Tobacco lobby 'has to be taken on'


Minister of State for primary care Alex White yesterday described the tobacco industry as a very powerful lobby that had to be challenged.

Mr White was launching an Irish Cancer Society report, Women and Smoking: Time to Face the Crisis, compiled in association with the National Women’s Council of Ireland, which stated that smoking was causing “immense damage” to the health of people in this country.

He said the Department of Health, in consultation with the HSE, was constantly monitoring the tobacco industry’s “highly sophisticated” and “ever-evolving” marketing tactics.

“They’re a very powerful lobby internationally as well as in individual countries so they have to be contended with and they have to be sometimes challenged and taken on.”

Mr White dismissed the industry’s argument that raising excise duty on cigarettes encouraged smuggling as “sometimes self-serving”.

Cigarette packets must carry graphic photographs highlighting the dangers of smoking from next month, he said.

“These packs will appear in our shops from February 1st . . . and will assist in making the packaging of cigarettes, as it were, less glamorous and attractive.”

The report stated that 27 per cent of women smoked, but the rate rose to 56 per cent among women aged 18-29 in disadvantaged communities.

More women died from lung cancer than from breast cancer in 2011. For a six-month period in 2010 there were more women attending St James’s Hospital in Dublin with lung cancer than men.

The report said Ireland’s tenure of the rotating EU presidency should be used as “an opportunity to promote messaging around industry manipulation”.

Head of advocacy and communications at the Irish Cance Society Kathleen O’Meara said the tobacco industry was targeting young women through “innovative” packaging of “slimline” cigarettes.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland’s chief executive, Orla O’Connor, also called for “plain” packaging and complained of “draconian” funding cuts to the health budget.