Crown wants to see ‘bankruptcy’ of ‘evil’ tobacco industry

Assembly members told legislation for plain packaging was under ‘sustained immoral assault’

Independent Senator John Crown has said he wants to see the “bankruptcy” of the “evil” tobacco industry.

Prof Crown told the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Dublin there was never a year during the Troubles when more people died from violence than died from smoking-related diseases.

“Really what we’re trying to achieve is the end of smoking and the bankruptcy of the tobacco industry. That’s actually what we’d like to achieve,” he said.

“The main victims of tobacco smuggling are not omnivorous high spending Government Departments who are being deprived of the revenue they would get from cigarette taxation.

“It is the four to five people per day in the Republic and the one to two people per day in Northern Ireland who die from lung cancer and twice that number who die from other smoking-related illnesses.”

Prof Crown told the Assembly members meeting in the Seanad that legislation to introduce plain packaging was under “sustained highly immoral assault by foreign forces”. He appealed to neighbouring parliaments to introduce similar legislation.

If plain packaging was introduced across Ireland and Britain the issue of smuggling could be tackled more effectively, he said.

“There was never a year in the worst years of the Northern Ireland carnage, that pointless period of madness that engulfed the six counties of Northern Ireland, there was never a year when more people died from violence than died from smoking,” he said.

The Assembly is made up of members of the Oireachtas and Westminster Parliament, along with the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, and Northern Ireland Assembly. The High Court of Tynwald and States of Guernsey and Jersey are also represented.

“There is a sub-text being offered by many...that somehow if we try to tackle the tobacco problem by turning the squeeze on those who are quote unquote legitimate sales people for this really evil industry that somehow we are facilitating smuggling.”

He said the principle beneficiaries of tobacco smuggling were people involved in the tobacco industry.

“It’s Big Tobacco. Overwhelmingly the product which is smuggled is legitimate quote unquote product which is manufactured by quote unquote legitimate companies who love smuggling.”

Prof Crown said this was because their product was being sold and it was a “cheap way to addict new children”. He said people would buy a product if it was cheap.

“Everyone please remember the business model of the tobacco industry is summed up in three words: addict children to carcinogens.”

Labour MP Chris Ruane said the Assembly should be examining ways to maximise pressure on tobacco companies to "cut back on their recruitment of young people and children".

He said Ireland had led the way in banning smoking in public places. The lobby against plain packaging was “massive” and “well-funded”, he said.

The “collapse of Australian society” had been predicted if plain packaging was introduced, with threats of “triads coming over from China”.

However, Mr Ruane said the number of people smoking had decreased.