Group endorses ban on in-store tobacco displays
The body representing environmental health officers has come out in support of legislation making tobacco invisible in shops and banning point-of-sale advertising.
Three tobacco companies are to challenge the constitutionality of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act, 2002.
The three - Gallaher (Dublin) Ltd, P.J. Carroll & Company Ltd and John Player & Sons Ltd - say the Act amounts to "an unconstitutional inhibition of our right of freedom of statement and our right to communicate information to smokers. It also severely restricts the rights of smokers to receive such information".
The Environmental Health Officers' Association said it "completely" supported the Minister for Health and Children and the Office of Tobacco Control in putting the legislation forward.
Advertising tobacco products in shops encourages minors to take up smoking, said its spokeswoman, Ms Anne Marie Part.
Advertising material also constituted a temptation to people trying to stop smoking, she said.
Earlier, the Minister, Mr Martin, accused the tobacco industry of "taking on the declared position of the elected representatives of the Irish people". Under the Act, retailers wishing to sell tobacco will have to be registered and could lose their registration if convicted of an offence under the Act.
No promotional material of any kind for tobacco products will be allowed in shops.
The tobacco retailer "shall ensure that tobacco products sold by him or her are kept in a closed container or dispenser that is not visible or accessible to any person" other than the retailer and his or her staff.
"These measures mean that it would not be possible for smokers to know which tobacco products are available for purchase," said a spokesman for Gallaher (Dublin). "Gallaher believes that these restrictions would limit its ability to compete, acquire market share, or to introduce new products into the Irish market place."
Mr Martin said the objective of the tobacco industry was to target young people. In-store advertising was a very effective tool for encouraging people to smoke.
Smoking kills 7,000 people a year in this country, he said in a Morning Ireland interview on RTÉ Radio 1.
The proposed legal challenge was "an assault on the position of the entire Oireachtas", he added.
ASH Ireland, the anti-smoking campaigning body, said it was not surprised at the move by the tobacco companies.
The tobacco industry enjoys "massive profits at the expense of those addicted to a killer product and can readily afford massive legal actions", it said.
Urging the Government to fight the action, the organisation said it may provide an opportunity to get certain answers from the industry such as the chemical content of cigarettes and whether the addictive ingredient in cigarettes on sale here "is being manipulated".
The proposed legislation can be read at the website of the Office of Tobacco Control: www.otc.ie