A number of TDs have voiced their concern as to the method of introduction and effectiveness of the Government's plain packaging proposals, in a Dáil debate on the matter last week.
In two Dáil debates on the Plain Packaging Bill last week, Independent TD Finian McGrath noted that TDs were being asked to support the legislation "in the absence of information regarding the Regulatory Impact Assessment that was conducted last February.
"In effect, Deputies do not know what the cost benefit and the impact of this Bill will be or if the tobacco companies sought compensation in their submissions. This information should be made available to Deputies so they know for what they are voting."
McGrath drew a comparison between the potential legal challenge that could arise should the plain packaging proposals get the go ahead, and the upward-only rent reviews case, noting that the "Government did not proceed with abolishing upward only rent reviews as it would have required the payment of compensation to landlords whose rights were infringed. […] What is the connection here? The connection is that we could find ourselves in a situation where there could be a legal challenge costing hundreds of millions of euro."
Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell, a former smoker, voiced concern that the use of plain packaging to make tobacco products more unappealing may backfire. "I am concerned about minimalist packaging in the sense that it might be considered more attractive," she explained. "My evidence for that is when one looks at the more expensive shops, they always have more minimalist and plainer packaging and bags for their products."
In addition, Mitchell said that she believed it is "folly" that increasing the price of cigarettes "will somehow stop smokers smoking. One will never price an addict out of the market. It just does not happen as it is not a normal market."
Independent Waterford TD John Halligan said that he believed "plain packaging on cigarettes will make them more glamorous to young people since it will generate an air of secrecy and create a form of taboo."
As last week's debates on the proposed Bill were not completed in the allotted time, it remains to be seen whether the Bill can proceed before the summer recess.