Ireland bans branded cigarette packets

Ireland has become the first European country to order a ban on branded cigarette packets.

Following the example set by Australia and New Zealand, big tobacco companies will be forced to use standardised packaging and carry harrowing-looking health warnings and images on the boxes and pouches.

If enacted, the new laws will remove all logos, trademarks, colours, designs and graphics except for the make or name of the product which will be in a uniform typeface on a plain background.

The Department of Health said the objective - which is expected to be fiercely contested in the courts by tobacco firms - is to make packets look less attractive, to make health warnings more prominent and to reduce the risk that people, especially children, will be misled about the harmful effects of smoking.

Health Minister James Reilly said the tobacco industry invests heavily in pack design to sell their products.

“Given all we know about the dangers of smoking, it is not acceptable to allow the tobacco industry to use deceptive marketing gimmicks to lure our children into this deadly addiction and to deceive current smokers about the impact of their addiction,” Dr Reilly said.

“The introduction of standardised packaging will remove the final way for tobacco companies to promote their deadly product in Ireland. Cigarette packets will no longer be a mobile advertisement for the tobacco industry.”

The Cabinet approved the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 at its weekly meeting.

“This represents a significant step forward in our tobacco control policy and our goal of being a smoke free country by 2025,” Dr Reilly added.

Australia introduced plain, non-branded packaging rules in November 2011 and the proposed legislation in New Zealand is going through parliament.

Other European states are understood to be examining similar legislation with plans announced in April in Britain for a consultation on the use of plain packets on shop shelves within a year. Some MPs have since hit out at the proposal.

Approximately 5,200 Irish people die each year from diseases caused by smoking - with one in two of all smokers dying as a result of their addiction.

To maintain smoking rates, it is estimated that the tobacco industry needs to recruit 50 new smokers every day and in Ireland the age of those taking up the habit is the youngest in Europe – 16.

Dealing with smoking-related disease costs the country’s health sector more than €650m a year.

Dr Reilly added: “There is a wealth of international evidence on the effects of tobacco packaging in general and on perceptions and reactions to standardised packaging which support the introduction of this measure. I am confident that the legislation will be supported and justified on public health grounds and by the fact that it will contribute to reducing the number of lives lost by smoking tobacco products.”

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