Opposition mounts against Ireland’s tobacco brand ban

Opposition is mounting to Ireland’s plans to outlaw tobacco branding after the foreign affairs minister was given a letter last week in Washington from 71 organisations criticising the move.

A formal complaint has also been lodged by the US Chamber of Commerce with Brussels claiming that the impact of plain packaging on Ireland’s economy will be “significant”.

Trade Minister Charlie Flanagan was given the letter at a US breakfast meeting from the global businesses, chambers of commerce, and industry groups warning the plan was against international legal agreements.

The letters, seen by the Irish Examiner, also include a formal complaint by the US Chamber of Commerce in which it claims “the impact on the economy of Ireland could also be significant”.

This would occur if the measure failed to “safeguard intellectual property rights through the improper destruction of registered marks”, according to the letter to the European Commission.

US businesses go as far as to claim that the Irish ban will have unintended consequences for smoking here. “These include the dangers of increased smoking rates due to competition through pricing in the legal market and an influx of illicit and counterfeit tobacco products as described above,” say the letters.

The comments come as Health Minister Leo Varadkar faces renewed pressure to scrap his predecessor’s plans to outlaw branding on cigarette packets and tobacco products.

A series of letters obtained by the Irish Examiner show growing opposition to the ban not only from businesses and groups here and in Europe but as far afield as from Canada, the US, Indonesia, and even Mongolia.

Dozens of letters have been sent in recent months to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has passed many on to Mr Varadkar.

While Mr Kenny and ministers face huge pressure to scrap the plans, there has also been support for the move.

Anti-smoking and health groups in Scotland, Norway, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Asia have written to support the ban.

The Dáil will continue to debate the packaging plans this term while the new laws await approval from the European Commission and World Trade Organisation.


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