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Delay in plain pack cigarettes a ‘missed opportunity’

As the new Minister for Health signs the European Tobacco Directive into Irish law, the Irish Cancer Society say it is a missed opportunity that plain packaging on cigarettes will not come into force on Friday, as originally planned.

On Friday, Simon Harris signed the European Tobacco Products Directive into Irish law. The new regulations include a ban on flavoured tobacco, misleading labelling (such as ‘natural’ or ‘organic), increased health warnings and stricter controls on e-cigarettes.

The introduction of standardised packaging on tobacco products was originally billed for Friday, 20 May but will not go ahead as it has not yet been passed through the Oireachtas.

The bill was initiated in the last Dáil, but did not make it past the second stage due to the “prolonged period of government negotiations.”

It comes as the UK’s legislation on plain packaging cigarettes, which will see them all be sold in drab green packages, came into force on Friday.

The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) have described the Irish governments delay as “a missed opportunity” to become the first country in Europe, along with the UK, to introduce plain packaging.

Plain packaging was introduced in Australia two years ago and has seen the smoking rates fall from 15.1% to a historic low of 12.8%.

The current smoking rate in Ireland stands at 19.5%, and Donal Buggy from the ICS says that the delay in introducing plain packaging puts the government’s commitment to be tobacco free by 2025 at risk.

“It is especially useful in stopping young people from smoking. We know that in Australia the daily smoking rate among 12-17 year olds has fallen to just 5%, compared to 8% here,” he explained.

The cancer charity say research shows 78% of people support the introduction of plain packaging.

“We’re encouraged by the level of support for plain packaging with almost four in five people behind it, while more than three in five smokers support it.

“The sooner plain packs are on the shelves in Ireland the better. Fasttracking plain packaging will put us on the road to a tobacco-free Ireland by 2025,” stated Mr Buggy.

Minister Harris said: “I look forward to progressing our Standardised Packaging Regulations in the near future.”

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