Ireland becomes first EU country to introduce plain packaging legislation

June 10, 2014

The Minister for Health, James Reilly, T.D. announced today 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.

Source: Irish Department of Health (June 10, 2014)