Reilly aiming for smoke-free society by 2025

Monday 24 March 2014 22.11
The call comes on the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban
The call comes on the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban

Minister for Health James Reilly has said the smoking ban has been a success, but he believes in the need to go further and work towards a smoke-free future.

Commenting on the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban, he said he believed smoking trends are moving downwards but he wanted to tackle the root of the problem.

Mr Reilly said he wanted to bring in standardised packaging, which will make the damaging effects of smoking very clear to children.

He said: "It's very clear, given that nearly 78% of smokers in survey after survey will tell you they started smoking under the age of 18, that this industry focuses and targets our children."

He said their main way of getting at young people is "through the cigarette box which is, if you like, the last billboard they have".

Tobacco replacement products may have a value in helping smokers quit, he said, but added they had no value as a lifestyle choice, which is how they are marketed.

The minister aims to have a smoke-free society by 2025, but said that there were a lot of problems and departments involved in the issues and that it would take time.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he supports the minister's plans for a smoke-free society.

Mr Martin, who was health minister when the smoking ban was introduced, said there was serious opposition to the ban when it was first suggested, but said that the government succeeded in introducing it.

The plan for a smoke-free society would have to be backed up by a comprehensive package of measures, he said.

"That particularly relates to cessation programmes, it relates to education and it relates to some of the initiatives, for example of putting it beyond sight, which we did within shops and so on, and the whole branding issue," Mr Martin said.

Call for wider smoking ban in cars

Tobacco Free Research Institute Ireland estimates that 3,700 lives have been saved as a result of the smoking ban.

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland has called for a complete smoking ban in cars whenever children are present.

It also wants all publicly funded institutions, especially hospitals and academic campuses, to be completely smoke free.

Doctors have made the call in a new policy statement to mark the tenth anniversary of the smoking ban.

The Irish Heart Foundation said that heart attacks have reduced by over 10% as a result of the ban.

The Irish Cancer Society claims that there has been a 25% reduction in the number of people smoking since the ban was introduced.

The chair of the tobacco policy group at the Royal College of Physicians has described the smoking ban as a runaway success.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Pat Doorley said that thousands of lives have been saved as a result of it.

He also said compliance had been extremely high and he attributed its success to peer pressure.

Smoking prevalence has decreased as a result of the ban, he said, adding that health benefits were seen within three months of its introduction.

Dr Doorley added: "Within three months we saw a decrease in respiratory symptoms in bar workers that is not seen in Northern Ireland.

"Within a year, we saw a 13% decrease in heart attack admissions to hospital and over the next two years we saw a further 12% decline."

Dr Doorley said the focus now had to remain on how to ban the smoking epidemic.

He said the plain packet was an initiative supported by the policy group.

John Mallon of Forest Éireann, a group that campaigns on behalf of smokers and receives funding from the tobacco industry in the UK, says the fact that smokers complied with the ban should be recognised.

Mr Mallon said: "I think that it's important for smokers to respect those around them. Nobody has thanked the over one million smokers who were doing the complying.

"They were the ones that were put out, they were the ones that went outside the door. They quite peacefully and calmly respected the wishes of others."

He also said that the high price for cigarettes has led to a huge smuggling problem.