Plain cigarette packaging may boost illicit trade, committee hears

Thursday 13 February 2014 15.37
Representatives of the tobacco industry are before Oireachtas health committee
Representatives of the tobacco industry are before Oireachtas health committee

Tobacco industry representatives have told an Oireachtas committee that more research needs to be done before a decision on introducing plain cigarette packaging is made.

Managing director of JTI Ireland John Freda said plain packaging will result in an "inevitable growth in illicit trade" of cigarettes on the black market.

In his opening statement to the Oireachtas Joint Committee Health and Children, John Player managing director Andrew Meagher said the most objective way of preventing children from taking up smoking was through education.

He said this had been shown to reduce smoking rates in Germany.

PJ Carroll general manager Stephen Donaldson told the committee there was no evidence that the introduction of plain packaging in Australia 14 months ago has been successful.

He said the legislation would have "serious negative consequences" by boosting the black market and would illegally damage Ireland's intellectual property.  

Addressing the suggestion by the representatives that educating children not to smoke was key to their organisations, Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher said elected representatives were obliged to protect all people, not just children.

He pointed to the impact smoking has had on the State's health service.

Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin also noted the cost tobacco has had on health care services, about which he said: "It's time for payback in all respects".

Independent Senator Jillian Van Turnout challenged the tobacco representatives regarding their statistics.

She said they were "very quick to cry and say marketing doesn't have an impact", however, she said there had been evidence of marketing to children in South Africa.

In relation to intellectual property rights, Labour's Eamonn Maloney warned them there was "not a hope in hell" tobacco companies could sue the State over the introduction of standardised packaging.

Regina Doherty of Fine Gael accused those before the committee of sending people to her constituency office to lobby her over the potential loss of their jobs.

She said if the representatives gave sincere presentations to the committee, there would have been a different reaction.

However, she said: "I have no respect for you. I have four small children at home, you're not getting your hands on them."

In responding, each representative of the tobacco industry was asked to declare whether or not they were smokers - one was an occasional smoker, one was a smoker, there were three non-smokers and one who said they had given up two years ago.

Keywords: health, tobacco