Reilly wants price hikes to ‘de-normalise’ smoking

Health Minister James Reilly says he wants the cost of tobacco to be increased in next week’s budget and in every other budget over the remaining lifetime of the Government.

He believes fewer people would smoke if they knew there would be substantial increases every year.

Dr Reilly was speaking in Dublin yesterday at the launch of Tobacco Free Ireland, a document that contains more than 60 recommendations aimed at reducing the current number of smokers, from more than one in five to fewer than one in 20.

He admitted that making Ireland tobacco-free in 12 years was an extraordinary challenge but insisted that smoking had to be “de-normalised” for the sake of the country’s children.

“We are determined to protect the next generation of children from this scourge that is killing 5,200 people every year in this country,” he said.

Dr Reilly said legislation for the introduction of plain packaging was being carefully prepared.

Last May, Dr Reilly announced that Ireland would become the second country in the world, after Australia, to remove branding from tobacco product packaging.

Dr Reilly said tobacco companies would find try to find loopholes, however.

He wanted cigarette firms to try to defend themselves at a meeting of the Oireachtas health committee that will receive the heads of the bill soon.

“We are not anti-smoker, we are anti-smoking, and we want to help anyone who has become addicted to get off this product before it does kill them,” he said.

Dr Reilly, whose father and brother died from smoking-related illnesses, said educating children about the dangers of tobacco was one of the key ways to stamp out the habit.

However, the Irish Cancer Society has warned that there is a danger that the action plan for a tobacco-free Ireland could become diluted if it was not adequately resourced.

Smokers’ group Forest Éireann claimed it was morally wrong to de-normalise smoking because it stigmatised consumers and ran the risk of driving more people to buy tobacco on the black market.

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