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October 4th, 2016:

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.

Hungary to introduce fees for e-cigarettes

As another step in further regulating the market, the Hungarian government is foreseen to levy many new fees on retailers and sellers of electronic cigarettes from November, Hungarian news agency MTI reported today, based on a decree published in the latest issue of the official gazette Magyar Közlöny.

An administration fee of HUF 475,000 on sellers of e-cigarettes will be introduced, along with a separate fee businesses will be required to pay for every brand and strength of nicotine and nicotine-free e-cigarette as well as refill cartridges they sell, according to the decree.

Additionally, businesses will be forced to pay a HUF 306,000 fee, per item, for any modifications to the range of products they sell.

Revenue from the fees will go to the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition (OGYEI), according to MTI.


With the current government aiming high on health development, its decision to raise cigarette excise by an average of 10.54 percent starting next year shows otherwise. The incremental increase affirms the government’s lackluster effort to build a healthy nation to say the least.

When the Finance Ministry regulation takes effect in January, cigarette retail prices will only go up by 12.26 percent from the current price. History beckons that excise rate hikes on cigarettes have so far failed to force smokers to quit the habit.

Many of them did not even reduce their cigarette consumption either. That happened because the cigarette retail price remained affordable for everybody, including teenagers who relied on pocket money from their parents to indulge their smoking habit.

We could have expected a far different story had the government taken a bold move by setting an extremely high duty that would double or triple the cigarette retail price. The considerably low cigarette prices is one of the reasons why the smoking population in the country keeps growing.

The latest UN Office of Drugs and Crime data found that Indonesia’s average cigarette price of US$1.32 per pack is among the cheapest in the world. In Southeast Asia, Indonesian cigarette prices are only more expensive than in fellow developing countries Cambodia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

In developed countries, apart from enforcement of regulations and legislation discriminatory against smokers, retail cigarette prices are set very high so as to deter people from smoking.

A few months ago, a study conducted by a University of Indonesia medical doctor sent shockwaves after finding that the majority of 1,000 respondents he surveyed said they would consider giving up smoking if pack of cigarettes increased to Rp 50,000 (US$3.80).

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) has found that 70 percent of Indonesian smokers come from the poor families. It can be safely said had the government taken the survey into consideration in setting the new cigarette excise, the country’s population of smokers would likely dramatically decrease.

There is a risk, however, of rampant trade of illegal cigarettes if the excise is set too high. But it will boil down to the government’s commitment to improve monitoring. The Trade Ministry and Industry Ministry will contribute a lot in fighting illegal trade in cigarettes through registration of all cigarette machines operating in the country.

Various studies have discovered that the costs of treating tobacco-related diseases, not to mention production loss, outweigh state revenue from cigarette excise. The Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) in 2014 revealed that cigarette consumption killed 190,260 people in Indonesia that year, or 500 lives lost every day. The number would skyrocket if it includes passive smokers, who are more vulnerable to cigarette-related diseases than smokers themselves.

The question that remains unanswered is why the government, despite the evidence of cigarette harm, has for a long time acted in favor of the tobacco industry and all multiplier effects it has created that go against the noble goal of promoting good health for all.