Images to be added to tobacco packs

Wed, Dec 21, 2011, 00:00

Plans to introduce graphic photographs on tobacco products highlighting the dangers of smoking have been approved.

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly today signed regulations which will force tobacco firms to include such images on their products from February 1st 2013.

Packaging currently carries text warnings only, but the images to be included in future aim to provide a further deterrent to tobacco consumption.

“We should never lose sight of the health consequences of smoking which remains the greatest single cause of preventable illness and premature death in Ireland, killing over 5,200 people a year.” said Dr Reilly. “Every year, premature deaths caused by tobacco use in Ireland are far greater than the combined death toll from car accidents, fires, heroin, cocaine, murder and suicide.”

“If, by introducing these graphic images on cigarette packs, some people are shocked into considering how smoking is impacting on them and their families then the warnings will have achieved their objective," he added.

More than one billion people in 19 countries are now covered by laws requiring large, graphic health warnings on packages of tobacco and research shows that such warnings can be move effective in encouraging people to stop smoking.

According to research from the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 50 per cent of smokers in Canada said the introduction of graphic images on tobacco products in 2000 led them to smoke less around other people while in Australia, 38 per cent of smokers said they felt motivated to quit after similar warnings were introduced in 2006.

The new legislation is the latest in a long line of regulations introduced over the past decade including a ban on advertising and displaying tobacco products in retail outlets in 2009.

The national smoking ban was introduced in March 2004 by then minister for health Micheál Martin. Its aim was to protect people from second-hand smoke but it had also been hoped that the ban would provide an incentive to help smokers quit.

Dr Reilly recently said he intended to introduce new legislation to ban smoking in cars within the next year.

A WHO report from 2009 said that some 29 per cent of Irish people still smoke. Smoking is estimated to cost the Irish economy at least €1million a day in lost productivity and smoking-related illnesses costs the State about €2 billion a year.