced a further initiative with the establishment of a Tobacco Research Centre which had been recommended in the Report “Towards a Tobacco Free Society” launched by the Minister with Government approval on 7 March 2000. The main aims of the Centre will be to promote and develop academic excellence in tobacco and health studies and to advance public health in this area largely through research, particularly into tobacco marketing. The Minister has asked the Office of Tobacco Control and ASH Ireland to advance this project without delay.
“The creation of a tobacco-free environment requires rigorous and sustained multiple actions that focus on reducing the prevalence of tobacco use,” said Dr. Michael Boland, Chairman of the Board of the Office of Tobacco Control, at the submission of the newly established Office’s first Annual Report.
“Ireland has, for many years, been a leading advocate for the world-wide control and ultimate elimination of tobacco use from our society. I believe that this comprehensive new Bill, which I expect to be published by June of this year, and the putting in place of the Tobacco Research Centre, will enhance our proud tradition of world leadership in this field and we are determined that Ireland will continue in this role” said the Minister.