A graphic pictorial to discourage smoking will from this year take up more than half of cigarette packages sold in Ireland. Plain packaging, similar to that used in Australia, will today be given the final go-ahead from Europe, while variations including slim and menthol cigarettes, will be banned.
This afternoon, the European Parliament’s public health committee will reach an agreement on its new Tobacco Products Directive, which was finalised during the Irish presidency last year and is expected to be implemented in coming months.
Importantly, the directive also regulates the controversial sale of e-cigarettes for the first time.
Nessa Childers, independent MEP and a member of the Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee, said in response: ‘We all know that tobacco places a heavy burden on the taxpayer – including those who have never smoked a cigarette in their lives.
‘However, this directive will at least ensure that tobacco products look and taste like tobacco products and, more importantly, it will help to discourage young people from forming the habit in the first place.’
According to the Department of Health, more than 7,000 people die from smoking-related diseases annually – and, as Ms Childers highlights, these deaths are preventable. It is estimated that it costs the State €1billion annually to provide health services for smokers.
‘I have been actively involved in this directive and I am happy that it will escape further delay,’ Ms Childers added. ‘I have repeatedly spoken out against the influential tobacco industry, which consistently resists all reasonable reform, and against the watering down by Fine Gael of key provisions relating to the regulation and taxation of tobacco.’
E-cigarettes will soon have to be classified as a medicine, or will have to adhere to strict quality and safety standards and advertising bans. Child- and tamper-proof bottles that protect against breakages and leaks will also be required.
‘Although this a huge victory against the tobacco industry, Ireland and the other member states have to now ensure that the Directive is closely observed,’ Ms Childers concluded.
Almost a decade ago, Ireland implemented a ban on smoking in public places – an international first for what is now a widespread disease preventative measure among developed nations.