Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014

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Seanad Éireann 

Second Stage Speech by Minister for Health Dr James Reilly TD

I move that this Bill be read a second time.


“We don’t believe it’s ever been established that smoking is the cause of disease”

“I’m unclear in my own mind whether anyone dies of cigarette smoking related diseases”

“I do not believe that nicotine is addictive”

These statements were made, under oath, by, respectively, the vice-president of the Tobacco Institute, Murray Walker, the chairman of Philip Morris, Geoffrey Bible, and the chief executive of Brown and Williamson, Thomas Sandefur, as recently as 1994 and 1998.

The tobacco industry has a dark track record of hiding the truth to protect its profits. Don’t expect it to change now.

Its internal documents clearly show its own scientists were warning that smoking causes cancer since the early 1950s and that smoking is addictive since the early 1960s. For five decades, the industry deliberately concealed these facts in an attempt to deceive governments and the public of the dangers of smoking.

Now, they are using bogus arguments about illicit trade to terrify responsible retailers into opposing this legislation. I believe their arguments today remain as bogus and as dishonest as they have been for the past five decades.

The consequence of this legislation is clear: It will protect our children from marketing gimmicks that trap them into a killer addiction. If the tobacco industry did not addict our children, their industry would disappear within a generation. To replace the smokers who quit, the tobacco industry needs to recruit fifty new smokers in Ireland every day just to maintain smoking rates at their current level. Given that 78% of smokers in a survey said they started smoking under the age of 18, it’s clear that our children are targeted to replace those customers who die or quit.

Research has shown that, when consuming cigarettes from the standardised packs:

  •     Smokers are 66% more likely to think their cigarettes are of poorer quality
  •     Smokers are 70% more likely to say they found them less satisfying
  •     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.

It will regulate the appearance of tobacco packaging and products.  The aim is to:

  • make all 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 Bill will also implement some aspects of the newly adopted Tobacco Products Directive of the European Union.  It will give effect to Ireland’s obligations under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

So what is standardised packaging?  It means that all forms of branding – trademarks, logos, colours and graphics – would 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.

Overview of the Bill

I will now take you through the Bill section by section to clarify its provisions.

The Bill is divided into four parts.

The first part of the Bill deals with Preliminary and General Provisions and covers Sections 1 to 6.

Section 1 of the Bill makes standard provisions setting out the short title of the Bill, the collective citation for the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts and arrangements for its commencement.

Section 2 deals with the interpretation of the Bill; it defines the meanings of some of the terms used for the purposes of the Bill.

Section 3 deals with Regulations, allowing the Minister for Health to make regulations to bring the legislation into operation.

Section 4 is a standard provision dealing with expenses.

Section 5 clarifies that nothing in the Bill operates to prohibit the registration of a trade mark, or will be grounds for the revocation of the registration of a trade mark. It also makes clear that nothing in the Bill will affect the law in relation to tax stamps.

Section 6 makes transitional provisions which will allow retailers and manufacturers time to comply with the new measures. Current packets may be manufactured until May 2016, and there will then be a one year period to sell outstanding stocks. Non-compliant retail packaging may not be manufactured from May 2016, and may not be sold after May 2017.

Part 2 of the Bill deals with the Retail Packaging and Presentation of Tobacco Products and covers Sections 7 to 14.

Section 7 sets out the requirements for the retail packaging of cigarette packets. The Bill specifies that cigarette packets must be a prescribed matt colour on the outside and inside, not have any decorative features such as ridges or embossing, no coloured adhesives, and may not have any marks or trademarks, other than a bar code or similar identification mark. Packets may not have anything inserted or affixed to them, apart from items prescribed by law. The colour and decorative feature provisions will not apply to the health warnings that must be printed on packaging, or to other items prescribed by law.

The Bill allows for the brand or company or business name and a variant name to be printed on the packet, but regulations will set the font type, size, colour and positioning of these. The wrapper must be transparent, not coloured and not have any decorative features, marks or trademarks, or affixed items apart from those provided for by law. It may have a tear-strip, which will be prescribed for in regulations.

These provisions will apply to retail packaging of all cigarettes intended for retail sale in the State.

This section also transposes provisions of the 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive which must be applied to those products for sale in the EU namely: that the cigarette packet must be cuboid in shape, although it may have rounded or bevelled edges; it must be made of carton or soft material; and may only have a flip top or shoulder box hinged lid.

Section 8 lays down the requirements for the appearance of cigarettes. These must be white, with a white or imitation cork tip. They may have a brand or business or company name and a variant name printed on them, but in accordance with regulations which will set the colour, font, size, positioning and appearance. It will be an offence to manufacture, import or sell non-compliant cigarettes. These provisions will apply to all cigarettes intended for retail sale in the State.

Section 9 provides the specifications for the appearance of roll-your-own tobacco packets. These are similar to the requirements for retail packaging of cigarettes.  These provisions will apply to retail packaging of all roll-your-own intended for retail sale in the State.

This section differs from Section 7, however, in that it allows a unit package of roll-your-own tobacco to be either cuboid in shape (similar to a cigarette packet), or cylindrical, or in the form of a pouch. As before, these provisions were included as they transpose parts of the 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive and therefore must be applied to packaging of all cigarettes for sale in the EU.

This section also sets out how the brand or business or company name and variant name is to be printed on different shaped packs. They must be printed in a colour, font, size, etc., to be laid out in regulations.

Section 10 provides for the specifications for the retail packaging of tobacco products other than roll-your-own tobacco and cigarettes, for example, pipe tobacco and cigars. It contains the same features as Sections 7 and 9, pertaining to colour, decorative features and so on, and allows for cuboid and other shaped packets.

Section 11 deals with the linings of unit packets of tobacco products, and provides that where a lining is present it shall be of a prescribed colour and material.

Section 12 provides that the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide content shall not be printed on any form of retail packaging of tobacco products. As this is again, transposing part of the 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive, it applies to all tobacco products for sale in the EU.

Section 13 deals with the general appearance of tobacco products, and again transposes in part the 2014 EU Tobacco Products Directive. As before, it therefore must be applied to packaging of all cigarettes for sale in the EU.  It is an offence to manufacture, import or sell tobacco products that do not comply with Section 13.

Section 14 prohibits sound effects and scents, and features that alter the appearance after sale.

The 3rd Part of the Bill sets out the Offences, Proceedings and Penalties, and covers Sections 15 to 19.

Section 15 sets out the offences under the legislation. It will be an offence to package, manufacture, import or sell tobacco products which do not comply with sections 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 or 14. However, the Bill provides for a defence, if a person can show that he/she made all reasonable efforts to comply with the legislation.

Under Section 16 there are 3 types of penalties for offences under the Act. For a first offence, a person may be liable to a Class B fine, or 6 months imprisonment, or both. For subsequent offences, a person may be liable for a Class A fine, or 12 months imprisonment, or both; or on conviction on indictment, to a fine or 8 years imprisonment, or both. A person convicted of an offence may also be ordered to cover the prosecution costs and expenses.

Section 17 sets out provisions relating to offences committed by bodies corporate and their directors, managers or officers.

Section 18 states that proceedings under the Act may be brought and prosecuted by the Health Service Executive.

Section 19 sets out provisions relating to evidence brought before proceedings. It states that tobacco products or packaging bearing a name or trademark of an importer or manufacturer will be used as evidence that the products were manufactured or imported or packaged by that person ,unless the contrary is proved.

Part Four of the Bill deals with Miscellaneous matters.

Section 20 amends Section 5A of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts. The legislation will now provide that if a person registered to sell tobacco under the Section 37 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts is found guilty of an offence under the current legislation, then they can be removed from the register for a specified period.

Section 21 amends Section 37 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts. Section 37 will now take the current legislation and any offences committed under it into consideration when a person is applying for registration for the sale of tobacco products.

And finally Section 22 amends Section 48 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, as amended. Section 48 will now provide the Health Service Executive with the necessary powers to enforce the current legislation.

This is a killer product. It kills 5,200 Irish citizens every year and 700,000 European citizens a year. It will kill one in two of our children who are seduced by its packaging and their gimmicks. We cannot, must not and will not allow that to happen.

I commend the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 to the House.

Thank you.

Concluding Remarks

I would like to thank the Senators for their views and comments this evening.

Let us remember why we are here this evening.

Ireland has been at the fore in relation to tobacco control measures.  We can be proud that the measures we have introduced to date are working.  There has been a decrease in the number of people smoking. The most recent figures we have indicate that 21.5% of Irish adults smoke. In 1998 this figure was 33%.  Data on school-aged children also indicates a clear downward trend.  However, we cannot be complacent.

To achieve the target set out in Tobacco Free Ireland, a lot of work needs to be undertaken.  This includes on-going development of educational initiatives, media campaigns, and cessation services.  It includes further legislative initiatives like the smoking in cars legislation developed by Senators of this House, which I hope to initiate in the Dail in the very near future.

To those that argue that standardised packaging won’t reduce smoking prevalence I say it won’t in isolation.  But this measure together with all the other measures, past and future, is and will have the impact of reducing those numbers as well as denormalising how society views tobacco and smoking.

We are not alone in this.  Australia has introduced standardised packaging;  the UK will be consulting in the near future on the introduction of legislation in this area;  New Zealand has started the legislative process for standardised packaging.  So the initiative is steadily being embraced globally.

There is a wealth of evidence to support the introduction of standardised packaging. In preparing this legislation, my Department commissioned an international expert in the field, Prof. David Hammond, to carry out an Evidence Review on Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products. The evidence review unequivocally found that tobacco packaging is a critically important form of tobacco promotion, particularly in countries like Ireland which have comprehensive advertising and marketing restrictions. The review outlined the strong evidence base in existence for this initiative.  While a legal challenge by the tobacco industry cannot be ruled out, I am confident that the research available to us demonstrates that standardised packaging will have a positive impact on health and is a proportionate and justified measure.

The threat of legal challenges should not be an obstacle to progressing public health policies. We must press on with our mission to make Ireland tobacco free by 2025.

To comply with our European and International obligations this Bill has been notified to the EU and the World Trade Organisation.

In closing, I wish to express again my gratitude to the Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children, Deputy Jerry Buttimer, and members of the Committee. The public hearings held by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children in February this year informed the composition of this Bill, and I would like to thank the Committee for its invaluable contribution to the issue, and for the assistance it provided to me and my officials.

I would also like to thank all my Cabinet colleagues again for their support in relation to this initiative.

I now commend the Bill to the House and look forward to working closely with my colleagues in the Seanad as we discuss this legislation in the House.

Thank you