Cigarette vending machines to be banned under Coalition plans

Planned law includes higher fees for retailersand ban on e-cigarettes for minors

Minister for Health James Reilly after the Cabinet’s decision earlier in June to approve the publication of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014, which will place Ireland as the first country in the European Union to legislate for plain packaging for tobacco products. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Health James Reilly after the Cabinet’s decision earlier in June to approve the publication of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014, which will place Ireland as the first country in the European Union to legislate for plain packaging for tobacco products. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Government is to ban cigarette vending machines as part of legislation that will also outlaw the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and impose stricter penalties on retailers selling to underage customers. The heads of a Bill for legislation were agreed by Cabinet yesterday and reflect a broader strategy to effectively bring about a “tobacco-free Ireland” by 2025.

It will also include an increased but proportionate retail register fee to stock tobacco, replacing the current system of a once-off €50 fee no matter what size the store. Vendors caught selling to minors will be named and shamed when caught and will have greater sanctions imposed.

The measures are among the latest anti-tobacco steps being taken by Minister for Health James Reilly, who has already laid the ground for plain-packaging on cigarette boxes. “This Government has agreed a policy of a tobacco-free Ireland and has set the goal of 2025 to establish a prevalence rate of under 5 per cent for smoking, which would effectively be a tobacco- free Ireland,” a Government source said.

The mainstay of the legislation will be the outlawing of about 7,000 vending machines which offer an easier source of tobacco products to minors. Details will be worked out through a regulatory impact assessment. The new licensing system will control who sells tobacco and non-medicinal nicotine delivery systems, or e-cigarettes.

The new licence fee will aim to raise €5 million, with larger retailers expected to pay more. It is likely this fee increase will be a disincentive for some retailers to stock tobacco products altogether.

At the moment there is no regulation on the sale of e-cigarettes which the Government believes can be a “gateway” to tobacco. “The Minister is particularly informed by concerns over children,” the Government source said. Retailers caught selling to under-18s currently suffer an average one-day ban from selling products. This will be increased and a fixed-penalty system will be introduced.

Draft legislation will now be prepared, although there is no timeline on when it is expected to become law.