While new Health Minister Leo Varadkar is reportedly still 'at loggerheads' with Children's Minister James Reilly over which aspects of the public health agenda will fall under his remit, he appears to be rowing in behind his predecessor's tobacco proposals.
Independent TD Terence Flanagan asked the Minister last week about the steps being taken to assess whether the tobacco industry will sue the government, should plain packaging be introduced.
In response, the Minister replied: "Litigation […] acts as a deterrent for other countries from developing and enacting new progressive pieces of tobacco control legislation. The threat of litigation should not be an obstacle to the introduction of important public health measures.
"I am of the view that standardised packaging for tobacco products is a proportionate, evidence-based public health measure which will assist, together with the other many initiatives outlined in Tobacco Free Ireland, in reducing the overall prevalence of smoking in Ireland. The introduction of standardised packaging has the support of the Government and has been considered and approved by Government."
Independent TD Stephen Donnelly also asked the new Minister whether he was aware of consumers switching to cheaper tobacco brands in jurisdictions that have introduced plain packaging.
He replied: "Although I am aware that the tobacco industry has argued that standardised packaging will lead to smokers choosing cheaper brands, I have not seen any research that conclusively demonstrates that cheaper cigarettes have a greater impact on a person’s health, or that cheaper tobacco causes more disease than so-called 'premium brands'."
He added that his "priority is to reduce the consumption of tobacco across the board, to meet our policy target of making Ireland tobacco free (i.e. with a smoking prevalence rate of less than 5%) by 2025."
© 2014 - Checkout Magazine by Stephen Wynne-Jones