Ex-minister wants Dunnes, Tesco, Supervalu to stop selling cigarettes

James Reilly says large retailers are supposed to be ‘providers of nourishment’

Former Minister for Health James Reilly wants big food retailers to stop selling cigarettes. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/THE IRISH TIMES

Former Minister for Health James Reilly wants big food retailers to stop selling cigarettes. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/THE IRISH TIMES


Former minister for health James Reilly has called on the major supermarket chains to stop selling cigarettes.

He said he would like to see Tesco, Supervalu, Dunnes Stores and other big retailers end the sale of tobacco products because they were “supposed to be providers of food and nourishment and nutritional goods”.

He said “they should take the lead and stop selling” cigarettes.

Dr Reilly also called for a change in licensing regulations “so we don’t have any longer this situation where one licence covers all your outlets”.

He said each outlet should have a licence and “transgressions of that licence should be punishable by real fines of at least €5,000 plus losing the right to sell tobacco for a year”.

These were “real sanctions” he hoped the Department of Health would progress.

Dr Reilly was introducing a proposal, unanimously accepted by the Seanad, for the Minister for Health to amend legislation by extending the ban on smoking to places where food is served outdoors.

His proposal to ban smoking where food is served outdoors was accepted without a vote by the Seanad.

Dr Reilly, a GP, said the issue was personal for him because his father had a stroke and was left blind for the last 14 years of his life due to smoking.

His brother was a public health doctor but was unable to quit the habit and died of lung cancer aged 60 and more recently his brother-in-law aged 62 also died of lung cancer.

“So for me this is personal and for me it is professional as a doctor having seen all the suffering I’ve seen and as politician for me it has to be one of our main political ambitions to create a tobacco-free society”.

That would mean having a prevalence of smoking of less than 5 per cent with the target date of 2025. The current rate is 18 per cent.

Dr Reilly, who introduced plain packaging on tobacco products in Ireland, said “I believe we’re winning because young people between the ages of 12 and 17 in recent surveys, less and less of them are smoking”.

He said that 6,000 Irish men and women die every year as a direct result of smoking.

“It is the only legal product that we know of that when used as directed by the manufacturer will kill one in two of its habitual users.”

He added that 1.6 million deaths related to smoking occur every year in the European region and second hand smoking causes 890,000 premature deaths globally every year.

Minister of State for Health Catherine Byrne, who supported the motion, said both her mother and father smoked.

Ms Byrne said she was astonished when she passed a maternity hospital on her way into work “at the amount of women, quite pregnant, standing outside with a drip and smoking at the same time.