Forcing tobacco companies to use generic packaging will not make it easier for the illicit trade in counterfeit cigarettes to prosper, Health Minister James Reilly has insisted.
Ireland is to become the second country in the world after Australia to introduce plain packages for cigarettes.
Dr Reilly said yesterday that he got Government approval to introduce the new packs and hoped to have the legislation enacted next year.
While many arguments would be made against the move, he said, he was confident the legislation was justified. “Smoking places an enormous burden of illness and mortality on our society, with over 5,200 people dying every year from tobacco-related diseases,” he said.
The Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee, however, said the move would make it easier for criminals to reproduce counterfeit packs, saving them time and resources.
“I don’t believe it will have any effect on smuggling,” Dr Reilly said. “In fact, there is no research to show that. None.”
He said he sought Government approval for plain packages because of the suffering he had seen when he worked as a GP. He was also been personally affected, his brother dying of lung cancer.
“I lost a brother who was a doctor and who understood fully what cigarettes did, but was so addicted he couldn’t give them up,” said Dr Reilly.
His late father also smoked. “My father was prematurely blind as a result of a stroke and spent the last 14 years of his life without his sight,” he said.
He made the announcement ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Friday.
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