The Department of Health’s analysis of the impact of forcing cigarette companies to use plain packaging was a box-ticking exercise that breached the Government’s own analysis guidelines, the country’s biggest tobacco company has claimed.
JTI Ireland, whose brands include Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut, said the department’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) was begun too late and only published after Oireachtas debate on the proposed laws started.
The company also complained the two-week public consultation period fell far short of the 12 weeks recommended for best practice, and it said the analysis failed to examine alternatives to legislation.
Igor Dzaja, JTI Ireland general manager, said repeated calls for the RIA to be carried out and published in advance of Oireachtas debate had been ignored.
“Its absence meant that the Government’s decision to publish a bill and debate in the Dáil and Seanad took place in the absence of fundamental information,” he said.
“When the RIA did appear, it was apparent that it had been produced to support a policy decision that had already been taken.
“In reality the RIA was no more than a box-ticking exercise in order to give the impression of some level of regulatory process,” he said.
He called for Dáil debate on the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill to be suspended until a fresh RIA and public consultation process was completed.
Mr Dzaja made his remarks while publishing a consultants’ report commissioned by JTI Ireland which found the RIA process was “fundamentally flawed”.
Under the plain packaging proposal, brand logos could not appear on cigarette boxes, brand names would be small, plain lettering and the bulk of the packet would be taken up with health warnings.
The tobacco industry has warned the move will not curb the demand for tobacco products but will push more buyers towards illegal imports.
The Department of Health is preparing a response to issues raised by several EU member states about the proposal.
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