Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Earlier I addressed the issue of cost as a disincentive to people starting to smoke cigarettes. I also addressed the issues of the proposed new graphics on cigarette packages and the smoking ban.

I would like to put forward my strong view that the promotion of sport among young people and the support of sport by the Government financially and within schools and communities will act as a significant disincentive to smoking. In that context, the recent sports capital grants are welcome. My experience as a former teacher, both within my family and elsewhere, is that young people engaged in sport have a personal incentive not to smoke so that they can develop and enjoy their sport. Their desire to get on a team or participate in individual sports such as martial arts ensures they refrain from smoking so as to be involved in sport, physical activity and an alternative lifestyle. I appeal to the Minister of State to bring the message to the Government that moneys invested in the promotion of sport and an alternative lifestyle will help overcome the enormous health bill resulting from cigarette smoking. This concerns the issue of people starting to smoke.

With regard to encouraging people to quit smoking, we need to focus on advertising and promotional work. We must emphasise the quality of life changes that will occur if people quit. There has been too much emphasis on the threat of lung cancer and other medium or long-term threats. However, if we are to succeed in encouraging people to quit smoking, we must advertise the immediate benefits of quitting, such as an improved appetite, improved breathing, cleaner air and an improved quality of life in the here and now. This should be the focus of advertising.

This Bill merits discussion. While it is a short Bill dealing with an amendment that needed to be addressed, we could well spend a full session discussing this serious health issue. The support clinics held by the HSE over the years - I have personal experience of one in Cavan town - for people trying to quit smoking and run by professional staff are excellent and I urge the Minister of State to reconsider the extent to which these clinics are available as there is great potential for them.

This legislation was made necessary by the ruling from the European Court of Justice.

I think the response is intelligent. It is maintaining the essence of our policy. It behoves us to take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to dealing with this great health threat. As a previous speaker said this morning, if tobacco were to be discovered now for the first time, it would be deemed to be an illegal substance. We should never forget that.

I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on this issue. An important aspect of the legislation we are discussing - the fact that it has been necessitated by a European Court of Justice ruling - has gone pretty much unnoticed. In some cases, I find it difficult to get my head around the competencies of the European institutions when it comes to issues like this. Different societies and different member states across the European Union have different expectation levels and different ways of addressing public health issues. We have grappled for a number of years with the issue of the number of people in this country who smoke. I will speak later about the number of people who consume alcohol. I am concerned about the initiative by the European institutions and the decision on this matter by the European Court of Justice. Our nearest neighbour is having a bit of a convulsion in its relationship with the EU and its institutions. I have heard a commentator suggesting that the EU is essentially parked in one's front room so it can dictate everything that happens in one's life at a micro level. We should have some concerns when sovereign Governments are faced with making legislative changes of this nature in the absence of any reflection of the societal differences between member states. We need to ask ourselves whether that is the type of EU we want to have. Do we want issues of public health to be determined in the fashion in which they are currently being determined? The previous speaker suggested that the Government has reacted responsibly to the European Court of Justice ruling. I wonder why we are doing this at all. It brings us back to the question of the manner in which the European institutions have entered into all of our lives on a daily basis.

I would like to refer to a contribution that was made earlier in this debate. It had the potential to turn into a three-ring circus. One Opposition Deputy was almost looking for an opportunity to take the nails out of his hands. He seemed to suggest he was the closest thing to the patron saint of smokers. It demeaned the argument and it demeaned the whole debate. It edged closely to the possibility that the Deputy was attempting to break the link between smoking and illness. Many people have referred to cancer and stroke, but chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has not yet been mentioned. Anybody who has seen someone struggle each day with an oxygen tank, a nebuliser and up to 20 tablets that may have to be changed on a weekly basis if antibiotics are needed as immune system resistance breaks down, will be aware that smoking-related illnesses affect those who are ill and those who care for them. I have personal experience of this. I agree with the sentiments expressed earlier by Deputy Catherine Murphy from County Kildare, who spoke about her personal experience in this regard. The remarks made by Deputy Finian McGrath were very insensitive to those who are suffering from smoking-related illnesses and those who are caring for them. He tried to create some sort of smokescreen, for want of a better word, as part of his attempt to break the link between smoking and the health effects of smoking even though smoking ultimately kills people. He did absolutely nothing to promote his cause, which involves making sure smokers are not somehow treated as pariahs. I accept that is important.

As Deputy O'Reilly said, if Walter Raleigh arrived in Europe with tobacco plants today, this substance would be banned. That is the point from which we need to start to look at this issue. It is a highly addictive toxic carcinogen. It has the potential to destroy people's lives. I have a concern from a public health point of view. We are talking about minimum pricing. I appreciate that the decision of the Scottish Executive to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol is the subject of a European investigation. The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy White, has an interest in this as well. I would like the Minister for Health, in his role as chairperson of the EU Council of Health Ministers, to emphasise that there are different public health issues in each member state. Society is different in each member state. The expectations of citizens are different in each member state. Our cultural expectations and our smoking and alcohol thresholds are totally different from those of the Mediterranean countries. I think that needs to be reflected in what the European institutions are asking us to do. We will have to keep a close eye on the decision to be made by the European institutions on the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing by the Scottish Executive. That decision will have repercussions in Ireland. I appreciate that the European Court of Justice judgment does not prevent member states from banning below-cost selling. If it did, it would have a detrimental effect on our attempts to ensure younger people do not start to smoke. The European Coal and Steel Community was originally established to promote the free movement of goods, services and persons, but it has gone through a metamorphosis to the point where we need to pass this sort of legislation today. It is difficult to understand why this Bill is needed at a time when many people are dying of smoking-related illnesses; the Government is being proactive in terms of the excise duty that is applied and public health campaigns are being run on a daily and weekly basis.

The Australian Government needs to be commended on the manner in which it has introduced labels and obvious pictures on cigarette cartons and packages. I would like that to be done here as well. There is an opportunity for it to be done across Europe. I would hate to think the European institutions will stick their noses into anything that is done in terms of labels and regulations in Ireland or any other member state. Someone could construe such efforts as an interference with the market. It is important that we do not go down that road. The earlier an intervention is aimed at ensuring people are fully educated and informed about the actual implications for their health of the decision to light a cigarette and go down the road of addiction, the better. This is also of relevance to the whole issue of childhood obesity, which is another hobby-horse of mine. When a young person picks up a packet of cigarettes, he or she will see a piece of lung that has turned black or rotten because of the tar, the carcinogens and the nicotine that have been inhaled over time. The earlier we can get such powerful images into the psyches of younger people who have not yet taken up smoking but may be about to do so, the better.

It is important that we are not seen to pillory in any way those who are struggling with this addiction. If we were talking about those addicted to heroin, cocaine or alcohol, we would be referring to them almost as victims. Those who are trying to give up smoking should be treated in the very same way. As Deputy O'Reilly said, they need support from the public health agencies, from the Department and from us as legislators. Any support we can give should be given. The legislation that has been proposed represents a mature response to the European Court of Justice ruling. I have a greater problem with how we wound up in this situation in the first place. I have concerns with regard to the competencies of the European institutions that are allowed to have their say on these issues even though societal norms are totally different across the 27 member states. I think we need to address this aspect of the matter as we go forward.

I was also amused when I listened to Deputy Finian McGrath this morning.

To be honest, I thought he spoke very well. He is obviously passionate about his stand and I thought he was good on it, although I do not agree with him.

The tobacco industry is also very impressive in how it operates. It is very powerful, very effective and very efficient, but I do not agree with how it runs its business all the same. The basic principle of the tobacco companies is that profit matters most and people do not, which is not something I buy into very much.

Deputy Finian McGrath insinuated that smokers were being hounded. I would not be in favour of hounding smokers at all and I would have no interest in banning smoking. Some seem to think it would be illegal if it had only started today, but I would not be in favour of banning it, no more than I would be in favour of banning cannabis. I believe in the right to choose. However, just because I would not be in favour of hounding smokers, as a State we have a duty to inform and to educate people, particularly young people, in the interests of their health. This would also be in the interests of the finances of the State because the results of the abuse of smoking are costing us so much. I am a great believer in education, as I am sure most of us are. I believe a greater effort on the part of the State to get the message across to young people that it is a great idea not to smoke would be money well spent.

The medium of sport is a wonderful vehicle to fight abuse of any substance, be it with regard to smoking, alcohol or hard drugs. I coach the under 16s, under 18s and under 19s in Wexford for both the county teams and the Wexford Youths. In those three squads, there is not one smoker at present because nobody can play sport at a high level and smoke. Some €26 million was divided up in the last sports grant. If the House considers that the cost to the State of smoking is in the region of €1 billion and the abuse of alcohol is costing the State approximately €3 billion, looking at it simply from an economic point of view, the sports grants should be amounting to an awful lot more than €26 million if the Government wants to invest in this area and bring down the cost to the State of smoking and alcohol abuse.

The tobacco industry certainly has the money to combat public health policy objectives. Sadly, the State does not have quite as much funding available to promote positive health in the same area. For this reason, I am of the philosophy that we should take more tax from the industry. The profit margins of British American Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco between 2004 and 2011 are astounding and vary between 28% and 45%, which is superb in terms of profit on turnover. To compare them with Cadbury and L'Oreal in the same period, those companies averaged approximately 16% and, while they were pretty successful, the tobacco industry leaves them for dead in terms of its ability to make serious money.

This directive sets out that, for the sake of free competition, manufacturers and importers must be free to set their own maximum prices for their products. I find this a little ironic given this is an industry with very little competition and controlled by very serious players. If I was starting a little industry in the morning, I would not be taking on these fellows and would think of doing something else. Making cigarettes in competition with these fellows would be a tough game I imagine.

Competition law underpins neoliberal policies evident in the EU trade system. In the European Court of Justice judgment, protecting the channels of free market economics is clearly a priority of the EU and comes at the expense of public health policies and the citizens of Europe, which I find disappointing. I remember, when we were arguing about the Nice treaty, that the ability of the same treaty to facilitate large business at the expense of the citizen was certainly at its core. We have not seen the end of neoliberalism by any stretch, and the present austerity system and philosophy is very much part of that same agenda.

I understand the ruling prohibits minimum pricing rules but does not prohibit maintaining high prices by using taxation. Will the Minister consider increasing the taxation rate on cigarettes to compensate for the removal of the State's power to impose minimum pricing? I note the tax take was 79% before the budget and I presume that has gone up a little with the 10 cent increase per packet. However, the rate is 90% in the UK and I understand we could increase our revenue by well over €100 million if were to do this. We could use this money to promote positive health in this area.

I note there was talk late last year of introducing minimum pricing to reduce the misuse of alcohol. Is the Government still planning to do this, as was recommended in the 2012 steering group report on a national substance misuse strategy? I am sure the Government is checking whether it would be legal. Given the ruling on tobacco, I have my fears there might be some opposition to this at EU level.

The British Government has been particularly successful at addressing the smuggling issue whereas we have not done as well in challenging that. The British have reduced smuggling by almost half and it has been money very well spent as they have increased their revenue to the state by over stg£1 billion. While it is a country much larger than ours, even in relative terms we could save a lot of money if we invested resources in tackling smuggling.

The point is well made in an article by Mr. Chris Macey from the Irish Heart Foundation some months ago - I found it so good, I kept it. Mr. Macey stated:

Our template for action is provided by the UK which had roughly the same smoking and smuggling rates a decade ago as we have now. By combining high regular tax increases, tough anti-smuggling measures and effective stop-smoking strategies, they now have two million fewer smokers, including a 50 per cent reduction among children, while the illicit market has fallen from 21 to 12 per cent. And for an annual outlay of £300 million, tax revenues have risen by £1.2 billion, whilst health service savings total £1.7 billion.

These are impressive figures by anyone's measure. The article continues:

Tax increases alone can’t be fully effective because cheap smuggled tobacco blunts their impact. We must give Customs, which has lost hundreds of staff in recent years, and the similarly hard-pressed Garda, the manpower and equipment, along with the tough justice in the courts, required to deal with smuggling. And we must give greater support to free more smokers from the grip of addiction.

If such co-ordinated action is taken we can effectively tackle the health catastrophe that costs this country one of its citizens roughly every 90 minutes and massively increase tax revenue and cost savings for Ireland’s cash-starved health service.

The Minister for Health said that approximately one in four people in Ireland are smokers. We need to examine the effectiveness of anti-smoking strategies in other countries. For example, in California the proportion of smokers is down to 11.9%, which is pretty good. Canada and Australia between them average 17%. A report in Britain two years ago pointed out that better policies can reduce the numbers smoking, reduce the associated costs and pain for society and produce increased revenues for the State. Greater investment in this area will be money well spent. I would like to see the minimum price for alcohol increased too, if the European authorities deem that legal.

The Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2013 is relatively simple. It will give the Minister power to prevent below-cost selling and to control advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products. In recent years the large multiple stores have used and continue to use cheap alcohol products to attract customers. This practice works well as a loss leader to attract customers. The Minister for Health is examining this practice and may deal with it in the future. In the meantime the Minister is quite right to recognise that retailers might use the same tactic with tobacco products. There is no doubt that below-cost selling of tobacco products could prove a useful tool in attracting customers to a particular chain of stores. Section 1(a) of the Bill prohibits the sale of tobacco at a reduced price and section 1(b) prohibits the making available of any tobacco product to persons free of charge. The provision of free or reduced-price tobacco products as part of any promotion is also prohibited.

We are all well aware of the danger to personal health of using tobacco products. Measures surrounding tobacco use and health care are of great importance. Tobacco use has a huge effect on our economy and Exchequer figures. Last year the total cigarette tax take was €1.36 billion, but according to the Department of Health, at current rates of smoking, tobacco-related illnesses will cost the State €2.3 billion annually over the next ten years. This is almost €1 billion a year more than is received in tax from the sale of tobacco products.

The Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society recently told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children that the tobacco industry is earning substantially higher profits in Ireland than in many other European countries. Tackling this could net the Government €150 million a year and curb the tobacco industry’s ability to recruit young smokers. According to the Irish Heart Foundation, this money could pay for 4,167 extra nurses, 4,853 new primary school teachers, 5,400 Garda recruits or, indeed, 7,000 special needs assistants. It is easy to see how this money could be put to good use. The Minister for Finance went some way toward dealing with this situation in the recent budget. By introducing this legislation it is clear that the Government is moving in the right direction.

The Irish Cancer Society recently produced a report on the ever-increasing number of young girls and women who smoke. Most worrying of all is that more Irish women are now dying of lung cancer than of breast cancer. The report includes findings of research into why women smoke and why more women smoke and continue to smoke. Two thirds of smokers want to quit. This report shows that there are social and psychological factors that make it hard for women to quit. Many women are aware of the health risks of smoking but see it as a way to cope with the stress and pressure of life. It is important to note that levels of smoking are highest in the poorest communities and are linked to multiple social and economic disadvantages, ill-health and poor life expectancy. Disadvantaged groups in society are disproportionately likely to smoke and are least likely to give up cigarettes. Those who can least afford to do so smoke the most and suffer the most from this. Children growing up in poverty experience social environments in which the majority of adults smoke. Smoking, therefore, becomes normal and acceptable adult behaviour. The tobacco industry is aware of all these facts. It constantly needs to recruit new smokers to replace those who die. Female smokers are a lucrative market for the tobacco industry, which is experiencing a decline in smokers. The tobacco industry has long recognised that women represent a different market from men, and has developed and will continue to develop policies to target women, sometimes by segmenting the market by socioeconomic grouping and developing products for these groups. What better tactic could the tobacco industry employ at any time than below-cost selling or, indeed, free tobacco with the purchase of other items, an approach that would be attractive to men and women? Shopping incentives will undoubtedly affect women more as, generally speaking, they do a larger proportion of household shopping.

By introducing this Bill the Minister is locking the stable door before the horse has bolted. I commend this Bill to the House.

Thousands of people in Ireland die every year because of smoking. Any measure that seeks to reduce the levels of smoking has to be welcomed. This Bill will bring Ireland into compliance with the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union on minimum pricing.

The Bill proposes that all cigarette packaging be of a standard shape and size and be brown in colour, that all distinctive marks be removed from packs and that the text on the packs be in a standard font. The objective of plain packaging measures is to reduce the number of smokers and to improve our public health. Any attempt to encourage a reduction in the number of smokers must be supported.

Recent research detailed in the Irish Cancer Society’s report on the crisis of women and smoking in Ireland showed that almost one in three women smoke. More women in Ireland died of lung cancer than breast cancer in 2011. For a six-month period in 2010 there were more women attending St. James’ Hospital in Dublin with lung cancer than there were men. That is hardly surprising when one in three females smoke. This statistic stands despite decades of preventative health education programmes and the millions of euro spent on anti-smoking advertising. The sobering fact is that one in two smokers will die of a smoking-related illness and nearly every one of us has seen a life sucked away or squandered through tobacco addiction. It is a dreadful development and has not happened by chance. Tobacco companies targeted women at a time when men began to respond to public health campaigns by giving up cigarettes. The tobacco industry is still engaged in sophisticated social marketing in order to increase the appeal of cigarettes to young women. Despite a generation of health promotion along with warnings about the dangers of smoking, the number of young women smoking is growing. This is a sobering testimony to the power of advertising. Nicotine is almost as addictive as heroin and smokers find it extremely difficult to quit. As the Minister said this morning, had we known when tobacco was first discovered what we know now, it would have been banned. More than two-thirds of smokers want to quit but this report shows that there are social and psychological factors that make it hard to quit. Many smokers are aware of the health risks but see it as a way to cope with the pressures of life. Smoking often gives women a sense of belonging to a particular group and the support that goes with it.

Nowadays smoking areas in pubs and restaurants are seen as highly social areas, the places to have the craic. It is no coincidence that 90% of smokers try their first cigarette before the age of 18, an age when fitting in is still paramount. Research has shown time and again that smoking is definitely more associated with young women. Every possible effort must be made to make sure children never take up deadly cigarettes. Very often, smoking starts in school, and it is worrying to see more young girls smoking than boys.

This increases the need to ensure there are concerted efforts to educate all young people, especially girls, about the dangers of smoking. A common misconception is that the occasional cigarette is not nearly as harmful as full-on smoking. Of course it is obviously better to smoke a little than a lot but even this is not without side effects. Laboratory evidence suggests that toxins in tobacco smoke peak at low levels of exposure, increasing the stickiness of the blood, inflaming the arteries and increasing the risk of thrombosis and blood clots that can trigger a heart attack. Even an occasional cigarette is harmful. Cigarettes contain not only tobacco but carcinogens and nicotine, both of which cause direct harm every time one smokes. Recent research carried out by University College London threw up an interesting statistic, namely, that 80% of occasional smokers found they could not stop when they tried to.

Another myth that needs to be debunked is the idea that menthol or slim, "ladies' cigarettes" are less harmful than regular cigarettes. Not so, according to a gentleman called Dr. Ross Morgan, a consultant chest physician and chairman of ASH. Again, this is all to do with marketing. In the past some cigarettes were marketed to women as being beneficial for slimming purposes and it was thought that menthol cigarettes might somehow be better for one. There is no evidence that light cigarettes have any different outcomes in terms of lung cancer, heart disease or stroke than do other cigarettes.

The ban on smoking in the workplace, introduced in 2004, cut tobacco consumption but unfortunately the effect was shortlived. However, as more young people become addicted the figures have begun to rise again. Ironically, smoking areas are now perceived to be the most social areas in which to gather. Nobody expects a quick fix to this problem and it may always be a battle. I hope that measures such as this Bill will help us to win the war.

This time last year the HSE introduced a smoking ban in all hospital grounds. As one who lives in Bishopstown, a suburb of Cork in which Cork University Hospital is situated, I wish to commend both the staff and the visitors who have embraced the smoking ban in place in the grounds of CUH. I also compliment the staff of Mercy University Hospital. We have seen the benefit of the ban at work in the grounds of these hospitals.

If we are to be serious about the cessation of smoking the comments of Deputy Doherty must be listened to because a very smart marketing move is being made by cigarette manufacturers to target young women. I do not mean to be sexist. The context is that one must look slim, fit and healthy and smoking can help to achieve that. Of course that is not true. In the course of supervising when I was a schoolteacher, I spoke to many young women and men who now use cigarettes as an appetite suppressant. Rather than eating they smoke. We must dispel that myth, that message. Smoking is bad, it damages one's health and has a profound impact on both public and personal health. We must never dilute that message.

We must also unite with retailers against smuggling because the effect of illegal tobacco smuggling is enormous. We must take umbrage at the fact that people are attempting to smuggle cigarettes into our country. The figures show that one in three cigarettes is bought on the illegal black market rather than in legitimate stores. I will return to that point.

I wish to put on record my thanks and appreciation of the work of the Irish Cancer Society. Former Senator Kathleen O'Meara and Mr. Chris Macey have been leading a public health campaign to show us not only the effects of smoking but also the benefits of not smoking and the positivity that can accrue to our public health system, the work day and the productivity of our citizens from persuading people away from smoking.

I am struck by the level of debate and the hostility on the part of those who smoke to the cessation of smoking. Surely the reduction in the number of people who smoke should not pose such a challenge to those tasked with the responsibility of introducing legislation and policing public health. Protecting our citizens, no matter what their age is, who they are or what stratum of society they come from, is what we are trying to do by introducing the measures in this Bill. It should not be so complex and so difficult. I very much welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. Our public health policy requires that each Member in this House stands up and is responsible for promoting public health measures. I genuinely could not understand or comprehend Deputy Finian McGrath's Second Stage contribution this morning. It just did not make sense. I must put that on the record.

Of course legislation on its own will not stop people smoking. What must accompany it is the need to constantly highlight not only the detrimental effects of smoking but also the costs to public health and to a person's life and well-being. That is why it is important that cigarette packaging will display the proposed imagery and that there is a genuine movement towards having bland packaging. I hate to use the pun but it comes to a point where we can no longer be passive bystanders on this journey - we must be aggressive. I say this as one who grew up in a house where my father smoked, where friends smoke, where my partner smoked - and gave them up. I heard Deputy Kelleher speaking about people who were challenging themselves on this journey. We must all support one another. When Senator Crown brought a motion before the health committee he may have missed an opportunity to make this House and campus smoke-free. As and from 2 January at least 1,130 colleges and universities in the United States of America adopted having a 100% smoke-free campus. The policies they are pursuing eliminate smoking in both indoor and outdoor areas across the entire campus, including residences and other accommodation. I hope that in the city of Cork, University College Cork, Cork Institute of Technology, the Cork College of Commerce, Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa and Griffith College, as the leading third level institutes, could lead this campaign with a pilot scheme in our country. We must educate and empower our young people. We have a green school award for environmental issues. Deputy O'Donovan and I have made the case for having a green flag for obesity. We must take action on cigarette smoking to a different level again and must challenge people, in the interests of public health, not only to cease smoking but to make it easier to give up. In that way the Minister, the Department of Health, the HSE, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation can collaboratively play a role in this ongoing campaign. If we think for one moment that this Bill will stop people smoking we are misguided. It will not. The Minister stated that one in four adults smokes and that almost 5,000 people will die of smoking-related diseases such as cancer each year. That is a huge number of our fellow citizens.

I understand that pricing is an issue and am open to debate this. I have attended meetings with retailers in my city, Cork, who say the price of cigarettes is costing them jobs.

We cannot merely consider the matter from that perspective. We must also consider it in the context of the revenue that accrues to the Exchequer and of the benefits obtained by retailers from the sale of cigarettes.

We must examine the position with regard to tobacco smuggling in the context of the Bill. I am of the view, particularly in light of evidence provided by Retail Ireland and the Irish Heart Foundation, that the black market is thriving. There is a need for a high level of vigilance on the part of customs officials in respect of the smuggling of illegal and low-cost, low-quality cigarettes into Ireland. Those involved in this activity are targeting young people. Traditionally, even those involved in the promotion and sale of legal tobacco products - such as manufacturers and others - have targeted the latter.

It is important to keep matters simple. We must send out a strong message regarding both the direct and side effects of smoking. The excise revenue we gain from the sale of cigarettes should be used to fund a public health campaign. We must also consider the position with regard to the sale of illegal tobacco on the black market. There is another issue, namely, that which relates to duty free sales in airports and elsewhere, with which we must deal. We must also be cognisant that while tobacco products cannot be displayed behind sales counters in shops, etc., the fact that they are there is still being made evident in a particular way.

The Bill is an important step forward. Many concerns have been highlighted by those on different sides of the argument. As both a Member of this House and as a legislator, I must do what is best in the context of public health. That is why I am of the view that we should strengthen our resolve with regard to the effects of tobacco and that we should introduce new technologies to combat both the activities of those who smuggle illegal tobacco products and the growth in sales of such products. There must be swift and severe penalties for those who are caught engaging in the sale of illicit tobacco products. We must send a message to those who purchase such products that they will not be treated any differently from those who either smuggle them into the country or sell them. Those to whom I refer are doing a disservice to society.

We must send out a strong message that smoking is harmful. I challenge the universities in Cork to lead the way in the context of introducing a pilot scheme. I commend Cork University Hospital and Mercy University Hospital, Cork, on the way in which they have embraced the smoking ban.

I sincerely thank the Technical Group for affording me the time in which to contribute to the debate on this extremely important legislation. I had a very close friend who got up each morning at approximately 7 a.m. and who used to use just a single match to light his first cigarette. He would still be smoking when he was going to bed at night and he would not have used a second match during the day. He had the remarkable ability to use only one hand to light one untipped cigarette from another. On average, he used to smoke between 120 and 130 cigarettes each day. I calculate that if he was alive - Members will not be surprised to hear that he is dead - his habit would be costing him €22,000 per year at today's prices. The man to whom I refer spent an average of 900 minutes up and about each day and in all of the years I knew him he was never without a cigarette in his hand. I lost my friend and many others to tobacco-related diseases. We have all lost close friends in such circumstances. Cigarettes can finish people who are already in poor health in many different ways. They can drain the life and energy out of a person.

Smoking is a serious addiction and it is important that those in government and other politicians try to do everything to encourage people to abandon the habit. Unlike previous speakers, I will not disagree with what Deputy Finian McGrath stated. The entire purpose of a democracy is that public representatives are entitled to their own viewpoints and to represent people in the best way they see fit. In that context, I respect the opinions of Deputy Finian McGrath. I have my own opinions with regard to how we might get to where we want to be. I know where I would like to be, namely, in a country where no one smoked. I am a former smoker and, in that context, I would love to live in a country where no one - young, middle aged or old - purchased cigarettes. I accept that this could only be the case in an ideal world. We do not live in such a world and we will never do so. We must, therefore, assist people in recognising how bad smoking is for their health.

When what was then considered a very controversial ban on smoking in public houses was first introduced, I strenuously resisted it. I was of the view - it remains my opinion in some respects - that the law which was put into place does not cover all of the consequences to which the ban gave rise. In that context, I believed that it should have been possible to cater for elderly smokers within the confines of public houses in some way. I was of the opinion that it was disrespectful to turn such individuals out onto the streets in the rain in order that they might smoke. It was for this reason that I resisted the ban originally. If I was asked now whether the ban on smoking in public houses and in public buildings such as Leinster House was a good development, I would reply that of course that is the case. I would be obliged to raise my hand and admit that the good done by the ban outweighs all other considerations. It is a good person who can admit that he or she was wrong in some of the opinions he or she previously held.

Despite what I have just stated, however, I am of the view that, in the context of encouraging people not to smoke, we must be careful and ensure that we do not go over the top. If, for example, a person is driving alone in his or her car and if he or she smokes, it would be ridiculous to try to stop him or her from lighting a cigarette. We would be going completely over the top if we were to intervene in such circumstances. However, it is vitally important that we should do everything humanly possible to ensure that young people do not start smoking. It is disappointing and frightening that one in three women smokes. It is also frightening to think of beautiful young teenage girls taking up smoking. If such individuals develop the habit at a young age, it will be extremely difficult to encourage them to abandon it in later years. Smoking has implications not only for women's health and life expectancy but also for the health and life expectancy of their children.

Deputy Wallace referred to the importance of sport. It is great to encourage people to play sport or to be actively engaged in all sorts of other outdoor activities. This is because such pursuits involve individuals engaging in exertion and expending energy. If a person is involved in activities such as those to which I refer, it will deter him or her from a habit that will lead to him or her being short of breath and unable to run, jump, hop, skip or be lively. I must compliment those who run the GAA, our soccer clubs and the various other sporting organisations and the many of people who, on a voluntary basis, spend thousands of hours working to promote sport. Those to whom I refer actually live for sport.

These people provide an invaluable service. I do not agree with the argument that increases in the price of cigarettes will deter people from smoking. I know people who were smoking when cigarettes were €2 and €3 a packet and they are still smoking as many today even though a packet of cigarettes costs nearly €10. The Government is still happy to have the tax take. A parent who smokes is using money that may be badly needed to put food on the table or to pay bills. I do not agree that continually hiking up the price of cigarettes through taxation will stop people from smoking.

I remember the time when young people who were going out to a dance or a disco at the weekend would go to a pub to have their drink, but now they are staying at home until the last minute. They go to the off-licence early in the night to load up on cheap drink. They over-indulge in the cheap drink and then they go out to the disco and the dance. They are in no condition to be going out in public at all at that stage because they are so intoxicated. It is an education, and I have done it, but anyone who thinks I am mistaken should stand outside a nightclub here in Dublin and watch them going in. Their condition coming out is not much worse than when they went in because they were so bad in the first place. My point is that when one is trying to change a culture, one does not want to finish up with a situation in which the price of cigarettes is so expensive in the shops that people will resort to purchasing illegally imported cigarettes.

There is a massive trade in illegal cigarettes. Members have been provided with statistics for the amount of illegal cigarettes being brought into the country every year. It is flabbergasting. The people selling illegal cigarettes are involved in all other types of illegal activity. Criminal gangs are existing on the back of profits from the sale of illegal cigarettes. While discussing illegal cigarettes I will use the opportunity to compliment the Garda Síochána and the Customs and Excise service which, earlier this week, successfully captured a large amount of illegal drugs being brought into Kerry Airport in Farranfore. Through their work and their actions they stopped something in the order of €300,000 worth of illegal drugs going out onto the streets and being sold in Kerry, Cork and Limerick, predominantly to our young people. I also compliment the people in the intelligence organisations who knew that those drugs were coming into Kerry Airport last week and who were there to intercept them. That was probably only a dent in the armour of the people involved in this activity. We have to continue the fight against the illegal importation not just of drugs but also of cigarettes. It is a massive industry which has grown since the cost of a packet of cigarettes has risen in the shops.

I am the proprietor of a small shop and I have sold cigarettes for many years. Shopkeepers were always vigilant before the HSE was ever involved in enforcing the law prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to under-age people. Shopkeepers, like good publicans, were always diligent in this regard. A good publican does not want to sell drink to an under-age person, and a good shopkeeper does not want to sell cigarettes to an under-age person. I would be the first person to commend the HSE, the Irish Cancer Society and other groups that do great work to encourage people to stop smoking.

I support the HSE in all its endeavours as well as the Minister in this regard. However, I always regarded one practice as being extremely unfair and I never agreed with it even though the intention was well-meaning. The HSE has a practice of bringing a young person out in a car which calls to various shops. The young person is sent into the shop to purchase cigarettes. This is a test purchase. The young person will ask for 20 Benson & Hedges. If the shopkeeper does not realise that the person is under age and sells him the cigarettes, the youngster will go out to the car and inform the HSE personnel that the shopkeeper has sold him cigarettes. There will be no more about it that day but the shopkeeper will get a letter from the HSE containing a warning notice which states that he will be liable to a fine of €3,000 if it happens on a second occasion and he will lose the right to sell cigarettes for three or four months. I never agreed with that activity, even though I am against young people smoking. The reason I was so vehemently opposed to it was that it is very difficult to determine the age of some young people. I agree that shopkeepers should ask the question if they are in doubt or if there is ambiguity about the age of the person. I do not wish to wrong the HSE. If a shopkeeper questions the young person who is making the test purchase, that young person will admit that he or she is under age and walk out the door. The shopkeeper will receive a letter advising him that a test purchase was attempted in his shop, and it will thank him for his compliance and for his enforcement of the law. However, there may be an elderly person behind the counter in a shop who has difficulty judging the age of a young person who is a stranger to him or her, although he or she will know the local young people and their ages. I never liked that practice of the HSE. As a member of the HSE I raised it on various occasions, but that was my personal opinion.

We must make an effort to educate children at a very young age, at primary school level, about the dangers of smoking. It may mean bringing reformed smokers into schools, or those who are terminally ill because of smoking cigarettes. Young people are very impressionable, as we all know. If they hear horror stories when they are in national school or starting their secondary education and if they are exposed to the good HSE campaigns which highlight the awful results of smoking, this would have an effect on them. It would make them think twice before considering starting a habit that would cost them in sickness and death.

We have all heard stories about individuals who lived to be 90, despite having smoked 20 fags every day. Even so, one should consider the cost. If two parents smoke 40 cigarettes a day, it will cost them €14,000 a year. One should consider what they could do for their children with that sum.

The House knows my view on this issue, yet it is possible to go over the top. The recent suggestion that compounds such as yards should be non-smoking zones is not one with which I agree. In Leinster House this would mean a smoker would have to go to Merrion Street or Kildare Street to smoke. It is only shoving the problem away. I hate talking about a person when he is not present. Deputy Jerry Buttimer stated the banning of smoking on the campus in Cork University Hospital served as a great example, but it actually sent people on the campus out onto the footpath and the road. I was connected to the HSE at the time in question and remember councillors at HSE meetings complaining on behalf of local residents about people smoking on the footpath. The problem was shoved from outside the front door of the hospital onto the street. Stopping people smoking in the fresh air, or in the yard where smoke goes up into the sky, is not a proposal with which I agree. It is shoving the problem away and trying to hide it. It is as if people are not really smoking if they cannot be seen.

When I was in St. Mary's Orthopaedic Hospital for a long period many years ago, a certain consultant convinced me to stop smoking over the course of a number of conversations. He had a tough job convincing me, but I am very grateful to him. The Government should pursue sensible measures to reduce continually the number who smoke and stop young people from developing a habit. I would be extremely grateful to it if it did that work and I would support it in every way in that regard.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I admire the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Micheál Martin, for introducing the legislation to ban smoking in the workplace during his tenure as Minister for Health. It was innovative at the time and still is today. Credit must be given where it is due. It was the very first time such legislation was introduced in any democracy in Europe. It has since been adopted by many others and admired and supported by the World Health Organization.

I do not need to outline the effects of smoking financially on communities and the State, nor do I need to outline the effects of smoking on the individual citizen. It must be acknowledged that over 5,000 people die in Ireland each year as a result of smoking. It is expected that those who survive smoking and continue to smoke in later years will reduce their life spans by between ten and 15 years. Approximately €300 million is the cost to the State of acute care for those who develop an illness as a direct result of smoking tobacco products.

I wish to focus on two areas, the first of which is the smuggling of tobacco into the country. This is a very serious crime which is having serious and damaging effects, as is the smuggling of heroin and cocaine. I acknowledge and welcome the efforts of the customs service and the Garda. They continue to monitor and prosecute those who smuggle tobacco products into Ireland.

It is frightening to accept that over 25% of Irish adults smoke tobacco products. This amounts to one in every four, or 25 in every 100 citizens. It is more concerning that up to 12% of children, some as young as six or seven years, smoke tobacco products. I have no doubt that the tobacco industry which is a very powerful industry in Europe, just like the National Rifle Association in America, deliberately targets young people and spends vast sums of money on advertising directly and subtly or indirectly. It is evident in Formula One racing, golf and the horse racing industry. Throughout the world the tobacco industry targets events associated with these sports. In some countries, including in Africa and Asia, it still advertises on television, in the cinema and on public transport. I agree with Deputy Billy Kelleher that the European Union has been slow and weak in responding to the power of the tobacco industry. I welcome the efforts of the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, who is using this legislation as one of the anchors as Ireland commences its Presidency of the European Union.

The second issue on which I wish to focus is adherence to current legislation on smoking in the workplace. I take serious issue with the comments of Deputy Finian McGrath. I refer, in particular, to some of the intemperate language he used. He referred to the treatment of those who smoked as akin to the treatment of lepers. This is most unhelpful. The Deputy said 30% of people smoked, but I believe the figure is closer to 25%. Irrespective of which figure is correct, those who smoke are at risk of cancer, asthma, emphysema, mouth diseases, continuous and chronic chest disease and blood disorders. Their eyesight is at risk, as is the taste process in their mouths.

When one considers the cost to the State, one will note we have a responsibility not only to discourage those who smoke today but, more important, to do so in the interests of showing leadership to the next generation. That is part of this legislation and what the Government is about; it is not what Deputy Finian McGrath is about, namely, playing the percentage game.

A large proportion of people, particularly those living in underprivileged countries, remain targeted by the tobacco industry.

I am greatly concerned about the example shown by the industry, the effects of that and the influence it will have on our young people who are the next generation of adults and leaders. It is generally the unemployed who rely on social welfare and live in underprivileged communities who are targeted by criminal elements who make available to them smuggled tobacco products the contents of which nobody knows. Evidence cited today suggests those products are even more dangerous than the cigarettes for sale in shops. A shocking report presented by "Prime Time" highlighted clearly that the content of most smuggled tobacco products were more dangerous than that of regulated tobacco products.

I welcome this Bill. I congratulate the Minister on being in the House and his staff and particularly those working in health promotion and in the tobacco control unit in the Department of Health. I support the legislation.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. With more than one in four of the Irish population smoking, it is imperative that the Government make all the necessary adjustments to current legislation to ensure that health policy in regard to smoking is properly reflected in law. More than 5,000 people die each year as a result of smoking and half of all long-term smokers die early because of a smoking-related disease, yet it is proving very difficult to deter people, young and not so young, from smoking.

Successive Governments have highlighted the price of tobacco products as a factor in smoking rates. It is now the case that Irish cigarette prices are the most expensive in the European Union. The country is experiencing all the ravages of recession, yet more than one quarter of the adult population smokes. Other factors to remember are the increasing availability of products to aid smoking cessation and the huge strain smoking puts on the health system. A number of years ago more than 36,000 hospital admissions were as a result of smoking.

Although to date the expensive nature of tobacco products in Ireland appears to have had little effect on the population's smoking habits, there is evidence that the price increases help reduce smoking levels. A European study found that a 10% increase in cigarette prices results in a 5% to 7% decrease in the number of smokers. The World Health Organization has backed higher taxation on tobacco products as the single most effective way to encourage smokers to quit and, crucially, to prevent children from taking up the habit.

As tobacco prices rise so too does the attractiveness of the black market for cigarettes. Duty free cigarettes are estimated to account for 6% of the market and illegally imported black market cigarettes for 14% of the market. Those who use illegally imported black market cigarettes face a number of dangers, not least that the cigarettes were produced without any proper oversight and thus the ingredients used are only to be guessed at and may include extremely harmful toxins.

The European Court of Justice ruling which resulted in the necessity of the Bill before the House related to minimum pricing for cigarettes. It is now five years since the European Court of Justice brought proceedings against three countries, Ireland, Austria and France, having decided that they contravened the EU directive on excise duty on cigarettes as they undermined competition.

The provisions of the Bill focus on controlling or regulating the promotion of tobacco products rather than setting a minimum price. They aim to ensure that tobacco products will not be available at a reduced price or free when a person purchases another tobacco product.

I understand the spokespersons for Action on Smoking and Health have expressed concerns at the ruling of the European Court of Justice and have underlined the success of high prices in dissuading would-be smokers and the high cost of smoking to the country's health service. The Irish Cancer Society meanwhile has backed price increases and has also called for comprehensive smoking cessation programmes. I suggest that the effectiveness of various smoking cessation programmes be tested on medium to large community groups and the process and results be televised in an effort to inform people of the alternatives available and the success rates of various programmes. Televising such a process similar to that of "Operation Transformation" would give people encouragement that change can be brought about and it could show them the health benefits to be gained.

Following the ruling of the European Court of Justice fears were expressed that the new regime would result in widespread price drops for cigarettes but this has not been the case and four years since the ruling we have seen few price reductions and certainly not the avalanche that was feared in 2008. While the European Court of Justice ruling militates against instituting minimum pricing it concedes that fiscal legislation can be used to deter people from smoking without undermining freedom to determine prices. The ruling also has implications in terms of setting a minimum price for alcohol but once again the governments are free to use fiscal legislation to disregard without instituting a minimum price for a particular product.

This Bill is a common sense approach to difficulties raised by the judgment of the European Court of Justice, one which recognises the need to uphold competition laws while simultaneously ensuring that an important element of Irish health policy is properly reflected in our legislation.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss this Bill. An arrangement between the Department and the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers' Advisory Committee, ITMAC, was in place for more than 30 years whereby a weighted average price was calculated. This was based on sales volumes data and retail prices to year end each year.

Maintaining high cigarette prices to deter smoking for reasons of health protection is a key part of tobacco-related public health policy. One measure in place to achieve this is minimum pricing of cigarettes. Existing Irish legislation requires that the retail price of cigarettes be at least 97% of a weighted average based on sales of each brand the previous year and the recommended retail price.

The European Court of Justice ruled in March 2010 that by imposing minimum retail prices for cigarettes, Ireland has failed to fulfil its obligation under Article 9(1) of the Council Directive 95/59/EC and indicated that infringement proceedings would be initiated by the Commission unless Ireland took steps to comply with the European Court of Justice judgment. As a consequence of that judgment, Ireland can no longer set a mandatory pricing level below which cigarette prices cannot be lowered, as this would be restricting the freedom of industry to make effective use of competitive advantage. As a result of the European Court of Justice ruling, the Department informed the tobacco industry that the practice of setting floor prices for cigarettes each year would cease. In addition, Ireland advised the Commission that new regulations would be introduced to remedy the infringement. The Commission is anxious that the legislation be amended as soon as possible and a commitment has been given to it to our achieving this as soon as possible. In the interim the draft regulations referred to were signed by the Minister in December 2012.

The Bill also sets out revised ministerial powers in regard to sales and promotion of tobacco products. The aim of these provisions is to ensure that tobacco products will not be available at a reduced price or for free where a person purchases another tobacco product or any other product or services. While the European Court of Justice has ruled that companies must be free to set their own prices, governments are allowed to levy whatever level of taxes they desire. The ruling does not stop countries from banning the sale of below-cost tobacco products.

More than one in four of the Irish adult population smokes. The Health Service Executive reports that smoking is responsible for more than 5,000 deaths each year and half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely due to a smoking-related disease. In addition, there is concern about the financial cost such as the treatment of smoking-related illnesses. For example, in 2008 smoking was responsible for 36,000 hospital admissions, costing €280 million.

As a result of those concerns measures to control the sale and promotion of tobacco products, including a system to maintain high prices, are common elements of public health policies throughout the world. Irish cigarette prices are the most expensive in the European Union and Ireland has the highest tax content of cigarette prices in Europe. For example, in January 2013, the retail price of a packet of cigarettes in the most popular price category is €9.30. The tax content, including excise duty and VAT, is €7.31 and the proportion of tax is 79%.

The World Health Organization states that "increasing the price of tobacco through higher taxes is the single most effective way to encourage tobacco users to quit and prevent children from starting to smoke." Dr. Angie Brown, spokesperson for Action on Smoking and Health, ASH, highlighted the importance of price as an influence on buyers' behaviour. Price is well established as the most important measure in encouraging smokers to quit and discouraging young people from starting to smoke. We must always bear that in mind when legislating on tobacco prices.

Smoking kills 7,000 people each year and costs the Exchequer over €1 billion in treating tobacco-related illnesses and diseases. We must ensure these alarming statistics do not increase. I encourage people to stop smoking as it can seriously damage one's health. Most families have witnessed this, including mine.

Today, we opened proceedings in this Chamber with Leaders' Questions during which the Fianna Fáil leader brought to our attention the discovery of equine DNA in beef hamburgers. During the course of answers and supplementary questions, along with significant media focus on the topic, we discovered there was virtually zero health risk with what was found in the hamburgers. By contrast, here we are at the end of the day discussing a landmark and important Bill that gives the Minister powers in regulating advertising and packaging which will impact on the marketing and sale of cigarettes and tobacco.

It is claimed one in four adults smokes. If we are to be honest, however, that works out as one in every three because a quarter of adults probably have no intention of ever smoking or have given it up. The truth behind the statistic is probably one in three which is one too many.

We have heard that raising the price of cigarettes and tobacco does reduce their consumption. On 19 August 1980, luckily, I decided to stop smoking. At today's prices, smoking 20 cigarettes a day worked out at €3,276 for a year. If I had held steady my consumption rate of 20 a day 33 years ago, I would have spent €108,108. That is one hell of an after-tax saving. A young person smoking ten cigarettes a day will spend €1,638 a year on them which is the equivalent of the soon to be introduced residential property tax on a house worth €910,000. If a young person today thinks that it is worth smoking for the enjoyment and the sociability of stepping outside a pub for five cigarettes on a social night, twice a week, he or she will spend the equivalent of the residential property tax on a house worth €910,000. If it only is a casual habit at five-a-day, then the annual spend is the equivalent of the property tax of a house valued at €455,000.

These are the sums but numbers do not relate to experience. Young people remember experience. They will remember the experience of a mother, father, brother or sister becoming very ill or dying from tobacco-related diseases. We have also heard the battleground is in educating young and mature people. Where do we give our undivided attention to our health? It is not when we are reading textbooks, looking at notices or even listening to advertisements but when we are in the doctor's surgery. There he has our undivided attention. One usually attends a surgery when one has a health problem. Good general practitioners, as the Minister knows, will spot even the occasional smoker by their skin complexion, breath, hoarseness or if they have a chest infection. This provides a wonderful opportunity for the general practitioners to take several extra minutes to give - not to preach - an honest lesson about where the smoker is headed unless they decide to stop. It requires one to make a decision to give up smoking. No amount of wishful thinking or positioning will achieve it.

One other factor that has emerged in this debate is the number of contraband cigarettes consumed. These can be priced and sold at a third or even half of the price of licensed tobacco. The fines imposed on cigarette and tobacco smugglers are ludicrously small compared to the rewards they get if successful. This is a matter that the Departments of Health and Justice and Equality need to work on. The vast quantities of smuggled cigarettes that are discovered are usually found in 40 ft. shipping containers at the docks. These do not arrive by parachute from aeroplanes but by shipping lines. The owners of these shipping lines would soon be forced to concentrate on their ships' bills of lading if they knew they would be fined €200,000 if smuggled cigarettes were contained in them. That would concentrate their minds and make them check what is exactly in their ships' manifests. I believe we have been indulgently soft on this. It is limp policing and we want to stiffen it up.

One out of every three young women smokes. The deaths from lung cancers for that group exceed those from breast cancer. This brings me back to underlining the importance of the education about the dangers of smoking in the doctor's surgery. The doctors can show the pictures rather than have them on the cigarette packets. It is in the serious and sober environment of the surgery that a smoker will absorb the information about the mutations that take place on the lungs and other organs through smoking. Photographs of these diseases on the packages will not be noticed when the packet will always be in the pocket or when people are socialising. Will the Minister, his staff and the Health Service Executive begin rolling out this education process in the doctor's surgery not by way of notices in the waiting room but through a three minute conversation between doctor and patient? Then it will reach every age group and income strata in society.

Smoking for younger people is the gateway to other so-called soft drugs, but they are not soft, they are dangerously addictive and they are behaviour-altering. One cannot indulge in such things as marijuana and weed unless one smokes. Therefore, if one does not smoke one has closed off another dangerous avenue to self harm.

The advertising and marketing of tobacco is altogether invidious. British American Tobacco, BAT, was the subject of a documentary on BBC Two some years ago. It was shown by the producers of the documentary that where advertising was prohibited, merchandising and marketing took place in shops at corner locations in towns in African countries and the shops were presented as enlarged packets of cigarettes, in particular the Benson & Hedges gold pack. Shops were fronted in this way. Other merchandising tricks - that is all they are - were played in which cigarette packets could be broken up, sold and distributed by under age children. The practices that BAT indulged in were invidious and appalling.

It was disappointing to see that a recent governor of Bank of Ireland, after stepping down from that position, moved over to become chairman of BAT on a salary larger than what he had as governor of Bank of Ireland.

People who have been lucky and fortunate in society should come together not as part of a bible-thumping evangelical mission but with the right message and a truthful presentation of the health risks. People involved in sport are wonderful because they encourage young people to keep fit, healthy and well and to enjoy sports and stay away from harmful habits.

Another aspect of the behaviour of these international manufacturers is entirely wrong. Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco. When people give up cigarettes they try products such as Nicorette patches. If cigarettes only had naturally occurring addictive nicotine then Nicorette products might work, but the cigarette and confectionery manufacturers - we have a problem with obesity and sugar as well - bring in additives which are addictive. This is entirely wrong. There are additional addictive properties in cigarettes such that even if one's nicotine addiction was being addressed or suppressed, the other addictions would remain active and alive. I am unsure whether this is under the ambit of the Department of Health or the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine but the composition and the addition of other chemicals in products such as cigarettes should be addressed.

I have referred to the economics and costings and how wasteful cigarettes are for individuals. I have also referred to the opportunity for relevant education to begin in visits to the general practitioner surgery. I invite the Minister to somehow start a programme whereby all general practitioners would be asked to have the appropriate conversation with every patient who comes in.

I invite the journalists to reflect on today's proceedings in the Chamber, where we discussed in headline terms the issue of equine DNA in hamburgers, an issue which, we have been assured, does not pose a health risk. Today that topic has been highlighted disproportionately compared to this legislation, which is most worthy and which could help to prevent between 5,000 and 7,000 smoking-related deaths every year in the country. The Minister also stated that there were approximately 700,000 deaths through the European Community as a result of smoking. I invite the journalists and the media to emphasise and underscore the Minister's closing general remarks about tobacco and smoking. Therein lies the opportunity to greatly help and improve the health of the nation and the opportunity for the avoidance of so much illness, disease and death.

I now call Deputy Damien English. There are 20 minutes in his slot. Does the Deputy wish to share time?

I will share with my colleague, Deputy Frank Feighan, a Roscommon man. I welcome the Bill and the work and the efforts of the Minister for Health and his Department to try to tackle this area. I listened to the contribution of Deputy Mathews. Certainly, there is a good deal we can do through legislation and various Bills, but education is important as well. We need to convince people at a young age that cigarettes are addictive. The attitude of young people - I was a young person not long ago - is that when they are young it cannot happen to them. This applies whether it is a car crash, an illness or getting addicted to cigarettes or drugs. They tend to assume that it will not happen to them but to other people. We need to get young people from an early age. By the time they leave school it is almost too late. If a person is caught smoking before then there is some chance of stopping him from smoking, drinking or taking drugs but attitude is central. I have spoken a good deal about road safety and cars. The prevalent attitude among most people is that it will not happen to them and they will not crash. However, people should realise, as it says in the lotto advertisement, that "It could be you." This is the message we must get across to people when they are in school and in the education system. We should continue to impress the message afterwards but mainly at that stage. We must relay the message that bad things can happen to them as well as good things and that it could happen to them.

I remember the first time I tried a cigarette many years ago. One assumes one will not become addicted but it can take hold. Cigarettes or drugs can be addictive. Some people can take up a cigarette and then put it down again and it does not bother them but others cannot. We need to get into the heads of young people in the education system and let them know that these things can happen. Whether it is cigarettes, road safety issues, driving fast or driving like a madman, all these things can happen. Anyone can have an accident. This is part of what we need to do in our education system. Part of this programme should involve bringing people who have suffered from smoking-related diseases and ill-health into a classroom to meet young people head-on and discuss the consequences of smoking and how bad it can be for a person's health, family and so on.

I support my colleague, the Minister for Health, in his objective to make Ireland a tobacco-free society. I support any measures which are proven to reduce the level of smoking in Ireland and which can avoid countless unnecessary deaths caused by this addiction. However, I wish to use my time on the Bill to discuss something we are doing in our committee in respect of this and other areas. I am Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Our committee has held several hearings in the Oireachtas and in other parts of the country, including Waterford and Kilkenny, to examine the impact the black market is having on the retail and other sectors of the economy. Waterford was chosen because the illegal cigarette trade there is one of the strongest in the country. My county, Meath, and County Kildare are among the strongest when it comes to the black market trade in cigarettes. They are among the top three or four and this area must be tackled.

We have had several meetings on foot of a report carried out by Retail Ireland during the summer which highlighted the cost of fraud and how it can be solved and so on. We used the report to start our study into the area of illicit trade and the black market. One area high on the agenda everywhere we go is cigarette smuggling, the illicit trade in cigarettes and the associated consequences and costs. We hope to have more meetings on this issue and to bring forward more solutions. We will come to the various Ministers in all the Departments with solutions and ways to tackle this illicit trade and fraud and so on. There is a vast cost in terms of jobs and lost revenue to the State. At all these meetings the message has been given loud and clear to all Members across party lines to the effect that Government and legislators must avoid any further regulatory burden which incentivises criminal opportunism to the detriment of legitimate retailers.

All of the small business owners with whom we are meet are telling us they are choked with red tape, licensing requirements and enforcement which require of them a great deal of effort while someone selling on the black market dishes out cigarettes at a third of the price and is subject to very little regulation. We must target our resources at those key areas in which abuses take place. Legitimate business are telling us they feel they get the brunt of regulation and red tape notwithstanding that 95% of them are compliant with everything. Nevertheless, they are subject to all of the effort and inspections while the wheeler and dealer down the road is subject to nothing.

One of the largest growth products in the black market in recent years has unquestionably been illegal cigarettes. Small retailers are feeling the pinch while crooked and sinister members of society profit at their expense and that of the taxpayer. While Ireland is widely admired for the bold stance we have taken against the tobacco industry through the introduction of the successful smoking ban in 2004 and point-of-sale display ban in 2009, some of that admiration has unfortunately fallen foul of certain facts in respect of the protection of the health of our citizens as they relate to reducing the number of smokers. In 2000, the then health Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, stated that the Government's aim was to cut the incidence of smoking from 31% to 20% within ten years. A decade later, the Eurobarometer survey of 2010 demonstrated that the prevalence of smoking in Ireland remained at the 2000 level. Thankfully, the most recent Eurobarometer survey, published in May 2012, shows a reduction to 29%. While the trend is the right one, we are still above the EU average of 28%. The smoking ban was introduced to reduce the number of smokers but it has not necessarily achieved that. Even the current chief medical officer in the HSE, Dr. Tony Houlihan, recognised the contradiction when addressing a public health conference in 2011. He stated that the frequency of smoking of 28% to 30% had not improved since the public smoking ban was introduced. While I recognise the great benefits of the smoking ban in reducing the effects of passive smoking and protecting the health of non-smokers, a reduction in the number of those smoking has not been achieved. Perhaps in time that will happen. The trends are beginning to go the right way.

While the incidence of smoking has not altered significantly in the past ten to 12 years, excise duty increases have been imposed and new public health regulations introduced. The quantity of illicit cigarettes seized by Customs and Excise and the Garda increased from €96.3 million in 2000 to €218.5 million in 2009. In total, over the past 12 years, €1 billion worth of cigarettes have been seized by customs and Revenue authorities. These are the facts and figures which have been presented to the committee and they are stark. While €1 billion worth of cigarettes has been seized in 12 years, it is estimated by a survey commissioned by Revenue and the National Tobacco Control Office that the value of illicit cigarettes consumed in 2011 was €770 million. If that figure is extrapolated over 12 years, it means more than €8 billion worth of cigarettes have come into Ireland undetected by Customs and Excise and Revenue. This has resulted in huge losses to the State. Retail Ireland recently produced a report which estimated that €861 million a year is lost to the State though the purchase by Irish people of illegal goods, not all of which are cigarettes. Over the last couple of years, we have lost out on approximately €4.3 billion. This is money which could have been used to tackle smoking-related health issues.

While I will not go through all the facts and figures, it is estimated that approximately 6% of smokers are smoking illegal cigarettes in respect of which no tax is collected. We also lose jobs. Our committee looks at this issue from an employment perspective. When legitimate traders lose business, we lose out on jobs. More important, we are losing out on tax revenues which the Department of Health needs. I ask the Cabinet to come together to tackle the illicit trade in cigarettes and other goods. Serious criminals use the profits from illegal cigarette trading to fund other illegal activities which are much more sinister.

While the Bill focuses solely on public health and the impact of suggested European provisions, it should be considered that unintended consequences may arise. Revenue and law enforcement must have an opportunity to provide their guidance and expertise on a growing trend in Irish society. I ask the Minister to ensure the Bill and any other legislation he intends to introduce to tackle smoking and public health is proofed against unintended consequences. While we want to introduce successful legislation, my committee is anxious to ensure that we do not hit the wrong people with additional red tape and damage employment. The Minister is the right man for the job and must ensure that he covers all the angles. This is a fight in which we must all become involved.

I welcome the Bill which will allow the Minister unilaterally to issue new guidelines on the advertising and promotion of tobacco. It will ensure that Ireland observes a ruling of the European Court of Justice and introduce regulations on the design of tobacco packaging and marketing. I hope the Bill will also dent the sale of illegal tobacco, much of which does not carry EU health warnings.

We are supposed to have come a long way since I was going to school. Not only did we have packets of 20 and ten cigarettes, but some corner shops sold cigarettes singly, which was illegal. I am beginning to wonder whether it might not be better for people to obtain a single cigarette rather than to have to buy a packet of 20. While I am sure studies have been carried out, I am curious as to whether being able to buy cigarettes singly might assist people to wean themselves off smoking. I grew up in a newsagents and cigarette sales were very much part of the family business. Cigarettes are now almost €9 for 20, which is an exorbitant price, but they cannot be expensive enough. Cigarettes have done enormous damage. While tobacco has been available internationally for little over 200 years, more people have died from smoking-related illnesses than have been killed in all world wars combined. It is a statistic which needs to be highlighted.

Of those who smoke, 99% know of the dangers of tobacco-related illnesses. While we should avoid an overtly nanny-state, much more must be done to stop smoking, which puts great pressure and cost on the health system. Any nurse or doctor will know immediately if a person admitted to hospital is a smoker. It is an issue which must be addressed. While lighter tar and electronic cigarettes have been introduced to wean people from smoking, we have not succeeded to the extent that one in three young women smokes. Many young women smoke because they feel they might otherwise put on weight. Smoking creates a craving of its own and one loses a taste for food but I do not believe there is a correlation between giving up cigarettes and eating more. However, it should be remembered by young men and women that there are many who will not see them as attractive because they smoke.

This is an issue that needs to be brought up.

The smoking ban was a great idea but I am disappointed to see that there has been a reduction of only two percentage points, from 31% to 29%, in the number of people who smoke. If the smoking ban had been introduced in any month other than May, which saw good weather - for example, in November, when people going out to smoke would be freezing - there would have been near anarchy in the streets. This shows that the smoking ban was introduced at the appropriate time. It has been very successful and I give credit where it is due to the former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Micheál Martin. I also welcome Senator John Crown's initiative to ban smoking in cars and I believe the Minister is very supportive of that. Anything we can do to reduce smoking in the community is great.

We must tackle the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into the country, which results in the loss of significant amounts of revenue and is a significant incentive for people who want to make extra money on the back of the taxpayer. If someone is selling 200 cigarettes on a doorstep at one third of the retail price, it is a significant incentive. Much has been done to tackle this but more needs to be done because we are losing a significant amount of revenue and cigarette smoking is simply bad for and will kill one.

I once owned a pub and would have given it up at one point because I felt I was a passive smoker, although I had never smoked. I was getting up in the morning and coughing, which was the result of passive smoking. Of course, I could not take an action against myself because I owned the pub but I certainly feel there was an issue there. As a newsagent, I remember that if one wanted to do up one's shop, the three tobacco companies - P. J. Carroll & Company, Gallaher's and John Player - would be fighting to put in new cigarette stands and a counter, which showed the power of merchandising and advertising. I am delighted there is no advertising in shops, but it showed that the cigarette companies had their own departments which put in counters in shops to display their wares. It showed how important merchandising in shops was to these companies. Much more needs to be done and I welcome this Bill.

I will be brief as I have only a few points to make. Youghal is a town in my constituency in which Walter Raleigh lived for a while. He has much to answer for because he was responsible for bringing tobacco to this part of the world from the Americas, or at least made it very popular in the mid-1500s. He lost his head afterwards but it was too late as the damage had been done. This legislation will amend the existing legislation to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Justice and will empower the Minister to tackle brand imagery and put pictures on cigarette packets. This has had an impact in other countries where it has been introduced and is very welcome. The number of people who die from cigarette smoking every year has been estimated to be more than 5,000, which is a significant figure, and the cost has been estimated at €23 billion over the next decade. This is a colossal amount of money that could do much for the health service if it was available to us.

The possibility of introducing a bar code on cigarette packs to ensure the Garda can tell quickly whether a packet of cigarettes is legal has been proposed to me and might be worth considering. This proposal has been put forward by some people in the retail industry. It would mean that gardaí could have a scanner with which to scan cigarette packs sold in markets and various other places. If a packet did not have this bar code, they could confiscate the cigarettes. That is my understanding of how this might work and it might be worth doing.

I am informed that the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers' Advisory Committee maintains that there has been a dramatic decrease in fines handed down for the selling and smuggling of illegal cigarettes. I support the call by Retailers Against Smuggling for a minimum fine of €10,000 to stop this epidemic. The latest figures from the Revenue Commissioners list of defaulters show the average fine for the selling of illegal cigarettes dropped by 20% in the second quarter and the average fine for smuggling cigarettes is down by 37.9%. That is sending out the wrong message. We need to increase the penalties for the smuggling of illegal cigarettes into the State.

We should be targeting young people and one way of doing this is to concentrate on fitness, sport, games and positive healthy living in our schools. If a youngster is involved in competitive sport, games or activities, such as athletics, swimming, canoeing, rowing, football or hurling, which demand physical exercise and exertion, it is good for him or her and means that in order to excel, that person will be deterred from taking up cigarettes. Top-class athletes do not smoke for that reason. I encourage us to look at wellness in our society and to encourage the concepts of wellness, fitness, health, exercise and activity, particularly among young people. That is all I want to say on this issue at this point.

I thank all of the Deputies who have taken the time to contribute to the debate. I particularly welcome the cross-party and across-the-board nature of the support that has been apparent for the important work of reducing the number of people who smoke in Ireland. I acknowledge some Deputies' dissatisfaction with the ceasing of minimum pricing for cigarettes. However, under EU legislation, we are forced to do what we must do. I know these Deputies understand this is something that Ireland has an obligation to comply with and I assure those Deputies that I am committed to ensuring that this Government continues in its practice of increasing excise duty on tobacco. Many Deputies today reiterated the well-established link between price and cigarette consumption. To those who would say that increasing the price increases smuggling, invoking the law of diminishing returns, I say that smuggling is an enforcement issue and is no reason to cease the practice of increasing the price of cigarettes. Indeed, I believe that a sudden shock to the system of cigarette pricing in this country, leading to each cigarette costing €1, would cause many smokers to pause and think long and deeply before inhaling deeply as to why they are smoking this carcinogen.

There was, of course, one dissenting voice in respect of these developments around tobacco. I echo the sentiments expressed by Deputy Mitchell O'Connor earlier when she said that it is totally irresponsible for any Deputy to send out a message to our children and young people that smoking is OK. I would also like to say there is no doubting the statistics in respect of the deaths attributable to smoking. It is outrageous and ludicrous that Deputy McGrath can just dismiss as lies the statistics and methodologies from such a reputable establishment as the World Health Organization, WHO. I would go further and say it is irrational, because it refuses to acknowledge the facts, and irresponsible for the reasons I have already outlined. It is important to identify the Deputy concerned as Deputy Finian McGrath and not Deputy Mattie McGrath. The figures quoted earlier on deaths attributed to smoking are based on statistics on the number of deaths from the CSO, using a WHO-recognised methodology. With this in mind, I reiterate that there are approximately 5,200 deaths every year attributed to smoking in the Republic of Ireland. This represents 19% of all deaths. These are the facts and no amount of pub talk can change that. One half, or one in two, of all long-term smokers will die from smoking-related diseases. Contrary to what Deputy Finian McGrath stated earlier, this figure of 5,200 does not represent all cancer deaths. In fact, the CSO figures for deaths from cancer in 2011 indicated a total of 8,684. However, as we have already pointed out, a significant number of people with circulatory disorders, cardiovascular disease, strokes, heart attacks and other illnesses die from smoking-related diseases.

Nearly every speaker raised concerns about children and smoking. I share these concerns. It is heartening that research shows a decrease in the numbers of young people smoking but we need to do more. Nicotine is an immensely addictive substance. The younger a person is when he or she starts smoking, the longer and more heavily he or she is likely to smoke. The majority of smokers become addicted in their childhood and teenage years. We need to break this cycle.

The tobacco industry knows this is the case. That is why it tries to catch smokers when they are young. Once they are addicted it is no longer interested in them and will move on to the next cohort of victims because it knows a smoker will remain addicted for the next ten to 20 years. There is considerable evidence to support the suspicion that the industry aims at creating the golden pack of 20, that is, the 20 cigarettes that will create an addiction.

I hope this Chamber sends the message loud and clear that the best way to avoid addiction to cigarettes is by avoiding smoking in the first place. All cigarettes offer is a one in two chance of dying, a shorter lifespan and a poorer quality of life. In the days before smoking was banned inside hospitals I saw people in chest units who were so addicted that they took the oxygen tank with them to smoke in the toilet. They were prepared to risk an explosion because they could not do without a cigarette. Nobody willingly becomes engaged in that level of addiction.

I suspect the statistics would reveal a much lower uptake of smoking among those aged above 18 years compared to those aged 18 or younger. I recently discussed the question of why young people are still starting to smoke with my Northern Ireland counterpart and research is being commissioned on this area in conjunction with the North-South Ministerial Council.

On a positive note, I believe the introduction of graphic warnings on cigarette packs next month and the removal of point of sale tobacco promotion in 2009 will have a significant impact on our young people in the longer term. I am also working with Senators Crown, Daly and van Turnhout on the drafting of legislation which will ban smoking in cars where children are present. This legislation is not aimed at restricting the rights of adults but at protecting the rights of children. Children's exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in cars is involuntary and highly dangerous. Notwithstanding much talk about the nanny state, most right minded people in this country accept that we must protect our children from second hand tobacco smoke. I believe the legislation will be self-enforcing because any right minded adult who pulls up and sees somebody in the adjacent car smoking while a child is in the back seat will not be hesitant in recording the registration number, blowing the horn or expressing dissatisfaction and concern. Some parents may not be aware of the dangers of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke but children are not able to remove themselves from risk if people smoke around them. I look forward to working with the Senators in progressing this Bill.

It is recognised that in an environment of increasing prohibition of tobacco advertising, the cigarette pack has become a key marketing tool for the tobacco industry. I have seen the attractive packaging of two cigarettes in a box that resembles lipstick or perfume. These products are heavily marketed at young girls at concerts and other events. We are providing funding to investigate further the activities in which the industry engages to ensnare the next generation. I welcome the Australian Government's victory in defending its plain packaging legislation last year and support international developments on plain or standardised packaging. I will be giving the matter of plain or generic packaging careful consideration in coming months.

Just as the barriers to quitting smoking are multifaceted, no one measure alone can reduce the number of smokers or the number of our children who start to smoke. We need a combination of measures which include effective legislation, comprehensive supports for smokers who are trying to quit and effective media and education campaigns on the harmful effects of smoking. All these measures have the effect of denormalising tobacco, which is the most successful way to prevent future generations from continuing the habit. The industry would not spend hundreds of millions of euro on advertising if it did not work.

The tobacco policy review is nearing completion in my Department. It will make recommendations on a range of measures aimed at further reducing smoking. I am pleased to announce that our goal for that report is to be a tobacco free country by 2025. This tobacco policy should be considered within the new health and well being framework, which acknowledges that health is the responsibility of all sectors in society. Health promotion and prevention are central to healthier lifestyles which reduce chronic diseases, reduce health care costs and contribute to a healthier workforce, healthier children, positive aging and greater participation in society by those with disabilities and mental health issues. If we can address the issue of health and well being by tackling obesity and tobacco smoking we will not need to worry as much about the number of beds in our hospitals.

In my opening contribution I mentioned the legislative measures we have undertaken that have put us to the fore internationally. Many of these measures were facilitated by developments at European Union level. It is important that our tobacco policy and legislative framework continue to develop within the context of the European Commission. To this end, we hope to be in a position to progress the revised EU tobacco products directive during the course of the Irish Presidency. I am confident that the outcome of the revision of the directive, together with the implementation of the future recommendations of the report of the tobacco policy review group, will bring us a significant way towards a tobacco free society.

I confirm this Government's commitment to health promotion and tobacco control measures and acknowledge the commitment of previous Governments in this regard. We will continue to support the aim of denormalising tobacco and will work constructively with all stakeholders to achieve this goal. We will do all in our power to protect our children and future generations from a habit that would rob them of years of life and health. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.