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Ireland bans branded tobacco packs

Ireland has become the first country in Europe to pass laws banning branded cigarette packets.

Following the example set by Australia, all tobacco products sold in Ireland will be in a standard dark-coloured wrapper emblazoned with large health warnings and images of disease. Slim boxes of cigarettes, in lipstick-style shapes, will also be illegal under the reform. Brand names will be small and use similar fonts on all packets in the marketing clampdown which is likely to be challenged in the courts, either in Ireland or under European rules.

James Reilly, Children’s Minister and a former health minister who spearheaded the ban, said it was about protecting people and should be seen as a good day for the health of children.

“The interests of public health will be served when children decide never to take up smoking in the first place and if smokers are persuaded to quit,” he said. “We have a duty to prevent our children from being lured into a killer addiction. “Standardised packaging will strip away the illusions created by shiny, colourful cigarette packets and replace them with shocking images showing the real consequences of smoking.” The UK is set to follow the Irish example with laws to be passed before the end of the month.

Anti-smoking campaigners and Government say the ban will remove one of the last remaining and most powerful marketing tools of big tobacco firms, but it is facing a legal challenge over claims it infringes trademarks and the free movement of goods across the EU. Up to 10 European countries are understood to have complained over Ireland’s branding ban. Analysis done for investors by Exane BNP Paribas has warned that the tobacco industry could be in line for payouts in the billions if the same law is passed in the UK. In Ireland, with about 800,000 people estimated to smoke – a prevalence rate of about 22% – a successful compensation claim is likely to run to hundreds of millions, the investor advisers said. New Zealand is also progressing similar laws while France, Finland and Norway have indicated they will go down the same path. Anti-smoking group Ash Ireland said the ban was vital health legislation. Spokesman Ross Morgan said the Government and opposition politicians should be complimented for pushing ahead with the ban despite threats of lawsuits.

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