The head of the HSE’s national cancer control programme has described claims by the tobacco industry that increased cigarette prices lead to increased smuggling as “whitewash” and called for the Government to introduce further tax increases to discourage smoking.
"I am very, very keen on raising taxes as are the Irish Cancer Society. Smuggling is for the guards; taxes are a deterrent – it's one of the most powerful deterrents," Dr Susan O'Reilly said at the launch yesterday of a tobacco-free campus at St Luke's Hospital in Rathgar in Dublin.
“Tobacco companies are very strong at lobbying,” she said, adding that the arguments posed by them were that tax hikes on tobacco impacted Government revenues due to increased smuggling. “This is all just whitewash. We need taxes [to go] up,” Dr O’Reilly said.
“We have to think of tobacco dependence as a chronic relapsing disease rather than a lifestyle choice,” Dr O’Reilly said.
“It’s probably the only legal consumer product in the world that harms everyone who uses it and actually kills half the people who use it.”
Dr O’Reilly said the incidence of invasive cancer recorded in 2010 is expected to double by 2030. “A major driver of this is the ageing population but the other key driver is preventable causes such as smoking. We can’t stop people getting older but we certainly can support people to try and avoid smoking.”
From yesterday, smoking will not be permitted on the hospital grounds, car parks or gardens of St Luke’s.