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Tobacco is not a normal product

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,


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

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.

Tobacco, alcohol and weaponry – here’s where some of the state’s investment has been flowing

The majority of the money is tied to Ireland’s sovereign-wealth fund.

ALMOST €35 MILLION in taxpayers’ funds is invested in the alcohol, tobacco, aerospace and defence industries through the state’s sovereign-wealth pools.

But new figures for the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), which oversees the nation’s investments, show the share of funds put into the sectors has been falling – declining from €45 million at the end of 2014.

The organisation, which manages the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), had a total exposure to the industries of €34.5 million as of June this year, according to new figures provided to Fora.

The bulk of the NTMA’s equity investments in the alcohol, tobacco and defence industries relate to the ISIF, which was set up with the remainder of the National Pension Reserve Fund after its predecessor was raided to keep the banks afloat during the financial crisis.

The ISIF has a mandate to make investments on a commercial basis, with one of its stated aims to “support economic activity and employment in Ireland”.

Its total portfolio was worth €21.3 billion at the end of June, with €355 million committed to support SMEs and another €447 million going towards venture funds.

Tobacco and alcohol

According to the NTMA’s recently published annual report, the state held more than €7.2 million in both quoted equity and debt instruments for Philip Morris, British American Tobacco and other major tobacco firms.

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.

The report said the organisation’s largest single investment last year was in Irish Water, with a €450 million loan facility provided to the semi-state company – €300 million of which was drawn down by the end of 2015.

Ethical investment

Earlier this year, NTMA chief executive Conor O’Kelly told the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee that armaments is the organisation’s only restricted investment category.

The 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, the 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.

In response to a parliamentary question last year, however, Finance Minister Michael Noonan revealed that the NTMA has excluded 14 companies from its list of possible investments – although he did not list the banned firms.

These exclusions were made to ensure the state complied with Irish legislation prohibiting the support of companies that developed cluster munitions and anti-personnel mines.

Meanwhile in April, the ISIF said it was committed to putting more money into medium-sized Irish companies over the next four years. The fund has made direct investments in mobile analytics firm Swrve and life sciences investment outfit Malin, among others.

ISIF director Eugene O’Callaghan revealed the sovereign wealth fund expected to pledge in excess of €750 million to Irish businesses and funds over the course of 2016.

This would bring increase its total commitments to almost €3 billion.

Written by Killian Woods and posted on

Sale of cigarettes from vending machines set to be banned

Details of retailers who sell cigarettes to minors will be published online

The Department of Health is to introduce on-the-spot fines for retailers who sell cigarettes to minors, and that information will then be published online.

New measures will also ban the sale of cigarettes from vending machines.

Following a public consultation, the department is preparing the draft heads of a Bill which will impose tougher penalties for those who sell the products illegally.

The proposed legislation will allow for the introduction of minimum suspension periods for retailers convicted of offences.

Name and shame

It will also allow for fixed penalties to be introduced and for those retailers to be “named and shamed”.

The proposals were first proposed by former minister for health James Reilly in 2014 but have been revisited by Minister for Health Simon Harris.

There is also a series of measures aimed at further regulating the sale of e-cigarettes.

Drink drive accused says e-cigarette put him over the limit

Scientific evidence to be presented in case against alleged drink driver

Evidence from a scientist is due to be presented next month in a case in which an alleged drink driver is attempting to prove alcohol in an e-cigarette put him over the limit, a court was told on Thursday.

The case is believed to be one of the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and a judge says he is looking forward to hearing the details.

Aaron David Galbraith, 35, of Dunluce Park, Ballymena , is charged with driving with excess alcohol in his breath at Tully Road outside the Co Antrim town in November last year.

Defence lawyer Stewart Ballentine told a previous court he wanted to investigate whether alcohol in an electronic cigarette accounted for his client allegedly being almost twice the legal drink limit and the scientist was drafted in.

The accused allegedly had an alcohol/breath reading of 65 – with the legal limit being 35.

Mr Ballentine also told the earlier sitting his client was “constantly using” an e-cigarette at the time of the alleged offence and was adamant he had not consumed any alcohol.

Ballymena Magistrates Court was told on Thursday the case will be heard next month.

District Judge Des Perry told a previous court he was very interested in the outcome of the potentially ground-breaking case.

At a sitting earlier this year the judge said he found the possible link to drink driving “very worrying because I use these gadgets (e-cigarettes) and I might be committing various criminal offences”.

The judge added he had never noticed any adverse effects from e-cigarettes but said over-indulgence is bad.

At Thursday’s court, Judge Perry who is soon to retire, added he is keenly anticipating the court case.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” he told the court.

Tobacco firms’ tax bill nears €500m ahead of plain packaging ban – report

Tobacco companies have seen their tax bill surge in the opening five months of the year as the industry has been accused of stocking up on branded cigarettes.

According to a report in the Irish Daily Mail, tobacco firms have shelled out almost €500m in tax in the opening months of the year, which represents an 81pc increase on the same period last year.

The increased tax spend comes ahead of the imminent plain packaging ban. However, companies will be allowed to sell off whatever remaining stock they have left – branded or otherwise up until May 2017.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show a major spike in the volume of cigarettes that are being imported into the country too.

During the opening quarter of the year 600 extra tonnes of tobacco were brought in.

Legislation that will see plain packaging introduced is being used as a method to deter smokers and children from being enticed by branding.

Anti-smoking groups have accused the industry of stockpiling branded cigarettes to get children hooked on them ahead of the looming ban.

Revenue has been contacted for comment by

‘World’s ugliest colour’ used on cigarette packets to put smokers off

The shade, described as a “drab dark brown”, was found through a process of seven studies involving 1000 smokers

New plain cigarette packaging in the UK, Ireland and France will bear a colour deemed the ugliest in the world by researchers in Australia.

Pantone 448 C, also known as ‘opaque couché’, is the shade chosen as most likely to put smokers off, a group of academics and market researchers decided after three months of research.

Marketing agency GfK Bluemoon, who headed the project, conducted seven studies with more than 1000 smokers to design the most unappealing packaging possible, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The ugly brown colour has been associated with dirt, tar, and even death, without any positive adjectives, say the researchers, who were commissioned back in 2012.

“It had as its aim the antithesis of what is our usual objective,’’ said market researcher Victoria Parr.

‘‘We didn’t want to create attractive, aspirational packaging designed to win customers […] Instead our role was to help our client reduce demand, with the ultimate aim to minimise use of the product,” she added.

Pantone 448 C, also known as 'opaque couché'

Pantone 448 C, also known as ‘opaque couché’

The new packets, in Pantone 448 C with off-putting photographs, were rolled out in the UK on 20 May.

France and Ireland have also adopted the decision to end attractively-branded cigarette packets, which was pioneered by Australia in 2012.

The PM, his pro-smoking aide, and a dirty war over cigarette packaging

The sale of the plain packets is set to become compulsory in the UK from May 2017.

One in five adults is said to smoke in the UK and according to the British Medical Association, smoking costs the NHS £2.7 billion each year.

Bigger warnings for cigarette packs

Cigarette packets must feature bigger and more graphic health warnings, as new EU rules come into force.

Smokers will be told that lighting up exposes them to 70 substances that are known to cause cancer.

The EU directive, signed into law by Health Minister Simon Harris, will see cigarette packs with health warnings covering 65pc of their surface.

It means an end to packs of 10 cigarettes or super-slim packs, and soon menthol cigarettes will be banned.

Cigarettes and tobacco products may no longer have flavours such as menthol, vanilla or candy that mask the taste and smell of tobacco.

The Minister said: “These measures will further complement the tobacco control initiatives already in place and will help to drive down consumption of tobacco and protect public health.” He welcomed the UK Government’s court victory on plain packaging of cigarettes and intends to progress Ireland’s own legislation, which allows for the same measure here.

Disgraceful effort to privilege tobacco business interests over public health has rightly failed utterly – other countries to follow UK lead

The High Court challenge to the Regulations on Standardized Plain tobacco packaging by the tobacco industry met with a humiliating defeat on Thursday, 19th of May 2016.

Thus the landmark judgment in the case will help other countries looking forward to introduce Plain Packaging. France and the Republic of Ireland have already passed legislations and other countries including Canada, Hungary, Norway and Solvenia, are expected to follow soon.

It is learnt that tobacco industry has spent millions of pounds on some of the most expensive lawyers in the country with the hope of blocking the policy. This landmark judgment is a severe defeat for the tobacco industry and it fully justifies the determination of the government to go ahead with the introduction of standardized packaging.

The standardized packaging regulations would come into effect in the UK on Friday, the 20th May 2016. All cigarettes manufactured for sale in the UK after this date must comply with standardized packaging regulations. Cigarettes and hand rolling tobacco will be sold in drab brown packages which have had all the attractive features and colours removed.

The judgment by the Justice Green rejects every argument the industry put forward in court. It is highly critical of the industry’s use of expert evidence it commissioned to back its case and its failure to disclose any internal assessments on how packaging design works for children and young people what the effect on standardized packaging on sales is likely to be. The judgment also notes that the great mass of the expert evidence put to the court by the tobacco industry was neither peer reviewed nor published in an appropriate scientific of technical journal.

At present two thirds of current smokers started when they were children and research shows that dull standardized packs are less attractive to young people. The tobacco industry is now considering whether or not to appeal.

Source of Information: Action on Smoking & Health ASH – UK

– Asian Tribune –

Plain cigarette packaging has arrived, but will it reduce smoking?

UK legislation introduced today bans the tobacco industry from using branding on their cigarette packaging. But will it change the number of smokers?

From today, brightly coloured branding will be stripped from tobacco packs when standardised (or ‘plain’) cigarette packaging legislation comes in to effect.

Cigarette packs will now be a single colour – ‘Pantone 448 C opaque couché’ (according to market research the ‘world’s ugliest colour’), and the brand name will be written in a standard font, size and location. New health warnings covering 60% of the pack will also be introduced. All cigarette packs and tobacco pouches manufactured for sale in the UK from now on will have to comply with these regulations, and within a year there should be no branded packs on shelves at all. Ireland and France are also introducing this legislation today.

But what impact will this new legislation have? After the numerous public consultations, government reports and legal battles (in both the highest European, UK and Australian courts), the government, tobacco industry, and the general public will be keen to know whether standardised packaging will actually reduce the prevalence of smoking.

It’s fair to say that nobody expects standardised packaging to be a silver bullet, and any effects of standardised packaging are likely to develop slowly. However, a large number of experiments, surveys and focus groups (many of which are summarised in two systematic reviews published in 2012 and 2013, and which Suzi Gage has blogged about before) have found that standardised packaging changes attitudes and beliefs around smoking, including reducing the appeal of smoking, increasing the noticeability of the health warnings, and preventing people from being misled about the relative health risks of different brands (people incorrectly assume that packs in lighter colours – i.e. “low tar” – are less harmful than darker coloured – i.e. “high tar” – packs).

The evidence that standardised packaging will change actual smoking behaviour is less clear, as this kind of research is difficult to do, but it is expected that as a result of these changes in attitudes and beliefs, standardised packaging will encourage some smokers to think twice about their smoking behaviour and, crucially, discourage some of the 200,000 children who start smoking every year from taking up the habit.

Quantifying the expected impact of standardised packaging on actual behaviour when implemented in the real world is difficult. Australia was the first (and, until today, the only) country in the world to introduce standardised packaging, back in December 2012. In 2015, 14 Open Access studies were published reporting the effects of standardised packaging there, finding that standardised packaging reduced the appeal of smoking and of cigarettes themselves, encouraged smoking cessation and made the health warnings more prominent. These findings support those observed in the laboratory studies and surveys conducted prior to the implementation of standardised packaging, adding weight to this previous body of literature. In addition, Australian research found no evidence for an increase in the illicit trade of cigarettes, which has been one of the tobacco industry’s main criticisms of standardised packaging policy.

But did standardised packaging change the actual numbers of smokers in Australia? Although the prevalence of smoking has been in decline in Australia for some time, an Australian government report shows that this decline has accelerated since the introduction of standardised packaging. It is estimated that standardised packaging is directly responsible (after taking into account other factors such as tax increases) for 25% of the 2.2% drop in smoking prevalence observed in the 36 months after the introduction of standardised packaging as compared with the 36 months before. This may not sound like a lot, but this is equivalent to 118,000 fewer Australians smoking as a direct result of standardised packaging. Given that two thirds of smokers are expected to die from diseases caused by tobacco use, this is a clinically meaningful decline.

This estimate is by no means perfect – short of interviewing every person in Australia, we can never know the exact number of smokers who have stopped as a direct result of this legislation or the number of teenagers who don’t start. As for the UK, we might expect to see a greater reduction in the number of smokers as compared with Australia due to our higher smoking prevalence (approximately 21% as compared with 13%) and our larger population (65.5 million as compared with 23.5 million). In the UK, the Office for National Statistics reports annual smoking prevalence, so like Australia we will be able to see whether there is a decline in prevalence in the next few years. In addition, a number of UK surveys are planned, including an online survey of 6,000 adult smokers (the Adult Tobacco Policy Survey), an in-home survey of 1,000 children (the Youth Tobacco Policy Survey) and a telephone survey of adult smokers (the Smoking Toolkit Study). Each of these will investigate differences in perceptions and experiences of smoking and cigarette packaging before and after the introduction of standardised packaging.

Standardised packaging is part of the UK’s comprehensive tobacco control strategy which includes tax increases, point of sale display bans, smoking bans and other advertising bans. Together, these strategies are expected to reduce the prevalence of smoking, and ultimately reduce the burden of disease caused by tobacco. It may not be a silver bullet, but it may be one more nail in the coffin.

Olivia Maynard is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Bristol. During her PhD she used cognitive neuroscience techniques to investigate the effectiveness of standardised packaging of cigarettes. Find her on Twitter @OliviaMaynard17.