Legislation to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco is not fit for purpose, say campaigners.
In a submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, the smokers’ group Forest Eireann argues plain packaging will not stop children smoking and could encourage illicit trade.
The group says the government must assess the impact of plain packaging on smoking rates and illicit trade in Australia before introducing similar legislation in Ireland.
John Mallon, spokesman for Forest Eireann, said: “The legislation for standardised packaging is not fit for purpose.
“The case for plain packs is based on the fallacy that children are encouraged to smoke because of exposure to so-called glitzy or colourful packaging and that without branding far fewer children or young people would be tempted to start.
“This argument is based not on fact but on speculation and conjecture.
“If the government really wants to protect children from smoking it should seek tougher enforcement of existing laws and focus on further education in schools.”
In its submission to the Joint Committee on Health and Children, which is about to conduct hearings to consider the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013, Forest Eireann argues that tobacco control studies fail to consider the unintended consequences of plain packaging.
According to Forest Eireann’s submission:
- There is a wide body of expert international opinion that believes that counterfeiting could have a serious impact on public health and business
- Standardised packaging could put children at greater risk not less. Criminals who operate in back streets, outside schools and at car boot sales don’t care who they sell to
- Government must address the very real concerns that people have about the impact of counterfeiting before proceeding with standardised packaging. Failure to do so could have serious consequences for children and for adult consumers, especially those tempted to purchase counterfeit goods
The group adds:
- Plain packaging has nothing to do with health and everything to do with the ‘denormalisation’ of a legal product and the one million adults in Ireland who continue to smoke tobacco despite fierce opposition from anti-tobacco campaigners and politicians. The dull, grotesque packaging envisaged by campaigners is a form of state-sponsored bullying designed to stigmatise the consumers of a legal product and denormalise a perfectly legitimate habit
- Ireland, like many other countries, continues to face a precarious financial situation. A global recession has resulted in a sharp drop in international trade, rising unemployment and slumping commodity prices. As a result many people are suffering profound hardship. Despite this the tobacco control industry wants government to devote precious parliamentary time introducing legislation for a policy for which there is no credible evidence that it will work
According to a recent poll by Red C for Forest Eireann, 9% of people surveyed think standardised packaging is the policy most likely to reduce youth smoking rates in Ireland. In contrast more than half the population thinks health education in schools would be most effective in reducing smoking rates.
Mallon said: “The Minister for Health has made plain packaging of tobacco a personal mission but according to the same poll only a very small minority think it’s the best way to stop children smoking. Even fewer want it to be his number one priority in 2014.”
Next week Mallon begins a tour of Ireland to promote Forest Eireann’s ‘Plain Packs Plain Stupid’ campaign. The tour begins in Cork on Tuesday 21 January 2014 and finishes in Dublin next month.