Brussels, 23 January 2014 — Today, the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas, launched a consultation on a draft public health bill that introduces standardised tobacco packaging. If the bill passes, Ireland will become the first EU Member State—the second country in the world after Australia—to ban branding from tobacco product packaging.
The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) has sent (1) an open letter to the Oireachtas’ Chair of the Committee on Health and Children, supporting Ireland’s plain packaging plans.
The public health community should congratulate Ireland for taking this bold step in tackling the tobacco epidemic (2). We must work to protect future generations from the harmful effects of tobacco products. Irish efforts should serve as an encouraging example for the rest of Europe.
Tobacco packaging is carefully designed by the Tobacco Industry to target consumers - for example, the use of slim cigarettes to target women and coloured packaging to appeal to children. Evidence shows that warning messages and pictorial warnings encourage smokers to quit and non-smokers to never start smoking (3).
“Europe’s youth has the highest smoking rates in the world, with higher rates among lower socio-economic groups and rising rates in the young female population (4)” warned Peggy Maguire, President of EPHA and Director General of the European Institute of Women’s Health.
“We know from the UK’s experience that the tobacco industry will put up a fierce fight to block, amend or delay the introduction of standardised packaging. So, we welcome the Irish government’s commitment to protecting children from tobacco marketing. Stripping cigarette packaging of their bright colours and marketing gimmicks draws attention to the health warnings, and reveals cigarettes as the deadly products they are,” added Alison Cox of Cancer Research UK.
The new EU Tobacco Product Directive (TPD), endorsed by the Council of the EU and the European Parliament, will mandate that picture and text health warnings cover 65% of tobacco packages; EU Member States can, however, adopt more stringent measures to regulate tobacco products, such as plain packaging.
Today’s plain packaging consultation launch in Ireland should encourage other EU Member States to step up public health measures to make smoking, the cause of hundreds of thousands of deaths a year in Europe, less attractive to people.
(2) Around 700,000 people die every year in Europe from tobacco-related diseases. In addition, close to 13 million people suffer from smoking-related diseases in the EU, with devastating effects not only on societies and healthcare systems, but also economically as the estimated annual cost of tobacco to the European economy is more than half a trillion euros, or about 4.6% of EU GDP.
(3) See the example of Uruguay: Tobacco control campaign in Uruguay: a population-based trend analysis.
(4) European Institute of Women’s Health briefing. 2013. “Women and smoking in the EU.”
Javier Delgado Rivera, EPHA Communications Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or +32 (0) 2 233 38 76.