Global support for Irish bid to ban tobacco branding

The Coalition move to ban tobacco branding has been praised by health groups across the globe, in the face of increasing opposition to the radical anti-smoking plan.

Documents released under Freedom of Information reveal the extent to which groups are lobbying Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Under the plan, cigarette packs will be plain or neutral in colour, except for mandatory health warnings. Health groups say this will reduce rates of smoking.

Brazil-based Alliance for the Control of Tobacco Use congratulated the Coalition. Minister for Children James Reilly, who in health initiated the move, was “a key international figure in the fight against the harms caused by tobacco”, it said.

ACT director Paula Johns said the Irish move would help the “national debate in Brazil for the adoption of plain packaging, which in our case, is one of the last bastions for tobacco advertising”.

The Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control said the plan would have ramifications beyond Irish shores.

“Low and middle income countries... are unlikely to feel or be able to introduce standard packaging until other jurisdictions who have pioneered and established the precedent,” it said.

This was because poorer nations lacked resources to withstand tobacco industry opposition, said the Hong Kong-based group’s director Judith Mackay.

Smokefree Coalition in New Zealand told Mr Kenny of its praise for the ban as that country looks at similar plans. Switzerland’s Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control also praised the Irish ban.

Australia’s Heart Foundation wrote to Mr Kenny saying the ban would significantly benefit public health. Initial results from Australia suggest a branding ban there has reduced smoking rates by 15% in recent years.

Campaigners ASH Scotland also praised the Irish move, saying: “We hope that it will encourage the Westminster government to move ahead with its own implementation.”

However, businesses, US and German politicians, lawyers and groups lobbying for tobacco firms, are stepping up their opposition to the plan.

Retailers Against Plain Packaging, with hundreds of members, said the ban would “pose a significant danger to our businesses”.

There would be a rise in the illicit trade in tobacco, it said: “This in turn will lead to hugely increased revenues for criminals, with Government losing out on hundreds of millions of euros in Vat and excise,” wrote the group’s Joe Sweeney.

“Plain packaging will be a counterfeiter’s dream.”

The ban could see retailers lose 14.3m transactions and some €14m in taxes would also be lost to the State, claimed retailers.

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