Tobacco firms 'must accept damage'

Minister for Health James O'Reilly (right) and Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan pose in the RHA Gallery in Dublin with photographs which will appear on cigarette packaging sold in Ireland. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Minister for Health James O'Reilly (right) and Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan pose in the RHA Gallery in Dublin with photographs which will appear on cigarette packaging sold in Ireland. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

 

EU tobacco-producing countries must accept damage to their industry in the drive to stop people smoking, Minister for Health James Reilly has said.

Ireland had prioritised a plan to ban flavoured tobacco and stylish cigarette packaging even if this hurt jobs in the tobacco industry in some countries, he said today following a two-day meeting of EU health ministers in Dublin.

“We have to remember it should never be a case of jobs or lives,” he said.

He said the EU should help countries to “get out of tobacco production” and to develop other types of industry instead.

European health commissioner Tonio Borg also acknowledged there would be opposition to the proposed ban. “It is natural in those countries where tobacco production is high there will be considerations other than health which will be put forwards to put it mildly,” he said.

The aim of the law was to prevent young people from starting smoking, said Mr Borg. “Tobacco products should look like tobacco products ... and it should taste like tobacco,” he said. It was hoped the effect would be a 2 per cent reduction in the number of smokers over five years in the EU. This would represent 2.4 million less smokers, he added.

Thirteen EU states produce tobacco, including Italy, which produces the biggest amount, followed Bulgaria, Poland and Spain.

The ban would affect menthol cigarettes, which are sold in Ireland, and vanilla flavoured cigarettes. Stylishly packaged cigarettes were a particular problem, Mr Reilly said. “That’s what they are trying to attract our children to, particularly young girls,” he said.

The Minister said he was hoping to win agreement from other health ministers on the directive during Ireland’s presidency of the EU which lasts until June which would then be submitted to the European Parliament for approval. The aim was to have agreement on the directive by next year and to have it enforced by 2015 or 2016.

He said 700,000 European were dying each year and the tobacco industry were looking for people to replace them. “They are focusing on children,” he said.

He said he supported a proposed new law in Ireland banning smoking in cars carrying children under 16, adding it was a “child protection issue”. The law could be enacted later this year. Since February 1st all cigarettes sold in Ireland must now carry graphic images and health warnings about the dangers of smoking.

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