Speeches

Mr. Ivor Callely, T.D., Minister of State, addresses a meeting of the Council of the European Union (Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs)

I am delighted to have this opportunity to address this meeting with regard to the preparations which the Commission and Presidency are making for the next round of negotiations for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Geneva on October 14.

These negotiations will play a key role in the development of a comprehensive and effective tobacco control strategy in Europe. Many countries outside the EU look to the Community to provide strong leadership in this vital area of public health.

As a Health Minister I am only to well aware of the terrible impact of tobacco consumption on the health and well being of the citizens of the European Community with 500,000 deaths each year from tobacco related disease. Tobacco consumption is a significant burden to individuals, families and society through death, illness and medical costs.

The Framework Convention established by the World Health Organisation gives us an invaluable opportunity to deal comprehensively with the tobacco epidemic and I would like to pay tribute to the WHO for its efforts in advancing the process so far.

One of the key instruments which the tobacco industry use to attract and initiate young persons to experiment with tobacco products is advertising. The ability to attract young smokers to their brands is the financial lifeblood of the tobacco industry. That is why we must proceed as quickly as possible to deny the tobacco industry access to young persons and to new youth markets in the developing countries.

The longer advertising continues the more young people will become addicted to tobacco products leading to illness and premature death. The facts are quite stark, increased sales and profits for the tobacco industry means more addiction, ill health and death, a successful public health initiative in this area will reduce sales, prevent young persons from becoming addicted and lead to significant improvements in health in the community.

Many EU countries including Ireland have made much progress in prohibiting and restricting tobacco advertising and it is important that this be reflected at the Geneva negotiations. The Danish Presidency has worked hard to try to get agreement on a common position on this vital issue and we must continue to support their efforts to achieve this. What we cannot have is silence from the Community on the issue of eliminating tobacco advertising.