Ireland becomes the first country in the European Union to introduce legislation on plain packaging for tobacco products
The Minister for Health, James Reilly, T.D. announced today (Tuesday 10th June 2014) that the Government has approved the publication of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 and the presentation of the Bill in the Seanad.
“Ireland will be the first country in the European Union to introduce such legislation and the third country worldwide. Australia introduced plain packaging legislation in November 2011 and the New Zealand Bill had its first reading in Parliament on 11th February this year. I understand that other EU countries are also considering such legislation” said the Minister. “This represents a significant step forward in our tobacco control policy and our goal of being a smoke free country by 2025”.
If enacted the Bill approved today will control the design and appearance of tobacco products. It will remove all forms of branding including trademarks, logo, colours and graphics from packs, except for the brand and variant name which will be presented in a uniform typeface. The objective of the Bill is to make tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers, to make health warnings more prominent and to reduce the ability of the packs to mislead people, especially children about the harmful effects of smoking.
“One of my key goals as Minister for Health is to prevent our children and young people from starting to smoke. Approximately 5,200 Irish people die each year from diseases caused by smoking. These are all preventable, avoidable deaths” said the Minister. “Given all we know about the dangers of smoking, it is not acceptable to allow the tobacco industry to use deceptive marketing gimmicks to lure our children into this deadly addiction and to deceive current smokers about the impact of their addiction. The introduction of standardised packaging will remove the final way for tobacco companies to promote their deadly product in Ireland. Cigarette packets will no longer be a mobile advertisement for the tobacco industry”.
The tobacco industry has invested heavily in pack design in order to communicate specific messages to specific groups. This Bill will take away one of the industry’s means of promoting tobacco as a desirable product. As the majority of smokers start when they are children, packaging elements are, by definition, directed mainly at young people. The reality is that 1 in every 2 children who smoke will become a smoker and for those who become addicted 1 in every 2 of them will die of a tobacco related disease. The consequences for them, their families and the health services are enormous.
“There is a wealth of international evidence on the effects of tobacco packaging in general and on perceptions and reactions to standardised packaging which support the introduction of this measure. I am confident that the legislation will be supported and justified on public health grounds and by the fact that it will contribute to reducing the number of lives lost by smoking tobacco products. ’ Minister Reilly concluded.
Note for Editors
Smoking places an enormous burden of illness and mortality on our society with over 5,200 people dying every year from tobacco related diseases – one in two of all smokers will die from their addiction.
Standardised packaging of tobacco products will remove all forms of branding – trademarks, logos, colours and graphics. The brand name would be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands and the packs would all be in one plain neutral colour. Ireland’s standardised packaging will have graphic warnings and text selected from library of graphic images and warnings developed by the European Commission for Member States.
There is strong evidence that standardised packaging will increase the effectiveness of health warnings, reduce false health beliefs about cigarettes and reduce brand appeal particularly among youth and young adults.
Government policy in relation to smoking is to promote and subsequently move toward a tobacco free society. Standardised packaging is one of a number of measures which will be implemented in order to reduce smoking in our society. Education and awareness, cessation services and extending the smoking ban to other areas are some of the other measures which are being progressed.
These measures are set out in the policy document ‘Tobacco Free Ireland’ which was launched by Minister Reilly in October 2013. The two key themes underpinning Tobacco Free Ireland are protecting children and the denormalisation of smoking. It sets a target for Ireland being tobacco free (i.e. with a smoking prevalence rate of less than 5%) by 2025.
To maintain smoking rates at their current levels, the tobacco industry needs to recruit 50 new smokers every day. The industry is targeting children to achieve this. Ireland’s smokers start smoking at the youngest age in Europe – just 16 years old. Smoking costs the Health sector in excess of €650 million per annum.
When standardised packaging was introduced in Australia, so many smokers complained that the cigarettes now tasted differently the tobacco industry was forced to issue a statement denying that they had changed the ingredients.
Research from Australia shows that when smoking cigarettes from a plain pack, smokers are:
- 81% more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day and rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives.
- 70% more likely to say they found them less satisfying.
- 66% more likely to think their cigarettes are of poorer quality
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Imperial Tobacco UK Chief Executive Officer, Alison Cooper, conceded in April of 2013 a reduction in the market since the introduction of plain packaging. CEO Cooper said the following “As I’m looking at Asia Pacific, I should also mention Australia, we’ve had the first six months of the plain pack environment in Australia. We’ve seen the market decline roughly 2% to 3%, so maybe not as bad as we might have anticipated.”