Wednesday 13 December 2017

We're first in EU to ban branded tobacco packets

Cigarette packets
Cigarette packets

Ireland has become the first country in Europe to pass laws banning branded cigarette packets.

All tobacco products sold in Ireland will be in a standard dark-coloured wrapper emblazoned with large health warnings and images of disease.

Brand names will be small and use similar fonts on all packets in the marketing clampdown that is likely to be challenged in the courts, either here or under European rules.


Children's Minister James Reilly, who spearheaded the ban, said it was about protecting people and should be seen as a good day for the health of children.

"The interests of public health will be served when children decide never to take up smoking and if smokers are persuaded to quit," he said.

The UK is set to follow Ireland, with laws to be passed before the end of the month.

New Zealand is also progressing similar laws while France, Finland and Norway have indicated they will go down the same path.

Irish anti-smoking campaigners and the Government say the ban will remove one of the most powerful marketing tools of big tobacco firms, but it is facing a legal challenge over claims it infringes free movement of goods across the EU.

Up to 10 EU countries are understood to have complained over Ireland's branding ban.

Anti-smoking group Ash Ireland said the ban was vital health legislation in a country where about 800,000 people smoke - a rate of about 22pc.

Ash spokesman Ross Morgan said the Government and all politicians should be complimented for pushing ahead with the ban despite threats of lawsuits.

"We would also expect that should the industry mount a legal challenge on any aspect of this health legislation it will be vigorously contested," he said.

More than 5,200 people die in Ireland each year from the effects of smoking and more than €1bn is spent by the health services every year treating tobacco-related disease.

The Revenue said it took in €984m in excise duty and an estimated €309m from VAT from tobacco sold over the counter in Ireland last year, a total of €1.3bn.

Ireland introduced a workplace smoking ban 11 years ago this month, making it illegal to smoke in bars and restaurants. It was the first country in the world to do so.

President Michael D Higgins will formally sign the legislation into law at a date to be confirmed.


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