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February, 2015:

Tobacco control – will plain packaging work?

Australia is the first country in the world to introduce plain packaged cigarettes. But will a lack of branding deter people from smoking?

Given the current climate on tobacco control in Australia, it’s hard to think that prior to the 1970s cigarette advertising was legal and widespread.

Since then, much has changed: tobacco advertising is banned from popular culture products (magazines, billboards, and television commercials), and in its place are stark messages that warn of the dangerous health effects of smoking.

Now, with the legislation to mandate plain packaging of tobacco products, cigarette branding is being thrown out of the picture. But how effective will it be in warding people off cigarettes?

The impact of cigarette pack branding

As of December last year, under the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011, all cigarettes must be packaged in a plain, logo-free format, with graphic health warnings and warnings about age restrictions on tobacco salesi. No brand colours are permitted and brand names can only be presented using a single font style. There are three main reasons for introducing this legislationii:

1. To increase the visibility and impact of health warning messages
2. To reduce the ability for branded packaging to undermine the dangers of smoking
3. To reduce the attractiveness of the tobacco products to young non-smokers

This measure came about from research that suggested colour and object placement in an image can alter an individual’s emotional response to a particular productiii. A recent experimental study conducted by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer found a strong link between design elements on branded cigarette packs and an individual’s appeal to certain cigarette brandsiv. Also, a study analysing the effect of plain packages on the perception of cigarette health warnings – conducted at the University of Otago, New Zealand – found that health warnings on plain packages achieved greater recall rates in comparison to brand packsv.

A hopeful future

Currently, there is no quantifiable evidence to suggest that plain packaged cigarettes are perturbing smokersvi. However there have been anecdotal reports from smokers saying the taste of tobacco has changedvii, and that plain packaged cigarettes taste worse than branded onesviii. While the plain packaging legislation was initially aimed at deterring non-smokers from taking up smoking,

Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek is hopeful that the initiative will also discourage current smokers from continuingvii.

Tobacco control experts around the world predict that within two years of plain packaged cigarettes being introduced, the percentage of adult smokers would be reduced by 1% and the percentage of children trying to smoke by 3%ix. Along with elaborate, educational anti-smoking campaigns and support for quitters, the plain packaging initiative could hopefully see a reduction in deaths caused by smoking.

The benefits of quitting

Smoking tobacco is the largest cause of preventable illnesses (heart diseases, lung cancer, and atherosclerosis) in Australiax, affecting smokers and non-smokersxi. There are many benefits to quitting smoking; improving a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Within days of not smoking, a person’s sense of taste and smell improves significantly. And within a month, blood pressure levels return to normal and the immune system begins to pick itself up againxii. Furthermore, the risk of exposing family members and friends to second-hand smoke is minimised.

Ireland shows the way with plain packaging tobacco law

Ireland shows the way with plain packaging tobacco law

The Māori Party congratulates the Irish Government for passing plain packaging tobacco legislation this week.

“Good on Ireland for showing political nerve in the face of a powerful tobacco industry.

“The Māori Party is determined to see plain packaging legislation here in New Zealand progress through Parliament, sooner rather than later”, says Māori Party Co-leader Marama Fox.

Former Associate Health Minister and Māori Party Co-leader, Dame Hon Tariana Turia, introduced the plain packaging bill to Parliament more than two years ago.

Māori Party Co-leader Hon Te Ururoa Flavell doesn’t buy the reason for the Government stalling on progressing the plain packaging bill. The Health Select Committee reported favourably on the bill in August last year.

“Waiting for the World Trade Organisation decision means more people die or are sick from smoking-related illnesses. We’re tired of standing at the graveside of loved ones who have had their lives cut short from this highly addictive and poisonous drug”, says Mr Flavell.

According to the Ministry of Health, around 5000 individuals die each year from smoking or second-hand exposure. That’s 13 deaths every day which affect thousands of whānau.

“All it takes is courage and the same resolve that Tariana had to halt the decline in health and indeed the avoidable deaths of too many of our people who get caught in the smoking trap,” says Mr Flavell.

The Māori Party co-leaders will be encouraging the Associate Health Minister Hon Sam Peseta Lotu-iga to lead on this bill and implement other tobacco controls so the Government stays on track with its target of Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025.

Next month Dame Hon Tariana Turia will receive the Luther L Terry Award in Dubai for her leadership in worldwide tobacco reform.

“We’re extremely proud of her advocacy which has saved the lives of thousands of New Zealanders. The best way to honour her is to pass this plain packaging bill and keep the pressure on,” says Mrs Fox.


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Has a Global Tobacco Treaty Made a Difference?

Ten years after the creation of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, a look at how it’s affected smoking rates worldwide

Can international law protect global health from a man-made menace? The World Health Organization (WHO) certainly thought so in adopting the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC), which entered into force on February 27, 2005.

Supporters hailed the FCTC as a critical tool for international tobacco control and as a bold new model for using international law on other global-health problems. Calls for more treaties followed on topics as wide-ranging as excessive alcohol consumption, antibiotic resistance, counterfeit medicines, and corruption in health systems.

A decade later, the FCTC has been ratified by 180 countries representing nearly 90 percent of the world’s population. It is a qualified success for improving tobacco control. Yet the reasons for its success are unlikely to be replicated for other global-health threats, and the convention offers lessons on the limits of improving global health through international law.

Despite claims to the contrary, the FCTC is not the world’s first public-health treaty. It is not even the WHO’s first treaty, nor the first international agreement on reducing noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Between 1851 and 1950, states concluded dozens of treaties to limit transboundary pollution and trade and smuggling of alcohol and opium. In 1952, the WHO negotiated the International Sanitary Regulations, a binding treaty which later became the International Health Regulations, the rules that govern the public-health response to pandemics and other emergencies of international concern.

It is the first time the WHO managed to issue restrictions on an industry whose products have devastating health consequences for the world’s poor.
The FCTC’s novelty is specific to the WHO. It is the first convention that the WHO has concluded, which requires the approval of two-thirds of the WHO member countries before adoption can occur. Perhaps more importantly, it is also the first time the WHO managed to issue binding restrictions on a deep-pocketed industry whose products have devastating health consequences for the world’s poor. In the 1980s, the WHO attempted to regulate advertising of breast-milk substitute, but failed in the face of industry and developed-country opposition. For decades, the WHO’s efforts on tobacco had been equally unsuccessful.

Between 1970 and 1998, the WHO passed one resolution after another on curbing tobacco consumption, to little avail. Cigarette companies continued to expand into developing countries, where tobacco consumption tripled. Calls for a binding tobacco treaty in 1995 went nowhere as tobacco-related deaths rose to 4 million per year, increasingly in poorer nations. Upon becoming WHO director-general in 1998, Gro Harlem Brundtland made a binding tobacco treaty a priority. Four years of negotiations produced the FCTC in 2003, which entered into force two years later.

Three factors contributed to the WHO’s adoption of the FCTC. The first was Brundtland’s leadership. As a former prime minister, physician, and public-health professional, she was a formidable director-general, with vast political and diplomatic experience, including chairing the UN World Commission on Environment and Development. Her commitment was instrumental to the FCTC’s successful negotiation.

Second, tobacco politics shifted as the WHO began to push the FCTC. In 1998, the five largest U.S. tobacco companies settled a lawsuit with 46 U.S. states by agreeing to pay $206 billion in fines and release decades of internal documents. These files revealed systematic industry deception and malfeasance, including efforts to undermine the WHO. The tobacco industry became a global pariah, strengthening interest in the FCTC and undermining the industry’s attempts to kill it.

Third, the FCTC’s design and content eased its adoption. States have long used treaties to mandate cooperation on transboundary health threats, including the spread of infectious diseases, trade in hazardous substances, and air and water pollution. Importantly, the FCTC makes few demands on parties to address international aspects of tobacco control. It contains no obligations concerning licit international trade and investment, cross-border advertising, assistance for developing countries, or strong dispute settlement. The FCTC requires parties to monitor and prevent illicit trade in tobacco products within their territories, with a promise to consider a protocol on international cooperation on cigarette smuggling at a later date.

The tobacco companies’ files revealed systematic industry deception and malfeasance, including efforts to undermine the WHO.
Instead, the FCTC’s binding provisions focus on domestic tobacco-control measures that were effective, but did not require a treaty for countries to implement. On reducing the demand for tobacco product, the FCTC requires countries to implement bans on smoking in public places and restrictions on tobacco advertising and labeling. The FCTC only encourages, rather than mandate, parties to implement the most effective demand reduction strategy—raising taxes on tobacco products. On reducing the supply of tobacco, the FCTC requires banning sales to minors, cracking down on smuggling, and urging crop substitution.

This domestic focus diminished opposition from developed countries, most of which had long before implemented the tobacco control measures included in the FCTC. Excluding trade and obligations to provide tobacco-control funding to developing countries further reduced the treaty’s potential burden on developed countries and eased its passage. Meanwhile, developing-country health officials insisted on the inclusion of the FCTC’s binding domestic requirements, as means for overcoming opposition from the more powerful agriculture, commerce, and finance ministries within their governments to effective tobacco control laws. With the interests of developed and developing countries accommodated, the FCTC was widely ratified.

Yet widespread ratification is often a poor indicator of a treaty’s effectiveness. Three years after entering into force, the FCTC had 152 state parties, but implementation lagged, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The WHO reported that in 2008:

Less than 10 percent of the world’s population was covered by any of the FCTC demand-reduction measures;
90 percent of the world’s population still had no protection from tobacco-industry marketing;
95 percent of the world’s population lived in countries where tobacco taxes were less than what the WHO recommends; and
Only 9 percent of the countries that ratified the FCTC required smoke-free bars and restaurants, and 65 percent had no smoke-free policies at all.
This inadequate performance did not go unnoticed. Veterans of the U.S. fight against tobacco companies increased their support. In 2008, Bloomberg Philanthropies launched a $250 million initiative to reduce tobacco consumption in low- and middle-income countries, expanding on the $125 million that it contributed for this purpose in 2006. That same year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation added its support to global tobacco-control efforts, focusing on Africa. This philanthropic funding increased international assistance for tobacco control, which was low and came exclusively from the WHO.

Funding for International Tobacco Control, 1990-2011

Data: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Chart: Council on Foreign Relations

Data: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Chart: Council on Foreign Relations

More donor support made a difference. It funded a WHO-led effort to focus FCTC implementation on six measurable and proven tobacco-demand reduction measures, known by the acronym MPOWER. These MPOWER measures include bans on smoking in public places and tobacco advertising as well as tobacco-excise taxes that amount to at least 70 percent of the retail price of cigarettes. The new donor money also supported expansion of international surveillance of the MPOWER measures by the WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Canadian Public Health Association. This surveillance has permitted regular and independent monitoring and reporting on country-level implementation of the MPOWER measures.

Ninety percent of the world’s population still had no protection from tobacco-industry marketing.
Clearer goals and better data have helped local health officials and advocates encourage their governments to improve FCTC compliance. NGOs and academic institutions, such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, have bolstered these local efforts with technical and advocacy-related support.

FCTC implementation has slowly improved. WHO reports show that the proportion of the world’s population living in countries with FCTC-compliant cigarette warning labels tripled between 2007 and 2012, from 4 percent to 14 percent. Similarly, the number of countries without restrictions on smoking in public places declined from 114 in 2008 to 81 in 2012. The share of tobacco-tax revenues that countries dedicate to reducing tobacco consumption increased from a ratio of $500:1 in 2008 to $145:1 in 2012. The prevalence of tobacco use in many low- and middle-income countries started to decline as well.

Estimated Prevalence of Daily Smoking, 1980-2012

Journal of the American Medical Association

Journal of the American Medical Association

A decade later, it is clear that the FCTC, on its own, was insufficient to generate improved tobacco control in low- and middle-income countries, but has been a contributing factor in the recent progress that has occurred. Most of the philanthropic donors and intergovernmental, governmental, and non-governmental actors engaged in the global anti-tobacco movement predate the FCTC. On the other hand, the FCTC provided a platform for this global anti-tobacco movement and a source of accountability for local government officials who could be convinced to act.

Donor support for international tobacco control remains low, especially relative to other global-health causes.
The FCTC has not fared as well as a model for international lawmaking on other health challenges. The agreement has spurred little intergovernmental cooperation. Although FCTC parties adopted a protocol on the illicit tobacco trade in 2012, only six countries have ratified it. Domestically, tobacco monopolies remain entrenched in many countries as obstacles to tobacco control measures, and 92 percent of the world’s population still lives in countries where tobacco taxes are below what the WHO recommends.

Donor support for international tobacco control remains low, especially relative to other global-health causes. Although tobacco use remains the second leading cause of death worldwide, only $68 million of the $31.4 billion in development assistance for global health in 2011 went to tobacco control. A decade later, none of the global-health treaty proposals that the FCTC inspired have gained traction.

Many lessons from the FCTC’s first decade are positive, but ultimately they are not about the power of treaty law. The sources of progress on the FCTC are about the same tactics that have long been effective in public health: identifying the strategies that work, reducing them to implementable and measureable programs, supporting and coordinating local implementation efforts, and monitoring and maintaining accountability for the results. Under the right circumstances, international law can contribute to the success of these strategies, but cannot substitute for them.

Challenge to NZ after 10 years of global tobacco control

Smokefree Coalition challenges New Zealand after 10 years of global tobacco control

Smokefree Coalition media release,

Embargoed until 12am, 27 February 2015

The Smokefree Coalition wants New Zealanders everywhere to mark the tenth anniversary of an international tobacco control treaty by striking a blow against Big Tobacco.

Today is the 10 year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first global public health treaty. New Zealand was among the first nations to ratify the treaty, which today has 180 Parties.

“Targeting tobacco first was no accident. The world knew that, without collaborative worldwide action, it faced one billion deaths from tobacco consumption in the 21st century,” says Smokefree Coalition Executive Director Dr Prudence Stone.

“If tobacco was introduced to the market today, it would swiftly be outlawed like many other psychoactive substances have been. But unfortunately, it was introduced long before its fatal effects were known. Now, despite a mountain of evidence condemning it as a killer, we are faced with an industry-promulgated health problem that caring governments everywhere must try to regulate and control.”

The Smokefree Coalition calls on the New Zealand public to support the Government’s commitment to make our country smokefree by 2025, by condemning the tobacco industry, particularly in the eyes of their children. It asks for adults who smoke to shield their children from exposure, and to encourage them to mistrust tobacco company messages and marketing, which are targeted toward their children starting smoking.

“Half of smokers’ lives are cut short by smoking. The industry needs new customers if they are to stay in business. Children do what adults model, so we call on adults everywhere to model responsible and protective smokefree behaviour.”

Dr Stone says New Zealand was once seen as the global leader in tobacco control when the FCTC was first ratified.

“Our Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act banned smoking in all workplaces and now requires graphic warning labels on tobacco packaging. Until 2016 tobacco excise tax will increase annually, forcing the tobacco industry to price its products beyond what youngsters can afford. Retailers must now hide tobacco products from display, and at New Zealand’s border the duty-free allowance for tobacco has been drastically reduced.”

But Dr Stone is concerned that New Zealand’s lead is slipping. Australia legislated plain packaging of tobacco products in 2012. Ireland, England and even the Solomon Islands are following suit, while New Zealand is stalled in fear of Big Tobacco’s threats of litigation.

Scotland, Wales and England have announced brave plans to ban smoking in cars carrying children, while our own Government seems content with health promotion appeals.

Above all, New Zealand remains without a solid Government strategy toward its Smokefree 2025 goal.

The Smokefree Coalition says 27 February is an ideal moment for New Zealanders to reflect and for the Government to pat itself on the back for some great achievements since ratifying the FCTC 10 short years ago. But it asks whether, in 10 more short years, we will have achieved our goal of being the first smokefree nation in the world.

“Without regaining our world leadership and finding the courage for needed legislation changes, New Zealand risks losing the endgame to Big Tobacco,” says Dr Stone.

“And the loss will be measured in real lives and quality of lives among our family members and friends.”

Half a million children predicted to die from smoking as MPs head toward a vote on standard cig packs

Around 500,000* children will die from smoking when they are adults unless more is done to cut smoking rates according to new Cancer Research UK figures released today (Friday).

“For too long tobacco has been allowed to cause illness and death. If we’re serious about health, we must do more to reduce smoking rates.” – Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK

Based on current smoking rates Cancer Research UK estimates that of today’s 12 million under 16 year olds, 2.7 million will become smokers as young adults. This could lead to around half a million smoking related deaths unless rates fall.

This shocking statistic has prompted the charity to renew its call for MPs to back the introduction of plain, standardised tobacco packaging when they vote on the issue in the coming weeks.

Smoking rates have fallen to around a fifth of the population but the decline has slowed in recent years. Cancer Research UK wants to sharpen the decline to help reduce the number of young people who start smoking and go on to become addicted to tobacco.

With overwhelming support from both the public and health communities – as well as backing across the political spectrum – Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison announced in January (link is external) that the Government would vote on standardised tobacco packaging before the general election in May.

These new packs would then be introduced across the UK in 2016.

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy, said: “Our latest calculations reveal the appallingly high number of lives that will be lost unless we move faster to reduce the lethal impact of tobacco.

“We must challenge the idea that tobacco is a normal product if we’re to stop tobacco killing so many people. For too long tobacco has been allowed to cause illness and death. If we’re serious about health, we must do more to reduce smoking rates. Three years ago we began campaigning for cigarettes to be sold only in plain, standardised packaging which evidence shows reduces the appeal of tobacco to children. We are delighted the Government is committed to achieving this, and the time has come to vote to save the lives of future generations.”

There is strong evidence from Australia that standard packaging of tobacco is hitting sales of this deadly product. Between 2010 and 2013 – the period where standard packs were introduced – Australia saw a 15 per cent reduction in smoking prevalence. Data also confirmed that fewer young people are taking up the habit.

Official statistics from Australia also reveal that the level of illegal, counterfeit tobacco has not climbed since the new packs have been introduced.

Reilly to restrict tenders from firms linked to tobacco group

Arthur Cox threatened action against State over plain cigarette packaging

Minister for Children James Reilly is taking steps to prevent any firm which has a contract with a tobacco group from tendering to work for bodies under his remit, among them the child and family agency Tusla.

The development comes on foot of the Minister’s disquiet that solicitors Arthur Cox are simultaneously working as corporate legal adviser to Tusla while acting for Japan Tobacco in threatened legal action against the State over plain cigarette packaging.

The corporate element of Arthur Cox’s work for Tusla is worth €800,000 per annum including VAT, and the company manages some €12 million in annual legal expenditure for Tusla through a network of 31 local solicitors.

Arthur Cox carries out similar work for the Health Service Executive, another of many public clients.

The chief civil servant in Dr Reilly’s department, Fergal Lynch, said in correspondence to the Minister on Wednesday that the it would be “extremely problematic” for Tusla to withdraw from its arrangements with Arthur Cox before its contract expires next February.

All agencies

However, Mr Lynch said the Minister might wish to consider asking all agencies in his remit “to consider a requirement in all future procurements” that firms tendering for services must sign a declaration confirming they have no contractual arrangements with tobacco companies.

“This would send an important message about the principle of non-involvement with the tobacco industry. If you wish I will immediately seek legal advice about the scope for including such a requirement in all future tendering processes, to ascertain if it is legally feasible.”

On Dr Reilly’s instruction this option is now under examination within his department.

It remains unclear, however, whether the introduction of such requirements are permissible within the framework of the law on tendering and competition.

Dr Reilly had instructed Mr Lynch to examine whether Arthur Cox and solicitors McCann FitzGerald, which works for Imperial Tobacco in similar threatened action against plain cigarette packs, had any contractual relationships with his department.

There was no such relationship with either firm – and Arthur Cox’s contract with Tusla is the only arrangement that either company has with any of the agencies under the department’s aegis.

“While it might be argued that there is no direct conflict of interest in these arrangements from a purely legal perspective, you have made very clear your view that it is of concern from a policy perspective for an agency such as Tusla to be advised or represented by a legal firm that also represents international tobacco companies,” Mr Lynch said.

Separately, the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund said it held investments in international tobacco companies which were worth some €10 million at the end of 2014. These investments were previously held by the National Pension Reserve Fund. Only assets covered by the Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Act of 2008 are barred from the fund

Cigarette Smokers Die Early: 4 Disturbing Facts

You know smoking’s bad for you, but one cigarette wouldn’t kill you. Right?

Estimates show that 42.1 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet smoking is the top cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. It contributes to lung cancer, numerous types of other cancers, liver disease, cardiovascular issues and not to mention bad breath and yellow teeth.

Recent findings published in the journal BMC Medicine show that close to two-thirds of smokers will die early from a cigarette-triggered illness, despite excessive warnings about the dangers of smoking.

The study is based on data from more than 200,000 individuals, of which 67 percent were smokers who perished from smoking-related illnesses.

“The relative risks of adverse health effects increase with increasing intensity of smoking,” the study states, “measured by the amount of tobacco smoked per day, and with increasing duration of smoking.”

Furthermore, researchers found that smoking 10 cigarettes a day doubles mortality risk while smoking a pack nearly quadruples it.

Elementary guidance and doctor visits aren’t always enough to sway the public from smoking. Scientists are still working on what it takes to stop these addictions.

Here are some additional facts and statistics on the deadly habit:

1.) Sixteen million people already have at least one disease from smoking
2.) Twenty million Americans have died from smoking since 1964, according to the CDC, including 2.5 million deaths from the exposure to secondhand smoke.
3.) An estimated 8.6 million will live with a serious chronic condition that will result from smoking.
4.) Smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers.

Quitting isn’t easy but it can happen. If you need help, here is a good place to start.

Data from the largest US tobacco study show a lot of smokers use multiple products

(Reuters) – Preliminary results from the largest U.S. survey of tobacco consumption show a high number of people use multiple products, adding key data to the debate on the role of e-cigarettes in reducing harm from tobacco.

The results of the study, released Thursday, showed 40 per cent of tobacco consumers use multiple products, such as cigarillos, hookah and cigars. Half of all combinations involved e-cigarettes.

The Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study of 46,000 people, begun in 2011, is designed to answer questions about the tobacco use and behaviour and help shape industry regulation.

Public health officials have long questioned whether smokers attracted to e-cigarettes will use them to quit smoking or simply as an alternative for use in places where smoking is not allowed.

Data released on Thursday did not give definitive insight about why people are using different forms of tobacco. Andrew Hyland, scientific principal investigator on the study and chair of the department of health behaviour at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, said they may be transitioning away from cigarettes, or they may be becoming more entrenched.

The study is expected to provide a wealth of information about tobacco use, smoking behaviour and attitudes and will give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration data to reshape industry regulations.

“We were struck by the proportion of users that engaged in polyuse,” Mitch Zeller, head of the Food and Drug Administration’s tobacco division, said in an interview, referring to the use of multiple products.

Preliminary results were presented to an audience of scientists, researchers and industry representatives at the annual meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco in Philadelphia.

The most common combination of products among youth and adults was cigarettes and e-cigarettes, data showed.

The results, to be gathered and disclosed over years, are expected to provide for tobacco the type of information that the decades-long Framingham Heart Study has provided about heart disease and its impact on public health.

Although the information about multi-product use is a start, more time will be needed to identify the reasons for such use, study organisers said.

“Is it a step towards people quitting, or are the hooks of nicotine just getting deeper,” said Hyland.

The tobacco industry is rapidly changing with the popularity of electronic nicotine devices.

“The evolution that has taken place in the marketplace makes your head spin,” Zeller said.

Ireland passes tobacco plain packaging law

Dublin: Ireland has become the second country in the world to pass a law introducing mandatory plain packaging for tobacco products, prompting the tobacco industry to threaten legal action.

It follows Australia’s introduction of similar plain packaging legislation in 2012.

Under Ireland’s new rules all forms of branding, including logos and colours will be banned and all products will have have a uniform packaging with graphic health warnings.

“We are creating legislation which will be historic and will be of real importance to the area of public health,” the Minister for Children James Reilly told parliament.

“We are on the verge of being the first country in the EU to pass a law on plain packaging. We are on the verge of being only the second country in the world to pass a plain packaging law,” he said before the bill passed.

The legislation had cross-party support and passed without a vote.

It will be sent to the president to pass into law after a technical vote in the upper house next week, although full implementation of the rules will not be effective until May 2017, when all existing packaging must be removed from sale.

Other EU countries, such as Britain, have indicated they will introduce similar rules.

The move has been met with fierce opposition by tobacco companies who have threatened Dublin with legal action.

“We in this house will not be intimidated by such action. We will pass such laws as we believe to be correct,” Mr Reilly said.

Earlier this month JTI Ireland, owner of the Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut brands, said they would take legal action if the legislation is enacted.

“We have made our views known to the government many times so they should come as no surprise,” a spokesperson for JTI Ireland said after the vote. “If this proceeds we will go to court to protect our rights.”