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We will not be bullied on plain cigarette packets, says Reilly

Minister says Ireland close to becoming first EU country to introduce plain packaging

Ireland is on the verge of being the first EU country to pass a law paving the way for the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr James Reilly has told the Dáil. He said the House should share in the sense of satisfaction.

“We do so despite legal threats from the lawyers for the tobacco industry,’’ Dr Reilly added. “We do so despite an extraordinary legal letter demanding that we stop and stop immediately.’’

Dr Reilly was speaking during the final stage debate on the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014, providing for the measure. The Bill will pass through the Oireachtas next week after the Seanad passes a number of technical amendments.

JTI Ireland, owner of the Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut brands, has strongly opposed the legislation, which was first introduced by Dr Reilly when he was Minister for Health. The Minister said the Dáil would not be “intimidated’’ by such action. “We will pass such laws as we believe to be correct,’’ he added.

Dr Reilly said he wanted to send a message to children around the country on a lesson that could be learned. “Remember if a bully tries to intimidate you with actions, you should stand firm and be true to what you believe to be right,’’ he added.

Ireland, said the Minister, had always been a leader on tobacco control. “We have ranked at the forefront in introducing measures to protect our country’s health from the scourge of smoking,’’ he added. “Standardised packaging is the latest strand in the comprehensive range of tobacco control legislation we already have in place.’’

He said he was confident the research available demonstrated that standardised packaging would have a positive impact on health and that it was a proportionate and justified measure.

It could reduce the appeal of tobacco products and increase the effectiveness of health warnings and the ability of branded tobacco packaging to mislead people about the effects of smoking. “And these are important points when we consider that almost 80 per cent of smokers start when they are children,’’ Dr Reilly added.

He said he was pleased the Irish public, including TDs and Senators, had not, and would not, allow themselves to be manipulated by the arguments of the tobacco industry against the measure.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher commended the Minister for his personal efforts in bringing the legislation to the House. The Government, parliament and people should be resolute and stay the course in the face of threats, intimidation and bullying tactics from organisations whose sole purpose was to sell a product that harmed and killed people on a daily basis, he added.

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