Bill to outlaw tobacco lobbying defeated in Seanad
Minister for Health said he could not support legislation because of legal and constitutional considerations
Senator John Crown: “If we pass this Bill, it is going to ring around the world as another onslaught in the worldwide battle against tobacco”
The Government has defeated a Seanad private member’s Bill to criminalise lobbying of government officials by tobacco manufacturers and their representatives by 25 votes to 22
Minister for Health James Reilly said he could not support the legislation because a number of legal and constitutional considerations arise. “Constitutional issues arise in relation to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly.”
But Prof John Crown, who introduced the Protection of the Public Interest from Tobacco Lobbying Bill, said there were precedents in relation to restricting freedom of expression and cited the prohibition on politicians discussing court cases with judges.
He said that prior to 1964 no government had stated that it was policy that smoking caused cancer. In 2004, then minister for health, Micheál Martin, was the first health minister to have an entire country made smoke-free in the workplace.
This year, Australia was the first country to state it would introduce a blanket ban on pictorial depictions on cigarettes and have mandatory plain packaging. He urged Dr Reilly to ensure Ireland was the first to deal with lobbying. “If we pass this Bill, it is going to ring around the world as another onslaught in the worldwide battle against tobacco,’’ he added.
Prof Crown said it would be a recognition of the problem lobbying caused in Washington, Brussels, Strasbourg, London, Tokyo, Dublin and elsewhere.
Feargal Quinn (Ind) said he had argued in the past that all lobbying should take place in the open in the Oireachtas. He added that Senator Crown had dealt with two of his pet hates, tobacco and lobbying behind the scenes. “By all means allow people to smoke, if that is what they insist in doing, but let us not encourage them,’’ he added.
Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames said “we don’t have a university campus that is smoke-free”. She added that no university campus in the EU was smoke-free and pointed out that “one drop of nicotine kills a bird”. Independent David Norris described the legislation as “a savage Bill but at the same time what we’re dealing with is a savage and unscrupulous conspiracy” by tobacco manufacturers to kill people for profit.