Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Committee on Health and Children: Select Sub-Committee on Health

Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014: Committee Stage

4:30 pm

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I remind Members to ensure their mobile phones are switched off for the duration of the meeting, please, as they interfere with the broadcasting equipment, even when on silent mode.

This meeting has been convened for the purposes of consideration of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014. I welcome the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, and officials from the Department of Health to this meeting. As this is a select sub-committee of Dáil Éireann, officials cannot speak or participate in the meeting. They may advise the Minister but they cannot speak in public. A list of amendments has been circulated to Members in advance of today's meeting. As Chairman I received correspondence from John Player, a copy of which is available on the committee's database. I understand Members have also received a copy of the same letter. I invite the Minister to make his opening remarks.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I am delighted to be here to resume the legislative process for what I believe to be very significant and important legislation. We left this Bill on Second Stage in the Dáil in July 2014. This was to ensure that we allowed for the member states to consider the legislation under the technical standards process. This process is now complete and so the Bill can continue its journey through the House.

In 2013 I announced the intention to draft legislation to introduce this measure. The Government approved and fully supported this approach. At that time Ireland was the first and only country in Europe committed to introducing this measure. Since that time I am very pleased to say that a number of countries are following Australia and Ireland's example in this regard. New Zealand is developing legislation. The UK Government announced its intention in January to proceed with regulations. France, Norway and Finland have all indicated their intention to consider introducing standardised packaging in the future.

Ireland has always been a leader in tobacco control measures. We can be proud of the path we have forged in the area of tobacco legislation. We can be proud of the influence we have on other countries to follow us in this regard. It is important, however, to realise that the battle against these harmful tobacco products is not yet complete and will not be complete until we can significantly reduce the numbers of young people starting to smoke. Some 12% of children aged between ten and 17 years are reported as current smokers. While the number of young people smoking has dropped considerably over the years, 12% is an unacceptable figure.

Members will have heard the arguments put by the tobacco industry: standardised packaging does not work, it will increase illicit trade, and Ireland should focus on educating young people about the harms of cigarettes. We know from research that branded tobacco packaging is a critically important part of tobacco promotion. We know that health warnings are more effective on plain backgrounds. We know that standardised packs are less attractive and less appealing to consumers, particularly children. This is a significant evidence base and it is showing us that standardised packaging works. Evidence from Australia shows it is working. Evidence from Australia has completely undermined the tobacco industry arguments. Misrepresentation of evidence by the tobacco industry is a well-recognised tactic. Another is the threat of legal challenges. While a legal challenge by the tobacco industry cannot be ruled out - I say that very much with tongue in cheek - I am very confident that the research available to us demonstrates that standardised packaging will have a positive impact on health and that it is a proportionate and justified measure. The threat of legal challenges should not be an obstacle to progressing public health policies. We must press on with our mission to make Ireland tobacco-free by 2025.

As regards educating our young people about the harms of tobacco, we are already doing this. Standardised packaging is one of a number of measures which combined will stop our young people smoking. It is the combination of past, present and future tobacco control measures that will reduce tobacco consumption. However, standardised packaging is very important as it is the next step in tackling tobacco advertising and promotion specifically.

Before we move to deal with the amendments proposed, I wish to indicate that I will be bringing some technical drafting amendments to the Bill on Report Stage. I thank Members for their participation on Committee Stage. I look forward to hearing Deputy Billy Kelleher speak on his amendments and the contributions of other members of the committee.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Does any Member wish to make an opening statement?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I would like to make a brief comment. I welcome the further opportunity to address the legislation. We have posed a number of questions from the first introduction of the legislation as to the effectiveness and veracity of the proposal but I am happy that it most certainly will make a positive contribution to the continuing momentum against tobacco products. In that respect I record for the Minister's noting that I will be supporting the Bill in each of its Stages. I would like to record that I think it is wholly inappropriate that this Legislature is being subjected to what are threats from interested parties in relation to the matters under address.

It is wholly inappropriate. If anything, what we have learned from the front pages of our national broadsheets this morning only steels our resolve to progress the legislation to a successful passage through these Houses. That is my response to the correspondence received and to the efforts to dissuade the Government. I commend the Minister on holding to his position. As an Opposition voice on health in these Houses, I stand foursquare with him in that resolve.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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As Chairman of the committee, I join Deputy Ó Caoláin in standing with the Minister and complimenting and commending him. It is wholly inappropriate that as the elected Members of Parliament we are threatened by the tobacco industry. It is very important that in this public health initiative we send a statement not just to citizens, but across the Western world that we are in favour of public health. I commend the Minister in that regard.

The day I receive correspondence from a tobacco company that claims plain packaging in Australia has led to an increase in smoking rates, contrary to what other research says, my question is this: if it claims the policy is not successful, then why is it so aggressive in its attempt to put an end to it? Like Deputy Ó Caoláin, I have only one vested interest, namely, the public health of the citizens of the nation. As Chair of the committee I commend the Minister on this initiative. It is important that we tease out the amendments on Committee Stage. If there are no other comments, we will move on to deal with the amendments.

Sections 1 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 6

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, line 27, to delete “20 May 2017” and substitute “20 July 2015”.

I echo other speakers in saying the Minister has my full support, and that of my party, in the context of his crusade against tobacco consumption and the need to reduce it substantially in this country. Some of the initial figures indicate that we are making slow but steady incremental progress and anything that can enhance that is welcome. Lest there be any doubt, I spoke in the Dáil on the matter on numerous occasions and I put on record the efforts of the Minister when he was Minister for Health, in the context of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Minister used the platform very effectively in trying to encourage the EU to take a lead in public health. I commend the Minister in that regard.

My amendments are designed to enhance the Bill and to assist in trying to ensure it is effective health policy and that it is also expeditious in trying to deal with tobacco consumption and the reduction of same. We are talking about a wash-out phase in the Bill whereby its introduction will be postponed until 20 May 2017. We are saying we should substitute the date with 20 July 2015. That is an indication of the urgency with which we view the matter that we should try to bring forward plain packaging and standardisation as quickly as possible to ensure we send out a very strong message to people that we are serious about confronting the nefarious, insidious tobacco industry and that we set a lead and an example. There might be good reason – the Minister can elaborate on that – but I would support the introduction of a blunt deadline in terms of the enactment of the legislation on 20 July 2015. That would give the industry adequate time to respond.

I do not refer to retailers who sell tobacco products in shops in this country, but the international tobacco industry is nefarious and threatening. It has tried, for example, to usurp the democratically elected representatives of Australia and its legislative process. While the industry has the right to protect its copyright through the courts, our duty must be to the people, in particular young people who might be contemplating experimenting with tobacco, and trying to discourage people from taking it up and to encourage people to give it up. That is the reason I have tabled the amendment. The Irish Cancer Society takes a strong line on the issue and it has been a strong proponent of the legislation and fully endorses what the Minister is trying to do. The purpose of the amendment is to strengthen the legislation.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I was anxious to hear what Deputy Kelleher would have to say. I am attracted to the spirit of the amendment. The Minister can, and I have no doubt will, in his reply respond on the practicalities. We can await the detail of that.

The spirit of the amendment is that rather than allow a period of time, there is an arguable need to impact not only in relation to the industry, but societally in terms of the importance of all of the measures. There is no single measure that will be a panacea for the inordinate costs that we have to bear as a result of the health consequences of tobacco smoking. This is one of a number of measures, some already implemented and other hopefully to follow, that will ultimately lead to a significant reduction in the number of people who smoke and further dissuade people from taking up smoking at an early age.

The little box I hold in my hand has been circulated as an example of what plain packaged cigarettes will look like. It is important for people to recognise and realise that when we talk about plain packaging that it is going to be a white box. It is not a white box, it is a very stark and unattractive product by any standard. Any examination of it will confirm that. What I have in my hand would not be an attractive device in terms of marketing the contents, quite the contrary. For that reason alone it is a further aid to the process we all support, namely, a significant reduction in current smoker numbers and an even greater reduction in the number of young people who take up the habit, so sadly, at a very early age, and with all the difficulties of giving up the habit. I am open to the spirit of what Deputy Kelleher has said and I await the Minister’s response on the practicalities of the proposition.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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At the outset, I thank both speakers for their support. I understand that Deputy Kelleher’s proposals are meant in the best possible way and I fully accept the bona fides of his support. Few people would be more enthusiastic than I to expedite the impact of the legislation but given the letter on the Chairman’s desk and the letters that are in circulation, everybody involved in the area is not one bit surprised about the tactics of the tobacco industry. I take the advice of the Attorney General on these matters. The amendment suggested by Deputy Kelleher proposes to shorten the transition period allowed for in the Bill. The transition provisions as outlined in the Bill allow retailers and manufacturers time to comply with the new measures.

Current packets may be manufactured until May 2016 and there will then be a one-year period in which to sell outstanding stocks. Non-compliant retail packaging may not be manufactured from May 2016 and may not be sold after May 2017.

The introduction of standardised packaging in Ireland is a proportionate public health measure. It is very important when introducing such measures that steps are taken to give the industry advance notice of the details of the measures. Any reduction in the transitional period may undermine the State's arguments regarding the proportionality of this Bill. The transitional times outlined in the Bill are in line with those set out in the EU 2014 tobacco products directive. Provisions in that directive are essential elements to the success of standardised packaging. The new tobacco directive provides for larger graphic warnings that are to be displayed on the front and back of packs. The European Commission has developed a new library of images which cannot be introduced prior to 20 May 2016. With this in mind, it is deemed reasonable to allow for all the changes required under the standardised packaging legislation and the new tobacco products directive to be introduced within the same timeframes.

As members know, the UK Government recently announced its decision to introduce regulations for standardised packaging. Similar to Ireland, these regulations will come into force at the same time as the tobacco products directive, in May 2016. The UK's regulations will also allow the same transitional time as the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill, which is until 2017.

I understand the Deputy, like me, would like the legislation commenced sooner rather than later, as I have said. However, in the interests of introducing proportionate measures, there is an obligation on the State to allow reasonable time for the industry, first, to prepare for the new measure and, second, to allow for the sale of old stock. On this basis, I regret I am unable to accept these amendments.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I accept the Minister's statement that, on the advice of the Attorney General, we must be seen to be acting proportionately and that the industry must have time to respond. I am quite definite in my own view from research that the industry would be well able to respond adequately within that timeframe. In Australia, it was able to respond within two months of the legislation's enactment. It had to wash out branded packaging to comply with the legislation. It has happened in another jurisdiction with a similar basis for establishing the legislation.

I tabled the amendments because we must send out very strong messages that although proportionality is important in passing legislation, we should not be brow-beaten, intimidated or threatened. I hope the advice comes from proportionality rather than the fear of threats, intimidation or bullying. In view of what the Minister has stated, I will press the amendment.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I will respond in the spirit of the support and co-operation we have had, but in the interests of accuracy, my information is that Australia gave the companies a full year to wash out the product. I fully accept that the Deputy's enthusiasm for this issue is honourable. I share it but, unfortunately, this advice comes from our Attorney General. It is not borne out of fear but rather the certainty that we would strengthen our case that our action is proportionate in terms of a response to a public health risk.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 2:

In page 7, line 28, to delete "20 May 2016" and substitute "20 May 2015".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 3:

In page 7, line 34, to delete "20 May 2017" and substitute "20 July 2015".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Section 6 agreed to.

SECTION 7

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 4:

In page 8, line 35, after "shape” to insert the following:"being not more and not less than a height of 8.5 centimetres, a width of 5.5 centimetres and a depth of 2 centimetres".

We have probably had a similar debate in the context of alcohol advertising and all that flows from it. Companies want to be able to stand out from the crowd on the shelf when selling a product. There is an issue with regard to the shape and size of a tobacco product or the packaging. We know there has been a move towards different sizes and types of boxes; for example, there is a lipstick-style box and so-called nano packaging. These are primarily targeted at young females in society. Companies obviously would make a calculated decision in the research context that these slim or extended packs are attractive and encourage young women and girls to start smoking. We want to make the regulation as watertight as possible and I know the Minister has already thought of this. I would be failing in my duty if I did not raise this in the context of existing concerns. These packs could diminish what the legislation is trying to achieve, which is to make cigarettes bland and unattractive so as not to stand out from the crowd. It is about ensuring that people are aware of the harm they will cause if consumed. The deficiency in the legislation which could allow for those lipstick-type and nano packages on the shelves could lead to this being a retrograde step. The tobacco companies have plenty of finance for research and I am sure they will move to this area very quickly. One can see, even if one is not out too late, cigarettes from such packages being consumed primarily by younger female smokers. Does the Minister have a response on the issue?

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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I realise what Deputy Kelleher is saying and I can see a box in front of me. Most boxes are more than 2 cm in depth. Is the Deputy arguing that all types of boxes would have to be changed? I wish to ask a question that is slightly off this topic. It is about cigars.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I will allow the Deputy to comment on a different section.

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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There has been attempted bullying and intimidation of this committee and the Minister with the threat of court. Tobacco companies should be told to stand back and lay off us. We will do what is important for people's health. We will do the legitimate and right thing. I do not want to receive any e-mails from tobacco companies.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy may raise her point on cigars in discussing section 10.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy's amendment specifies the minimum and maximum size of a cigarette pack. The Bill as drafted does not set minimum and maximum sizes but the new EU tobacco products directive sets out the minimum width and height of the graphic or combined health warnings placed on packs. Cigarette packs cannot therefore be any smaller than these minimum requirements. In effect, this indirectly sets a minimum pack size. The EU directive provision will be introduced at the same time as the provisions in this Bill.

The minimum size of the warnings eliminates those enticing small lipstick-style packs, as alluded to by the Deputy and which I have shown to members in the past. Existing legislation in Ireland has banned cigarette packs with fewer than 20 cigarettes, which eliminates the more affordable ten-cigarette packs from the market.

That eliminates the more affordable packs of ten from the market and was introduced specifically as a deterrent for children and young people starting to smoke. In relation to maximum heights and widths, the bigger the pack, the bigger the graphic warning that is on the pack. On that basis, I see no benefit to limiting the size of the packs if it makes the graphic warnings more prominent. I therefore cannot accept the amendment.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Minister saying an EU directive will limit the size of packs?

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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At the lower end.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 7 agreed to.

SECTION 8

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I move amendment No. 5:

In page 10, to delete lines 5 to 8 and substitute the following:

“(2) An alpha-numeric code as prescribed by the Minister may be printed, in accordance with regulations under subsection (3), on a cigarette.”.

The amendment relates to the appearance of cigarettes. We are talking about individual cigarettes as opposed to the packet. We suggest that while manufacturers can put an alpha-numeric code on a cigarette nothing else should be allowed on it. When plain packaging and standardised packaging is introduced, is there anything to stop tobacco companies from putting anything other than an alpha-numeric code on individual cigarettes? I am concerned that manufacturers could present cigarettes in such a way that they would be enticing and that they would stand out from other cigarettes. Has any thought been given to the matter of individual cigarettes? While we will have a standardised package and graphic details showing the damage smoking can cause, once a pack is open and a cigarette is extracted is it not possible that manufacturers could put advertising on individual cigarettes? Nice, attractive coded messages could be put on cigarettes which would defeat the purpose. Individual cigarettes should be standardised in order to ensure there is no enticement or inducement possible.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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This amendment seeks to prohibit a brand and variant name from appearing on a cigarette stick and instead place an alpha-numeric code. The Bill allows for a brand and variant name to appear on the cigarette stick itself in order to distinguish one brand of cigarette from another. The Bill provides for the colour of the stick and limits the tobacco industry to white paper with a white or imitation cork tip, so the area is regulated.

It is important to state that the inclusion of a brand and variant name must be of a form and manner set out in regulations. The regulations will include colour of names, font type, font size, positioning and appearance of the names. Again, the State must give consideration to the proportionality of a measure and on that basis I cannot accept the amendment in this regard. In short, there are quite severe restrictions and limitations on how the cigarette stick itself may be presented.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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Will that be done through regulation? Is it possible that the regulations would ensure what I seek to be included in the Bill? If the matter is covered by regulation, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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It is.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister. I am happy to withdraw the amendment in view of the Minister’s assurances that the matter will be dealt with by regulation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 8 agreed to.

Section 9 agreed to.

SECTION 10 Question proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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I wish to ask about cigar smoking. I know we exempted it in the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002. My understanding is that the UK will exempt cigars as well. The problem might arise that one would have one law in Northern Ireland and a different one in the South. Cigar smoking is favoured more by middle aged men.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Deputy Mitchell O’Connor.

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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I am sorry. I am looking at Deputy Kelleher. He knows what I mean.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Mitchell O’Connor should speak on the Bill please.

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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It does not get people started. It is not like lipstick.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy should stick to the Bill.

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Kelleher spoke about lipstick and cigarettes being for young women. Cigars do not entice people into smoking. It is more something men do after a meal rather than as a lifestyle. Could cigar smoking be exempt?

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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For the sake of clarity – I do not advocate the measure – there was an exemption for cigars in the regulation under the 2002 Act. A cigar company manufactures cigars in Ballaghaderreen in County Roscommon, or Mayo, depending on whom one supports. The question is whether there is potential to exempt cigars under regulation or whether they will be governed directly by the legislation itself. I seek clarity on the matter.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The debate naturally follows on to pipe tobacco. Could the Minister incorporate the matter in his response to the previous point? I have reflected previously on the matter. There is an outlet not very far from where we sit that, to describe it as best I can, is a very fine emporium. It is a national attraction in itself and a mecca for tourists. I do not for a moment believe that young people are being attracted in any considerable way to taking up pipe smoking. It is particular to a cohort of people, a naturally ever-depleting number. There is an area that merits address. I wonder whether the Minister would give a response to that particular area also.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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Everything is possible, but whether it is wise is another day’s work. Cigars and pipe tobacco are tobacco and they do cause harm such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, impotence and a host of other problems. Notwithstanding that those particular forms of smoking are not currently popular, one must consider what might happen if the other forms of tobacco become very unpopular. Where do members think the focus of the tobacco industry will go? It will go onto cigars and pipe tobacco, of course. The legislation covers all tobacco products and I believe that to be right and proper. That will pre-empt us having to return in a number of years to again pass specific laws on those other tobacco products which will become a major focus of the tobacco industry should it find, as it will indeed find, that plain packaging has resulted in a huge reduction in the number of people smoking cigarettes in this country.

The situation around e-cigarettes has become quite worrying. In one survey in the UK 4% of children are vaping, who never smoked and in America the rate of young people vaping is up to 17%. The tobacco companies are buying up the smaller e-cigarette companies and it is being promoted now as a lifestyle choice as opposed to an aid to help kick the habit of smoking. One can see where this vastly well-resourced industry focuses its attention. As it finds one door closing it seeks to find a window somewhere else open. On the basis of tobacco being harmful, regardless of the form in which it is used, the legislation applies to all tobacco products.

Photo of Billy KelleherBilly Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I can accept the Minister's point. We need to broaden the debate as the issue is not just tobacco but nicotine. Nicotine is being consumed through vaping. Once a person is addicted to nicotine it can lead him or her towards the path of smoking and tobacco substitutes. We will have to confront this issue at some stage. The concern is that a young person may start out by vaping, thinking it is harmless. It may be harmless in the context of not damaging his or her health initially but he or she may become addicted to nicotine. When the urge comes on and they do not have the vapouriser, they will reach for a cigarette. I, too, have major concerns and we will have to look at this in order that we do not allow another generation to become slaves to nicotine. How they get the nicotine into their body is the question and that can lead to the drift from vaping, to nicotine addiction to people taking up cigarettes at a later stage.

I understand there is an exemption under the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 for cigars and pipe tobacco products. Is there a regulation to allow for the exemption of these products in this Bill?

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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The difference between smoking cigarettes or cigar and pipe smoking is that an instrument is involved. The tobacco is placed in a utility, whereas there is direct oral engagement in smoking cigarettes and cigars. Given that the Minister is proposing to address the issue of the presentation of the tobacco product, has he an example of how pipe tobacco will be presented? We have the example of the presentation of the cigarette. How does he envisage pipe tobacco will be presented given that it takes a variety of different shapes and sizes and can come in a plug, a tin, pre-cut or uncut? As far as I can see, packaging is not provided for in any standardised way. The Minister is quite specific on the packaging of cigarettes. Has he considered the impact of the legislation in respect of pipe tobacco products? I would not want to see anyone encouraged to take up pipe smoking. I do not see that risk as a by-product of the Bill's intent of ameliorating the effects of tobacco across the board. I cannot for a moment imagine young people starting to light up pipes. In my view, thankfully, that is most unlikely. The numbers who smoke a pipe are declining. It is a fact of life. The outlets that I am speaking of provide an array of products for people who have this interest and smoke pipe tobacco. Obviously there will be a concern about the viability of those retail outlets and the employment they provide. Can the Minister be more specific about pipe tobacco as the position is not clear from the Bill?.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I join Deputy Kelleher in asking the Minister to ensure that another generation will not be enslaved to nicotine. I, too, am concerned about vaping. We have to take vaping very seriously because there is a movement to vape in an enclosed space or in a pub. Has the Department taken the initiative and commissioned research on this or have we conducted research on the dangers presented at emergency departments or in primary care centres by the use of these products? I think we need to grasp this opportunity. In the 2002 Act we banned smoking in enclosed public spaces, and in conjunction with this Bill, it will move the attitude of society on tobacco. Are we missing an opportunity to deal with vaping? Can we look at it in the context of this Bill and other public health initiatives on the issue of tobacco control?

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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The EU directive on tobacco control also applies to safety issues around e-cigarettes. In relation to nicotine vaping and the Chairman's anxiety to use this Bill to address it, I would caution against anything that would delay or alter this Bill because it will delay it and we would have to go back to-----

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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What I meant is that we should use this Bill as the propellant to do other things around the issue of vaping that will act as a deterrent in the interest of public health. I think, like Deputy Kelleher, that we have allowed a nicotine culture to develop and vaping is seen by some people to be cool and safe.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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It is seen as cool and safe. I am loth to get into this because it is not part of the Bill. Having said that, I am very concerned about e-cigarettes and their availability to people under 18 years. I am very concerned that they would be used to sell a lifestyle and to normalise the habit of smoking, which is something we are trying to de-normalise to protect our children. We made a tactical strategic decision some time back not to put the two Bills together because the evidence around e-cigarettes was not as certain as the evidence that tobacco is detrimental to the people who consume it. Facts are beginning to emerge and the information from America is that there have been more than 200 admissions of young people to hospital because of overdosing on nicotine and messing around with cartridges. One of the entries in the Young Scientist Exhibition, and I apologise to the young lady from Derry whose name I cannot recall, was a project on tobacco substitutes that found that the product was labelled as having a certain number of milligrams per ml but on analysis some of them had up to 60 times as much as was advertised on the packet. There are inherent dangers and I am very keen to have this area regulated. I do not believe that e-cigarettes should be available outside of a pharmacy or under the direction of a pharmacist as an aid to cease smoking. They should not be sold outside of that. That is a matter for the Oireachtas and for the Minister for Health and me to discuss further, particularly the issue of them being classified as illegal. I am absolutely clear that they should not be legally available to children and people under 18.

I do not mean to be trite, but on the issue of whether it is possible under the regulations of 2002 Act, I do not propose to change the Bill in respect of cigars or pipe tobacco. In response to Deputy Ó Caoláin who spoke extensively on pipe tobacco, I make the following points.

Members will remember that pipes were the first to be banned in cinemas and on aeroplanes because of the extensive smoke emanating from them. If we cast our minds back to the role that the current Leader of the Opposition had in achieving the smoking ban in public places, the core principle was to protect workers from the harmful carcinogenic effect of environmental smoke and tobacco products. Pipe tobacco is very much to the fore in that area and it would make no sense to me for it not to be included in this directive. Some people may argue they do not inhale the smoke but the incidence of mouth, lip and throat cancers related to pipe smoking is well known. One may argue that young people are not taking up that type of smoking and would not be likely to do so, but I would quibble with that. If the vast billions of euro in the tobacco industry were focused on advertising this as a lifestyle choice, there could be unimaginable instruments for the consumption of pipe tobacco, and we would be amazed how quickly it might take off. I have no intention of excluding that element.

Who in this room could possibly believe that one of the most advanced societies in Europe currently has a tobacco product that involves a person cutting one's gum and shoving tobacco under the lip to absorb it? That country is Sweden. Sales of snus, as it is referred to, continue to be substantial. It is excluded from Europe's tobacco directive, as a compromise had to be made. Do not underestimate the ability of the tobacco industry to attract people to its product through new and innovative methods. As I have indicated here and in many other places, if there is a choice between jobs or lives, the choice will always be for lives. I hope I have addressed the issues in a way that does not cause the committee to think we are not on the same page. We all want to protect children from taking up this habit and we want to help those who become addicted to get away from this killer habit.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I assure the Minister that my questioning had nothing to do with encouraging the return of pipe tobacco smoking in any variety of settings where smoking is currently illegal. It is important to bear in mind that we are quite specific about the shape and presentation of cigarettes. Deputy Kelleher has gone even further in his attempt today to define the actual size that would apply in every instance. I am making the point that pipe tobacco presents in a variety of shapes and forms of packaging, including tins, etc. The legislation provides for those presentations to continue, albeit with all of the added dissuading messages.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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Absolutely. The elements include colour, minimum size, etc., and they will pertain to pipe tobacco in the same way as they pertain to rolling tobacco.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I do not expect the Minister to take a different view but I do not believe there will be a significant upturn in pipe tobacco smoking as a consequence of the measures in the Bill. Ultimately, I hope we can see a significant reduction in all tobacco usage across the board, not only by the measures contained in this piece of legislation but the combined impact of all the other measures that have and must still be introduced.

Question put and agreed to. Section 11 agreed to. SECTION 12 Question proposed: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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Why is the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide content not printed on the tobacco box? I would have thought that would put more people off smoking.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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Exactly, and that is how the tobacco industry feels as well. It uses this element to argue that a product has low tar or carbon monoxide content to make it look like a product is safer somehow. Of course, it is not, as it is every bit as much of a killer as a product with higher levels.

Question put and agreed to. Sections 13 to 21, inclusive, agreed to. SECTION 22 Question proposed: "That section 22 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Mary Mitchell O'ConnorMary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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Will there be enough staff to ensure the law is being carried out appropriately in premises?

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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That is a very salient question and the answer is "Yes". There will be environmental health officers enforcing this in the same way they enforce the smoking ban in public spaces.

Question put and agreed to. TITLE Question proposed: "That the Title be the Title to the Bill."

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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I thank everybody who participated today and particularly members from the Opposition for their support for this Bill. It is very clear that this Parliament understands the importance of this measure. It will not be intimidated by external forces, regardless of where they come from. The health of our people is a primary concern to this Legislature, not just the Government but the Opposition as well. We will continue with the passage of the Bill through Dáil Éireann and enact it. In any conversation involving this issue, at the core we must remember that 5,200 people lose their lives every year because of these products. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I hope that Japan Tobacco International will note that the committee has successfully concluded Committee Stage of this legislation. Happy days.

Photo of Dan NevilleDan Neville (Limerick, Fine Gael)
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I also welcome the passing of the Bill, as it is very important for our people's health. It has been recognised for decades that tobacco products are a serious danger to health and the lives of people. I welcome the Bill's passage through Committee Stage.

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I thank Deputies Kelleher, Ó Caoláin and Healy, as well as other members of the committee, for facilitating the Bill being taken today in advance of tomorrow's national no-smoking day. It is important that we all subscribe to having a tobacco-free Ireland. I thank the committee members for their assistance and co-operation. I hope we will have a tobacco-free Ireland.

Let us engage with the retailers who are genuinely concerned about the potential loss of revenue. The retailers have met us individually and collectively, and perhaps the Minister can see ways we can assist them so that they will not experience job losses.

Photo of James ReillyJames Reilly (Minister, Department of Health; Dublin North, Fine Gael)
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As I said to the media earlier, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and many people take the opportunity to consider trying to quit smoking again. Let me reiterate that it is a case of try, try and try again. The day a person gives up smoking is the day he or she will make the most important impact on his or her longevity and well-being.

To address the concerns of the retailers, there is a certain amount of money in circulation and if people have more money for things other than cigarettes they will spend the money on other things. I believe it should never ever be a case of jobs over lives. There are ways and means in other spheres of supporting people to produce a product that does not kill one in two of those who use it regularly. This is the only legal product we know that when used as per the manufacturer's instructions will kill one of every two who use it regularly.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment.