Thursday, 23 September 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
Tobacco Control Measures
I thank the Deputy for raising this important issue. There is legislation in place in Ireland to ensure that all tobacco products manufactured for sale in the State are in standardised packaging. There is also legislation in place requiring the display of health warnings, comprising a pictorial warning and text warnings in both Irish and English. Under the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015, all tobacco products manufactured for sale in Ireland since 30 September 2017 must be in standardised retail packaging. Standardised packaging of tobacco, also known as generic or plain packaging, means that all forms of branding, including trademarks, logos, colours and graphics, must be removed, except for the brand and variant name, which are presented in a uniform typeface for all brands on the market. All tobacco products for retail sale in Ireland must be packaged in a plain neutral colour, except for the mandatory health warnings. The aim of standardised packaging is to make all tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers, make health warnings more prominent and prevent packaging from misleading consumers about the harmful effects of tobacco.
The European Union (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale of Tobacco and Related Products) Regulations 2016 transpose the EU tobacco products directive. These regulations contain comprehensive provisions on the labelling and packaging of tobacco products. Each unit packet and any outside packaging of tobacco products must carry a combined health warning, an image and text. The regulations are clear that the textual warnings must be in both the Irish and English languages. The pictorial and textual warnings are also prescribed in the legislation. The legislation on labelling and packaging of tobacco products is very clear: a person may not manufacture or import a tobacco product that is intended for sale by retail in the State unless it is in compliance with the 2016 regulations.
The Deputy raised some interesting issues, particularly the point that there was an increase in the sales value of tobacco products of €130 million during the pandemic. He referred to the quality and health aspects and rightly pointed out the issues arising from the sale of cigarettes in packets of 28, say, rather than 20. That is worrying because if a person who smokes 20 a day gets a pack of 28 or 30, he or she is likely to finish the pack. We have seen this anecdotally in respect of minimum unit pricing of alcohol, where a person who might previously have bought two 500 ml cans of lager at a cost of €10 will buy four cans for the same price. There is an issue if people are buying packs of more than 20 cigarettes when they would previously have bought a pack containing 20. I thank the Deputy for raising that important point.