Tobacco advertising - What took us so long?

A ban on the advertising of tobacco in retail shops comes into effect today. Cigarettes must henceforth be placed in closed plain containers behind the counter, while cigarette machines will have to be token operated within sight of the bar manager in pubs. They can no longer be hidden away in hallways or toilets.

The legislation, which is designed primarily to protect children, should be warmly welcomed. Similar legislation has already been enforced in Canada and Iceland.

Ireland is the first EU nation to ban the display of tobacco products. In some respects this country has taken a magnificent lead in dealing with tobacco, but it has been a long road. People should be asking why this latest move has taken so long?

When Charles Haughey moved against the advertising of tobacco as Minister for Health in the 1970s, he was strongly resisted, but the public warmly welcomed the legislation. Micheál Martin had to face down a vocal combination of tobacco interests and vintners in introducing the smoking ban, but again the move was broadly welcomed.

The latest initiative has been anticipated since the smoking ban was introduced in 2002, but it was challenged by the tobacco industry until January of this year. It was a great pity that commercial interests acting without regard to the health of children or others should have been allowed to delay the legislation for so long.

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