Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health

General Scheme of the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill 2019: Department of Health

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Yes, just a quick one. Going back to the point raised by Deputy Burke, an advertising technique that is used is to offer 10% extra free. That technique is used in all products, from breakfast cereals to soap powders, or anything that consumers want. It is clearly an area that needs to be addressed, whether it is in relation to how the products are sold in the retail outlets or the way they are being brought into the country. I could never understand why people would want to bring half a tonne of tobacco products into the country at one time. I could never work out the logic of that.

People look at things differently. I would strongly recommend that the Department look at that and see to what extent it can address it, if it is not already addressed in the proposals.

The other issue relates to habit forming, if I might go back to that again. Any product that recreates the habit is a threat to the whole programme and a danger. I speak as a person who has given up smoking, which I enjoyed immensely, incidentally. There is no good saying I did not. If I was driving a long journey late at night, as people in this business must do from time to time, from Donegal or Cahersiveen to Dublin, smoking was a refuge and helped keep me alert. We need to look at the medical alternatives in terms of products that will address those issues. The cup of coffee is a great idea and it works as well, without a doubt.

In regard to weight loss, I am of the firm opinion, and I have been for a long time, that if people are convinced smoking dulls the appetite for food, they are going to do it, especially because it is enjoyable. If a product were found that was safe, and I am told such products are available but they need to be thoroughly tested, that would be a big breakthrough in terms of the attractiveness of smoking to some people who may want to lose weight and at the same time want to give up smoking. The witnesses might look to their colleagues with a view to addressing that issue because it is an issue. From my experience I know losing weight and stopping smoking at the same time is a double challenge. I am not suggesting everyone's experience is the same but that is an area we need to address.

The last point I want to make is in regard to the home rollers. I do not know how that can be controlled effectively. The product cannot be banned outright. I am not certain whether the legislation herein contains adequate provision to dissuade people from relying on home manufacture of cigarettes, because there is an economic element to it as far as they are concerned. We must be able to explain to the smoker that this product is not good for him or her; in fact it is worse. That point needs to be driven home.

There should also be a review after a year of the legislation being in operation to see how it is working, and whether it is working as was intended. It would not be necessary to spend much time on the review, just to tap into the various bullets points with a view to seeing whether the legislation is as effective as was intended.

There are people who will find it extremely difficult to give up smoking - there is no doubt about that - and we must be sympathetic to that and address their problems in a meaningful way. E-cigarettes can be used to wean them off, but the emphasis should be on weaning-off. It is similar to dealing with drug consumption, where we have programmes for people which are used sometimes as a means of continuation of supply rather than a weaning-off from the product. I urge in particular that the weaning-off element be addressed in a very aggressive way, which means and includes identifying smoking alternatives that are on the market. All need to be geared towards weaning off and away from the tobacco products and away from dependence on their alternatives if they happen to be habit forming as well.


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