New plan to stub out smoking by 2025
Minister seeks to ‘protect next generation from taking up this dreadful habit’
Minister for Health James Reilly takes part in a photocall to launch Tobacco Free Ireland, at Croke Park, Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
A plan to reduce smoking in Ireland to less than 5 per cent of the population by 2025 has been published by Minister for Health James Reilly.
Tobacco Free Ireland recommends the introduction of legislation to prohibit smoking within the campuses of primary schools, secondary schools and childcare facilities, as well as promoting tobacco-free campuses for all third-level institutions.
The report sets out 60 recommendations aimed at cutting the rate of smoking. Currently 22 per cent of the adult population smokes. Dr Reilly said the measures would seek “to protect the next generation from taking up this dreadful habit that kills one in two of those who use it”.
The document broadly sets out the Government’s aims but a detailed action plan with timelines has yet to be developed.
The proposals, which have been criticised by smokers’ rights campaigners, would also see an annual excise duty increase on tobacco products applied over a continuous five- year period. “Robust evidence exists demonstrating that higher tobacco taxes and prices are the single most effective measure to reduce overall tobacco use,” the report states.
World Health Organisation tobacco control chief Dr Haik Nikogosian told the event the plan was a “bold example” of Ireland’s “strong leadership” on tobacco measures over the past number of years. In particular, Dr Nikogosian praised the aim of “denormalising” smoking, that is to make it socially unacceptable.
However John Mallon, spokesman for smokers’ lobby group Forest Éireann, said the proposal was “morally wrong” and would stigmatise hundreds of thousands of adults around the country.
“Denormalising tobacco will drive more and more people to the black market and the fringes of society,” Mr Mallon said.
The Irish Cancer Society welcomed the plan, especially its aim “to deal with the constant marketing assault on children and teens”.
However the organisation also questioned whether the Department of Health had the budget to follow through on the proposals.
Its chief executive John McCormack called on Dr Reilly to seek an increased health budget to prevent this “ambitious strategy” becoming “diluted”.
Dr Reilly said he hoped to have the heads of Bill for anti-tobacco legislation prepared later this month.
He warned that plans to introduce uniform cigarette packaging and other anti- smoking measures would draw intense lobbying from big tobacco companies.
“The full weight of the tobacco industry will now be turned on us,” he said. “They employed 161 lobbyists to lobby MEPs . . . that’s the level of resource they have and they’re prepared to throw at this.”
Over the past year, industry lobbyists have secured meetings with a number of Government Ministers and officials, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Asked about the possibility of further such meetings, Dr Reilly said it was “very unlikely”.
The Department of Health estimates at least 5,200 people die each year from diseases caused by tobacco use.