Written Answers. - Tobacco Industry.
109 Mr. Finucane asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of meetings held by him or by any member of his Department with any lobbyist representative of the tobacco industry or with any tobacco company since he took up office; the topics discussed at these meetings; at whose request such meetings took place; and if he will make available any memorandum or submission furnished to him or his Department by a representative of the tobacco industry or any tobacco company during his term of office. [1933/99]
136 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the current status of the consultative group on smoking in the workplace; if, in view of public concern regarding passive smoking, he will reconvene this group at an early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1958/99]
576 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children the meetings, if any, his Department has had with representatives from the tobacco industry in each of the past ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1666/99]
611 Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of meetings held by him or by any member of his Department with any lobbyist representative of the tobacco industry or with any tobacco company since he took up office; the topics discussed at any such meeting; at whose request such meeting took place; and if he will make available to Members of Dáil Éireann any memorandum or submission furnished to him or his Department by a representative of the tobacco industry or any tobacco company during his term in office. [1993/99]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 109, 136, 576 and 611 together.
Since my appointment I received one request to meet with representatives of the tobacco industry. I declined this request and instructed officials to meet with them instead. The meeting took place with officials on 23 September 1997. The meeting dealt mainly with smoking among children but no decisions were taken and no assurances given. No memorandum or submission other than the transactions mentioned below, have been furnished to me or my Department during my term of office.
On taking office I established a group of health experts to consider all aspects of tobacco and health policy. This group is known as the smoke free policy group and is addressing all aspects of tobacco policy including passive smoking in the workplace. The group expects to have a report for me shortly. The group is chaired by a senior civil servant and is comprised solely of health experts. It has not met with any interest groups nor sought submissions, though it has considered representations made to me concerning possible litigation by the State against the tobacco industry.
Department officials had another meeting on 11 February 1998 with tobacco industry representatives. This meeting took place at the request of the tobacco industry about a complaint by one tobacco company against another over alleged illegal distribution of free tobacco products. My officials made it clear that the practice was unacceptable.
On 30 November 1998 Department officials met with the representative of the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Council (ITMAC) concerning the failure of the ITMAC companies to comply with a request under section 5 of the Tobacco (Health Promotion and Protection) Act 1988 to disclose the ingredients in tobacco products. This meeting took place at the request of the Department. This is an ongoing matter and papers are currently being prepared for referral to the Attorney General.
At that meeting an incident at a function for a student group from University College Dublin, where free tobacco products were reportedly supplied illegally to students, was raised by my officials. The industry was cautioned to co-operate fully with the ongoing investigation by an officer of the Eastern Health Board and I am awaiting the investigating officer's report.
I understand that informal contacts with the industry by way of telephone conversations occur from time to time as minor matters arise.
The consultative group referred to by the Deputy is no longer in existence and the question of smoking in the workplace is currently being assessed by the smoke free policy group.
For good operational reasons it has long been practice with the Department to meet from time to time with representatives of the tobacco industry but it would not be possible to give precise details of meetings without a detailed search of many files in the Department which would involve an inordinate expenditure of resources.
I have had meetings about smoking with other groups since becoming Minister for Health and Children such as ASH and the national newspapers of Ireland.