I recently welcomed the Government’s plans to become the second country in the world to introduce standard or plain packaging on tobacco products.
This is a welcome move, and it’s great to see Ireland continuing to be at the forefront of anti-tobacco initiatives following our leading role in introducing a smoking ban in 2007. Plain packaging has already been introduced in Australia, where the Government is aiming to bring down smoking rates from 16.6 per cent in 2007 to less than 10 per cent by 2018.
I believe that initiatives like this will help us to curb our own addiction to tobacco nationally, which will help to dramatically reduce the cost of treating tobacco-related illnesses. Studies show that packaging plays an important role in encouraging young people to start smoking, and research also shows that smokers believe cigarettes in plain packaging taste worse.
The reality is that the tobacco industry is afraid of this legislation. Studies have shown that shocking pictures, like those to be displayed on the new packaging, increase the awareness of the negative implications of smoking among young adults, while almost half of young people have reduced consumption as a result of the changed packaging.
I am glad that the Irish Cancer Society and Irish Heart Foundation have welcomed this forward-thinking from the Minister for Health. Learning from the Australian experience, we know that the tobacco industry will fight this tooth and nail. We should not be deterred by this resistance, and I would urge the Government to draft the legislation as soon as possible.