Press Release

Minister calls for EU support for Australia in battle with tobacco industry

On the eve of World Tobacco Day, the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD, said “We must continue our efforts to move towards a society that is tobacco free, not just in Ireland but in the EU and across the world. Tobacco products will eventually kill up to half the people who use them – that’s six million people across the world, including 700,000 Europeans, every year.”

The Minister was speaking at an Irish Cancer Society conference, where he received a standing ovation on his arrival. “Last December, Australia introduced plain packaging for tobacco products”, the Minister continued. “The tobacco industry unsuccessfully challenged that legislation in the Australian courts but now it is being challenged by a number of countries through the World Trade Organisation. I have sought that the EU Commission discusses this issue at its next meeting and formally supports Australia.”

“I am proud that we have commenced the process of introducing plain packaging of tobacco products in Ireland”, the Minister added, having secured Government approval to draft the necessary legislation last Tuesday. “As we mark World No Tobacco Day tomorrow with its theme of “Ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship”, I am confident that this legislation will be justified and supported purely by the fact that it will save lives, in particular the lives of children.”

The Minister reiterated the enormous burden of illness and mortality smoking places 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. Given that 78% of smokers in a survey said they started smoking under the age of 18, it’s clear that it is children who are falling victim to this deadly product.

Ireland has been to the fore in Europe in the measures it has taken to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. It was the first country in the EU to ban point of sale advertising of tobacco products in shops. “The announcement this week is simply the next appropriate and essential step in this process” the Minister said. “But this is only one of a number of measures required to bring about a tobacco free society. I will be outlining those other measures in a tobacco policy, which I intend to publish shortly.