Reilly expects cigarette pack challenge

Minister for Health says tobacco industry will try to stop introduction of plain packaging

Minister for Health James Reilly has said he expects the tobacco industry to challenge his plans to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes in the courts.

Dr Reilly said that “without a shadow of a doubt” the industry would try to stop the measure, but this only proved how much of an impact it would have on its efforts to recruit new smokers.

Anti-smoking groups welcomed the Government’s plans to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products from next year. However, tobacco manufacturers and retailers claimed the move would boost the sale of illegal cigarettes by international criminal gangs because the standardised packaging would be easier to produce.

Ireland is set to become the first country in Europe, and the second in the world after Australia, to introduce plain packaging after the Cabinet yesterday approved proposals presented by Dr Reilly.


Dr Reilly said the legislation to be prepared later this year was justified by the fact that it would save lives. Over 5,200 people die each year in Ireland from tobacco-related diseases.

“The introduction of standardised packaging will remove the final way for tobacco companies to promote their deadly product in Ireland.” he said. “Cigarette packets will no longer be a mobile advertisement for the tobacco industry.”

Standardised packaging will remove all forms of branding, such as trademarks, logos, colours and graphics. The brand name would be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands and the packs would all be in one plain neutral colour.

Strong evidence
Dr Reilly said there was strong evidence the measure would increase the effectiveness of health warnings, reduce false health beliefs about cigarettes and reduce brand appeal, especially among young people.

Plain packaging was one of a number of measures required to “denormalise” smoking in society, he said. Further initiatives in education and awareness, cessation services and an extension of the workplace smoking ban were also being considered.

The international tobacco industry is supporting a number of countries who are challenging the Australian ban at the World Trade Organisation.

Tobacco smuggling
Retail Ireland said the Government was right to do everything it could to reduce the prevalence of smoking, but warned that the measure would make illegally imported cigarettes more attractive.

It said the health initiative should be matched by greater penalties for tobacco smuggling.

The Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation welcomed the proposed legislation, saying it would make children less likely to start smoking.

Attractive packet design was one of the last ways left for the industry to recruit new smokers, the two organisations said, and this meant the legislation was urgently needed.

Research from the UK has found adults and adolescents perceive cigarettes in plain packs to be less appealing .

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.