March 3rd 2015 marked a key moment in the history of our country’s health sector as Ireland became the first country in Europe and only the second in the world to introduce plain packaging laws for tobacco products as The Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 passed through the final stage of the Oireachtas yesterday.
What exactly does this mean will happen to the average packet of cigarettes? According to the Bill, a cigarette packet shall — (a) in respect of the outer surface thereof, be of a prescribed colour with a matt finish; (b) in respect of the inner surface thereof, be of a prescribed colour; (c) not bear a mark or trade mark; (d) not have any decorative ridges, embossing or other embellishments on the outer surface thereof; (e) not contain an adhesive that is coloured or non-transparent; (f) not contain any inserted items or affixed items other than as provided for by law.
The tobacco industry, including Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and British American Tobacco (owners of PJ Carroll), are now expected to challenge the passing of the Bill in the courts. However, having already done so in Australia when the same law was passed, where they failed spectacularly, it remains to be seen whether they will fight as vigorously as before.
A statement from an alliance of health & children’s charities, which includes the Irish Cancer Society, The ISPCC, Barnardos and more said; “Fewer children will take up smoking as a result of legislation introducing plain packaging of tobacco. Big tobacco has deep pockets and is not afraid to spend it on legal firms. But children’s rights trump the rights of an industry that causes 5,200 deaths every year in Ireland. Plain packaging works and that’s why tobacco companies are fighting it tooth and nail. The group of health and children’s charities are confident that any challenge to plain packaging by the tobacco industry will ultimately fail.” Meanwhile, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs James Reilly said the measure would “protect children from ever taking up cigarettes.”