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Ireland

Plain cigarette packaging laws come into effect today in Ireland

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Call for increased resources to tackle tobacco smuggling

An organisation which represents more than 3,000 retailers is demanding that the Government provides increased resources to Customs units to crack down on cigarette smuggling, and also support a bill which provides on-the-spot fines for those who purchase illicit tobacco, alcohol, and solid fuel.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/call-for-increased-resources-to-tackle-tobacco-smuggling-457886.html

Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS), representing small and medium-sized retailers nationwide, says the Government should not increase excise on tobacco products in the forthcoming budget, as it would only lead to further smuggling.

RAS spokesman Benny Gilsenan, who runs a shop in Dublin, also urged the Government to support a Fianna Fáil-proposed Sale of Illicit Goods Bill which provides for on-the-spot fines for purchasers of illicit products.

He said that, with Brexit looming, the Government has to provide increasing resources to the Revenue Commissioners to tackle the potential for even more cross-border alcohol, tobacco, and solid fuel smuggling.

It is estimated, by Grant Thornton, the illicit trade in tobacco products cost the Irish exchequer €2.4bn in lost revenue between 2010 and 2015.

A standard pack of cigarettes in a legitimate shop costs around €11.50, whereas a smuggled pack costs approximately €5 to the buyer.

Ireland is 189% more expensive for tobacco products than the average European price, and 175% higher for alcohol.

Legitimate cigarettes in some parts of Europe can be bought for as little €3 a pack, even with excise duty in the country of origin paid.

However, major smugglers have been turning to fake cigarettes, known as illegal whites, which are made in sweatshops in Asia, Eastern Europe, and the United Arab Emirates.

The packets come with fictional brand names such as Excellence, Palace, President, CK, Gin, Ling, and M&G and cost as little as 20c a packet to manufacture.

They have been found to contain asbestos, lead, arsenic, traces of rat poison, and human excrement.

“The Revenue Commissioners stated in the recent Tax Strategy Group papers that we must ‘remain vigilant that reductions [of seizures] may be due to changes in smuggling activity’,” said Mr Gilsenan.

“This is a great concern to retailers, especially as Minister [Simon] Coveney recently warned of the increased danger of smuggling with an unresolved border situation.”

He pointed out that the legitimate trade of alcohol, tobacco, and solid fuel accounts for up to 50% of a retailer’s business turnover.

“The ever-increasing excise applied to tobacco products is undermining our ability to do business whilst making life considerably easier for criminal engaged in smuggling,” he added.

The Sale of Illicit Goods Bill proposed by Deputy Declan Breathnach provides for on-the-spot fines.

World No Tobacco Day: Poor almost three times more likely to smoke

360,000 NI residents still estimated to smoke, with men more likely to light up

http://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/health/world-no-tobacco-day-poor-13117577

People in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland are almost three times more likely to smoke than their better off counterparts according to the Public Health Authority NI.

Considered by the World Health Organisation to be a blight on health, the environment and household income, the international health organisation also revealed today – on World No Tobacco Day – that globally, there are 226million adult tobacco users living in poverty.

And in low income countries over 10% of a smoker’s budget can be spent on tobacco products, meaning less money for food, education and health care.

“Tobacco use hits the poorest people the hardest and exacerbates poverty,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO.

“Spending on tobacco products often represents more than 10% of total household income.

“(It) is a deadly product that kills more than 7million people every year, and costs the global economy more than $1.4trillion annually in healthcare expenditure and lost productivity.”

“In addition to posing a serious threat to health,” she added, “tobacco use also threatens development in every country on every level and across many sectors – economic growth, health, education, poverty and the environment – with women and children bearing the brunt of the consequences.”

Closer to home, the Public Health Authority said it is currently estimated that around 320,000 people aged 16 and over smoke in Northern Ireland, with men (23%) slightly more likely to light up than women (21%).

But, in line with global trends, they said there is also a strong link between smoking prevalence and deprivation here, while those in manual occupations are three times more likely to smoke than professionals.

The 2015/16 Health Survey NI found that 36% of respondents in the most deprived areas used tobacco, but this figure is just 13% among the more well off.

And while the number of smokers is falling, with 80% of those who still do forgoing the addiction in their homes and cars, there is still more work to be done.

“Protecting people from tobacco smoke is a key objective set out in the Ten Year Tobacco Strategy for Northern Ireland,” said Colette Rogers, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement from the Public Health Agency.

“Therefore, the Public Health Agency would welcome a ban on smoking in cars as a means of protecting young people from exposure to second-hand smoke, improving people’s health and helping to reduce the uptake of smoking in Northern Ireland.

“Smoking remains the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland so we urge smokers to quit by seeking the help of their local stop smoking service.

“In Northern Ireland there are more than 650 free PHA-funded stop smoking services which are run by specially-trained staff who can advise on the best way to stop smoking.

“Services are offered in many community pharmacies, GP practices, HSC Trust premises, and community and voluntary organisations, and can be set up in workplaces.”

Big Tobacco is losing the fight to stop plain packaging of cigarettes

Dr Enrico Bonadio, a Senior Lecturer in the City Law School, says the tobacco industry’s bid to avoid plain packaging by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights, is being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

https://www.city.ac.uk/news/2017/may/big-tobacco-is-losing-the-fight-to-stop-plain-packaging-of-cigarettes

You may already have seen the tobacco packs currently sold in the UK: a dark, murky green colour with large graphic health-warning images and scary messages aimed at informing current and potential smokers about the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption. They have no colourful logos, with the brand name just displayed in small characters in a standard font.

These packs are now required by new regulations which entered into force in May 2016. There has been a one-year transitional period for the sell-through of old stock – and from May 20 2017 all tobacco products on sale in the UK must comply with the new rules.

The legislative move has been recommended to all countries by the World Health Organisation to reduce the attractiveness of smoking and eventually reduce consumption. Australia was the first country to introduce such strict packaging requirements in December 2012. France and, of course, the UK have since followed suit.

It follows significant research that shows these new standardised cigarette packs are much less appealing to consumers – and young people especially.
The industry’s legal defeats

No wonder tobacco companies have challenged the measure in the courts. They have argued that it is useless, too harsh – and is an infringement of their fundamental and intellectual property rights, especially trademarks. Yet, their claims are based on weak arguments and have been rejected by both the High Court of England and Wales and the Court of Appeal.

The tobacco industry has faced numerous courtroom defeats of late. Last year Uruguay won a landmark case against the Swiss giant Philip Morris International. The company had sued the Latin American state after it introduced two measures affecting tobacco packaging and trademarks. These were mandatory graphic health warnings covering 80% of cigarette packets (a measure very close to plain packaging) and the obligation for tobacco companies to adopt a single presentation for their brands, dropping for example the “gold” and “blue” descriptors, that could lead smokers to believe one variant was safer than another.

The fact that the courts sided with Uruguay would have been encouraging to other countries aiming to introduce controls on tobacco packaging. And even greater encouragement came recently from a World Trade Organisation ruling which deemed that the plain packaging requirements introduced by Australia as compliant with international trade and intellectual property rules – and are therefore a legitimate public health measure.

The decision has not been officially announced, but a confidential draft of the interim ruling was leaked to the media and the final decision is expected later this year. The Australian measure had been challenged at the WTO tribunal by Cuba, Dominican Republic, Indonesia and Honduras, countries whose economies strongly rely on the tobacco industry.

A domino effect

This is a blow to the industry. The short-term consequences of the WTO ruling – Imperial Tobacco’s shares fell more than 2% after the decision was leaked – reflects the longer-term danger that this ruling poses. It will likely convince other states to introduce plain packaging legislation without fear of violating international trade and intellectual property laws. It basically gives them a green light by removing the regulatory chilling effect that such legal action has produced on countries that wanted to follow Australia’s example.

After all, more and more countries seem interested in adopting standardised packaging. As well as France and the UK, Ireland and Norway will introduce packaging restrictions later in 2017, and Hungary in 2018. Many other states are debating similar measures, including New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Slovenia, Belgium, Singapore and Thailand.

So, a legislative trend has started which aims to restrict the ability of tobacco manufacturers to make their products appealing to consumers by using eye-catching words, logos or ornamental features on the pack. And attempts by Big Tobacco to stop it by relying on legal arguments around trade and intellectual property rights are being systematically dismissed by courts around the world.

Ultimately, the industry needs to accept the fact that its ability to use fancy brands, especially on packaging, may be reduced by governments for public health reasons. Also that a company’s property rights are not absolute or untouchable. Not only does it not have enough legal basis – as has now been confirmed by several courts and tribunals – but it also disregards legitimate policies adopted by democratically elected governments.

Proposals to ban smoking in cars carrying children

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-38531586

Plans to ban smoking in private vehicles carrying children are to be discussed, the health minister has announced.

Michelle O’Neill said it was “inconceivable that we continue to allow children to be exposed to such harm”.

In February 2016, Assembly members voted in favour of introducing the ban.

Similar legislation came into force in England and Wales in October 2015 and in Scotland in December 2016.

In the Republic of Ireland, a ban took effect last year.

The consultation will run from 6 January 2017 to 3 March 2017.

The draft regulations propose that the existing legislation, as set out in the Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, will be extended so that it will be an offence to:

• Smoke in a private vehicle with someone under 18 present
• Fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle with someone under 18 present

‘Range of illnesses’

The minister said: “The health impact of exposure to second-hand smoke has long been recognised and indeed was the motivating factor behind the introduction of legislation to ban smoking in all indoor public and work places in 2007.”

The World Health Organisation recognises that second-hand smoke is a significant threat to health, particularly amongst children, who are more likely to suffer from range of illnesses.

The consultation will seek views on the proposed new offences, suggested exemptions and “views on how the new measures will be enforced”.

Ireland Strategic Investment Fund sells off shares in tobacco companies

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund has sold off its stakes in tobacco companies.

https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2016/1221/840516-isif-sells-off-tobacco-investments/

The ISIF held stakes in a number of tobacco firms including Altria and Philip Morris, a legacy from the global investment portfolio held by the the National Pension Reserve Fund before it was repurposed.

The latest annual report from the National Treasury Management Agency, which oversees the ISIF, puts a value of €1m on the stake in Altria and €1.2m on the Philip Morris shares as at the end of 2015.

The total value of equities held by the ISIF in its discretionary portfolio was €5.35 billion.

That portfolio is being being sold off gradually to support the ISIF’s mandate of investing to support economic activity and create jobs in Ireland.

The Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the divestment had been “a commercial decision” but one which was informed by Government policy on tobacco.

The ISIF also has a sustainability and responsible investment policy.

The Irish State has just sold its shares in big tobacco companies

It had been claimed that the investments made a ‘mockery’ of the State’s aim of a tobacco-free Ireland.

http://www.thejournal.ie/tobacco-investments-irish-government-2-3154386-Dec2016/

THE IRISH STATE’S sovereign wealth fund has just sold all of its shares in tobacco companies in a move to offload some of its ‘legacy investments’.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan announced today that the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (Isif) “has completed the sale of its remaining investments in tobacco manufacturing”.

Isif said its decision to sell off its legacy investments in tobacco manufacturing companies “is part of a wider review of the exclusion of categories of investment from the fund as a whole, which is due to be completed in early 2017″.

Isif recently told TheJournal.ie that, as of 30 September 2016, it had equity holdings in three tobacco companies with a value of €1.5 million. A spokesman for the NTMA said that the company also held €16.7 million in tobacco-related corporate bonds.

This is relatively small relative to Isif’s total investments. The organisation, which was established with remaining funds from the National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF), has a total fund of €7.9 billion and expects to have about €3 billion of that by the end of 2016.

The NTMA’s investments in the companies are made through fund managers, rather than the organisation actively selecting the firms or industries.

Ethical investment

Isif’s ethical investment policy for armaments is mainly influenced by its commitment to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, but this policy does not stop its funds going into the sector altogether.

Under the UN guidelines, Isif is required to carry out investments on an ‘active-ownership basis’, which means it does not have to rule out any companies as long as it works to improve their environmental, social and governance policies.

A law that would have banned Isif from investing in tobacco companies was recently floated in the Seanad by Fianna Fáil Seanad health spokesperson Dr Keith Swanick, who said that the state’s investments in tobacco companies “makes a complete mockery of the stated objectives of a tobacco free Ireland by 2025″.

The Department of Finance said that all of Isif’s investments since its establishment in December 2014, “comply with the fund’s sustainability and responsible investment policy, which sets out key principles for responsible investment”.

Tobacco control

Minister Noonan welcomed Isif’s decision, saying: “Ireland has earned a significant reputation as a leader in tobacco control and, as we know, tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable death in Ireland and throughout the world.

The legislation that established the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, provides that the fund’s investment strategy will be carried out in accordance with government policy. Today’s decision reinforces the government’s policy on tobacco.

He added: “Public policy is not fixed and can evolve, and the ongoing reviews by the Isif are opportunities to fine tune its investment approach in the light of relevant developments both nationally and internationally.”

This story was updated to include more information on the value of ISIF’s tobacco holding

Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on Fora.ie

Ireland’s investment body could be stopped investing in tobacco – but doesn’t invest very much in tobacco

The NTMA’s investments in the companies are made through fund managers.

http://www.thejournal.ie/tobacco-investment-ban-proposal-3107307-Nov2016/

A LAW HAS been proposed that would see Ireland’s Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) banned from investing in tobacco companies.

The proposal was floated by Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Health and Mental Health, Dr Keith Swanick.

Under questioning by the Seanad in October, Minister of State Eoghan Murphy confirmed that the taxpayer, through the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and ISIF has equity holdings in three separate tobacco companies.

Swanick says that situation cannot be allowed to continue.

His Public Health (Prohibition of Tobacco Investments) Bill 2016 would make it illegal for the continuation of investments such as these and would ensure that no further investment in tobacco companies can take place with taxpayer’s money.

“This is a shocking situation and it is not tenable for the Government to turn a blind eye to these investments in tobacco companies. It is incredible to believe that the state holds investment in tobacco companies and it makes a complete mockery of the stated objectives of a tobacco free Ireland by 2025, the cornerstone of ‘Tobacco Free Ireland’.”

However, just 0.02% of ISIF’s total assets are invested in tobacco firms and, a spokesperson told TheJournal.ie, they may not continue investing in them anyway.

“Historically, exclusion has not been part of ISIF’s Responsible Investment strategy – with the only exclusions from the Fund being mandated by legislation. To date, the Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Act (2008) is the only relevant legislation and the ISIF operates a prohibited securities list of 19 companies on this basis.

ISIF management and the NTMA Board’s Investment Committee are currently reviewing the Sustainability and Responsible Investment Policy to examine the potential of adding to the list of excluded investment categories. This process is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2017.

In relation to investment in tobacco companies, on the basis of preliminary and unaudited figures for end Quarter 3 2016 i.e. as at 30 September 2016 ISIF had equity holdings in three tobacco companies with a value of €1.5 million or 0.02% of its total assets.

The state also has small equity investments in international companies involved in the development of armaments, such as Canadian group Bombardier, French firms Thales and Boeing, and the US’s Airbus Group and United Technologies.

The NTMA’s investments in the companies are made through fund managers, rather than the organisation actively selecting the firms or industries.

Tobacco is not a normal product

http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/tobacco-is-not-a-normal-product-1.2875253

Sir, – I wish to respond to aletter from Forest Ireland

(November 17th).

Ireland is not a nanny state, as stated in the letter. On the contrary, it is an international leader in the fight against tobacco and nicotine addiction. Progressive legislation has been central to our success in reducing smoking prevalence by some 10 per cent in the past decade.

Tobacco is an addictive dangerous product that kills one in two of those who use it. This is not a normal product.

Regrettably, close to 6,000 of our citizens die annually because of smoking, and our health service spends well over a billion euro annually treating tobacco-related disease.

The only beneficiary from these dreadful statistics is the immensely profitable tobacco industry, which sponsors Forest UK, which is now linked to Forest Ireland. – Yours, etc,

Dr PATRICK DOORLEY,

Chairman,
ASH Ireland,
50 Ringsend Road,
Dublin 4

Plain packaging on cigarettes and tobacco due in May 2017

Health warnings with graphic images of health consequences to dominate packaging

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/oireachtas/plain-packaging-on-cigarettes-and-tobacco-due-in-may-2017-1.2816748

Plain packaging on cigarette and tobacco products will come into effect in Ireland in May next year, Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed in the Dáil.

The Government has been adamant it will introduce plain packaging despite threats from the tobacco industry of legal action and the loss of 87 jobs in Mullingar following the decision to close the Imperial Tobacco manufacturing plant.

Health warnings with graphic images of the consequences of smoking will feature predominantly on packaging.

Mr Harris was speaking as he introduced the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill – an amalgam of measures to amend four pieces of legislation relating to different aspects of health.

The Bill amends six sections of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 relating to the regulation of the appearance of tobacco packaging.

Reducing appeal

Mr Harris said the regulation of the appearance of tobacco packaging is aimed at improving public health by reducing the appeal of tobacco products to consumers, and increasing the effectiveness of health warnings on the retail packaging of tobacco products.

It will also reduce the ability of the packaging of tobacco products to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking, the Minister said.

The Bill will allow the Minister prescribe “the colour of the outer and inner surfaces of tobacco packaging, the form and manner of barcodes and the manner in which a name may be printed on tobacco products”.

The legislation also amends the Irish Medicines Board Act 1995 to allow fees to be paid to board members of the Health Products Regulatory Authority, former the Irish Medicines Board, which licenses medication in the State.

Board members will be paid €7,695 a year, resulting in an overall additional cost to the authority of about €61,560.

The Minister said some members might choose to waive their fee and he pointed out that the “One Person One salary” principle would apply to members of the board who are also in receipt of a salary from the public service.

‘Onerous responsibility’

Mr Harris said he was introducing the changes because “there is an onerous responsibility and significant time commitment placed on members of the authority and we wish to attract the highest calibre of people to apply to be members of such boards”.

A separate amendment to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009 will mean that anyone applying for the nursing home Fair Deal scheme will not have to include for means testing certain ex-gratia payments received arising from Government decisions.

The legislation deals with four Government schemes including three linked to the Lourdes Hospital – the hospital’s Redress Board which involved 119 women; the hospital’s payment scheme which compensated women excluded from the Redress Board on age grounds, affecting 47 women; the Surgical Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme which made awards to some 400 women and payments made by the government or the German Contergan Foundation to 32 Irish survivors of thalidomide.