Smokers ‘hammered’ with punitive legislation, TD claims

Finian McGrath says those with nicotine habit are hit unfairly compared to those with other addictions

Finian McGrath says smokers are hit unfairly with ‘punitive’ legislation.

Finian McGrath says smokers are hit unfairly with ‘punitive’ legislation.

Thu, Jul 3, 2014, 15:55

Smokers are the people who are always “hammered” with punitive legislation, compared to those with other addictions, Independent TD Finian McGrath has claimed.

He said there was a “cozy consensus” in the Dáil and Seanad about smoking although he acknowledged “it’s not good for your health. But neither is excessive eating or binge drinking. But it always seems to be the smokers who get hammered even though we contribute €1.2 billion in taxes to the State each year... now that’s a lot of money to run a lot of services.”

Mr McGrath said he was addicted to smoking. “I do try to give them up every day but bullying, marginalising or hectoring will never work with me.”

He described as “disgraceful” the treatment of people using electronic cigarettes, who were trying to get off an addiction. He said there was a ban on them on buses and “even in the Dáil there’s been an attempt to stop members using an e-cigarette in the private members’ or the public bar”.

He was speaking during the debate on the Public Health (Standard Packaging of Tobacco) Bill, which has already passed in the Seanad. The legislation will change tobacco product packaging to display graphic pictures of diseases causing smoking as well as warnings such as “smoking kills”.

Mr McGrath asked the Minister: “Will this Bill make me or 25 per cent of the population, smoke less or give them up,” and said it would have little effect.

He also warned of the cost to the State if it lost litigation, expected from the tobacco manufacturing industry once the legislation is enacted.

Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell said she also had a problem with the standardised packaging. “I have a real problem in seeing how changing packaging is going to affect numbers smoking,” said the Dublin South TD, a former heavy smoker.

She said “we’re talking about a package that already has a death threat on it”. She believed packaging would have no influence on smokers, adding that advertising works and “few are more skilled at advertising than smoking manufacturers and wholesalers”.

Ms Mitchell said every smoker knew their habit kills but nothing would deter an addicted smoker. They would smoke a cigarette if it came wrapped in a dirty cloth “and come to love that cloth”.

This was what addiction meant and was the reason why heroin addicts used dirty needles.

The Fine Gael backbencher said however that she supported Minister for Health James Reilly’s efforts to stamp out smoking and said the focus had to be particularly on young girls, who smoke for weightloss reasons.