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

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for giving me this opportunity. I wish him and the House a happy new year.

I take the opportunity to outline the background to the amendments being set out. As a public health measure, for many years Ireland had set a mandatory pricing level below which the price of cigarettes could not be lowered. In the past there was an arrangement between the Department of Health and Irish tobacco companies, whereby a weighted average price was calculated for cigarettes. This arrangement was in place for over 30 years and based on sales volumes data and retail prices to year end each year. In 2010 the European Court of Justice ruled that by imposing minimum retail prices for cigarettes, Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 9(1) of Council Directive 95/59/EC.

As a consequence of the court judgment, Ireland can no longer set a mandatory pricing level below which cigarette prices cannot be lowered, as this would restrict the freedom of the industry to make effective use of competitive advantage. The Commission indicated that it would initiate infringement proceedings if Ireland did not take steps to comply with the court judgment. As a result of this ruling, my 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 aim of the draft regulations developed was to remove the price setting provisions in current tobacco regulations.

During this process and after a considerable period of time the Commission indicated that, in addition to the new regulations, the primary enabling tobacco legislation would need to be amended to meet the requirements of the court judgment. The purpose of amending the primary legislation is to remove the legal basis for the fixing of a minimum price. In order to comply with the court judgment, therefore, new regulations had to be devised and the primary tobacco legislation needed to be amended. I completed the first step in complying with the court ruling in December when I signed regulations - the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 525 of 2012) - the effect of which was to remove the regulatory basis for the fixing of a minimum price.

On examination of the tobacco legislation, it appeared that the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 and the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) Act 1978 both needed to be amended to satisfy the court judgment. The Bill being debated achieves this in so far as it removes the legal basis for the fixing of a minimum price. In amending the relevant sections of the Act it is important for the power to introduce regulations relating to tobacco sales promotion activities to be retained by me and future Ministers. This power is already available in current tobacco legislation. The provision before the House allows for the development of regulations in this regard. More specifically, it sets out some of the types of promotion to be included in the regulations. For example, it will prohibit "three for the price of two" offers, "happy hour" promotions and "buy one, get one free" deals. The issue of sales promotion activities falls outside the court ruling because it does not relate to minimum or maximum pricing of tobacco and is not, therefore, a direct requirement of the European Commission.

I wish to set out the content of the Bill in detail. It provides for the repeal of certain provisions contained in section 2 of the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) Act 1978. It also amends section 38 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 in respect of activities which are intended or likely to promote the sale of tobacco products.

The Bill is short and comprises three sections. Section 1 amends section 38 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 by removing any perceived price fixing provision. However, it retains the power to make regulations in respect of activities which are intended or likely to promote the sale of tobacco products. Specifically, the new section 38(10) gives the Minister for Health the power to make these regulations. The new section 38(10A) sets out some of the provisions which may be included in these regulations such as the prohibition of the promotion and sale of tobacco products at a reduced price or free of charge on the purchase of another tobacco product or other products or services. As I mentioned, this covers promotions like "three for the price of two" and "buy one, get one free". The prohibition of the promotion and sale of tobacco products at a reduced price or free of charge for a limited period of time on any day will prohibit "happy hour" promotions. The new section 38(11) will make it an offence for someone to contravene the regulations made under section 38(10).

In this context, it is important to state my Department and the HSE are continuously monitoring the ever-evolving marketing tactics of the tobacco industry. It is not in doubt that they are evolving and that our legislative and policy framework must evolve at the same time.

Section 2 repeals provisions contained in section 2 of the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) Act 1978 and revokes Regulation 17 in the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) Regulations 1991. Again, as I mentioned earlier, these provisions contained price fixing elements to them which were seen to be in contravention of the relevant European Council directive and were deemed as restricting the freedom of industry to make effective use of competitive advantage. Specifically, section 2(1) of the Bill repeals section 2(1 )(c) and sections 2(2)(h) and (2)(2)(i) of the 1978 Act. I should mention that section 8 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002, as amended by section 4 of the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Act 2004, sets out the provision for the repeal of the 1978 Act. However, it is important to note this provision is not yet commenced and the 1978 Act has not yet been repealed.

Section 2(2) of the Bill is a standard saver provision. Section 2(3) revokes Regulation 17 in the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) Regulations 1991. As mentioned previously, this Regulation 17 was already amended and Regulation 16 deleted by the regulations I signed in December 2012 to remove any price fixing provisions from them. The revocation outlined in this Bill is to allow my Department to, as set out earlier, introduce new regulations in the future which relate to sales promotion activities, thereby ensuring there is no overlapping of provisions. Section 3 is a standard provision and provides for the Short Title, collective citation, construction and commencement.

Having set out the content of the Bill, I would like to take this opportunity to speak in a broader context about smoking in Ireland. As a doctor with decades of experience, I have seen first-hand the damage caused to the health of those who become addicted to tobacco. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland. Each year, more than 5,200 of our people die prematurely from diseases caused by tobacco use, which represents 19% of all deaths. Smokers lose on average ten to 15 years of quality life. They have higher rates of absenteeism directly attributable to smoking of, on average, five to ten days a year. Smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease among smokers is 1.6 times of those who have never smoked. Smoking causes 90% of all cases of emphysema and is the main cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smokers have higher levels of lifelong morbidity than non-smokers. Treating tobacco related illnesses accounted for €280 million, or nearly 10% of overall acute budgets, in a 2008 study on the costs of acute care.

This is a serious problem. I believe it is the greatest threat to public health this country faces and a similar position applies across Europe, with nearly 700,000 Europeans dying annually from smoking related illness. It is not surprising, therefore, that I am keen, during my period as Minister for Health, to make a significant impact in the tobacco area. The regulation of the tobacco industry in regard to its sales promotion activities, as set out in the Bill, is just one of the ways I hope to achieve this. A comprehensive range of tobacco control legislation is already in place in Ireland which places us in the top rank of countries internationally. Some of these significant initiatives include the following: the successful implementation of the smoke-free initiative in 2004, the ban on the sale of packs of cigarettes of less than 20 in 2007, the ground-breaking legislation in 2009 that introduced the ban on in-store display and advertising and the introduction of the retail register.

I am pleased to say that I introduced regulations which place an obligation on tobacco manufacturers to include photographs on cigarette and tobacco packs. These images depict the negative health impacts associated with smoking. Research and experience in other countries has shown that health warnings combined with coloured photographs can be an effective means of discouraging smoking and informing people about the health risks related to smoking. These packs will appear in our shops from next month. This particular measure, together with the 2009 retail measures, will have a positive impact on reducing the numbers of young people starting to smoke. Indeed, although the prevalence of smoking remains stubbornly high, it is heartening to see a recent survey demonstrate that the number of children smoking fell from 18% to 12% from 2002 to 2010.

The introduction of many of these measures was facilitated by developments at European Union level and it is important that our tobacco policy and legislation framework continues to develop within the context of the European Commission. To this end, I am delighted that the proposal for the revised tobacco product directive was published in December 2012 in time for the Irish EU Presidency. I intend to use the Presidency of the EU to pursue vigorously measures to reduce the prevalence of smoking, both here and across the EU. There is no doubt that if tobacco were discovered today, knowing what we know about it, it would not be legal. I recommend this Bill to the House.

I wish Members a happy new year. On the Bill, the Minister has outlined the technical reasons it must be brought forward, namely, the European Court judgment and the fact we were infringing the article with regard to free trade and all that flows from the mandatory minimum price. Therefore, I will not go into the detail of the Bill as the Minister has dealt with that and has highlighted why it has been brought to bear.

It is important that we broaden out this debate and encourage Government at all levels to ensure we have forward thinking and forward reaching policies that discourage people from taking up cigarettes and, more importantly, to encourage those who are already on them to give them up. For all those reasons, I believe the Minister should use the EU Presidency this year to encourage the European Union to be more proactive in the whole area of tobacco control.

There is no doubt the international tobacco companies have huge political clout and financial muscle, which they use very effectively. They are insidious organisations that threaten and bully governments. They have been challenging governments which are trying to control tobacco in various countries and have pursued the matter through the courts on a continual basis. These organisations that are selling tobacco around the world have no scruples when it comes to making sure their product has an advantage over other products, particularly in the developing world and by targeting young people in particular. This is quite disgusting and base.

I say all of that because, as the Minister noted, a stubbornly high proportion of our adult population, some 25%, are still smoking some form of tobacco product. If one looks across the developing world, particularly in Africa, Asia and South America, there is a concerted effort by the tobacco companies to target young people. Moreover, when we talk about young people, we are not talking about teenagers but about those aged eight, nine and ten years. This shows the depths these tobacco companies will stoop to in order to try to raise their product profile.

Anything that discourages people from purchasing tobacco is welcome. I am not a puritan on this issue as I frequently struggle with the addiction to nicotine. Nonetheless, we have to be as proactive as possible. I do not want to outbid the Minister in terms of saying what we on this side of the House would do with regard to tobacco control if we were on the other side of the House. However, I know the Minister, having been a practising GP for many years, will have seen first-hand the devastating impact tobacco has on individuals and on the collective health of society. For all of those reasons, we must continue to pursue a policy that discourages tobacco consumption and cigarette sales in this country.

That is why even though this Bill is intended to address a discrepancy in Ireland's compliance with European trade law, it will ensure that tobacco prices will stay high and that price will be used as a mechanism for discouraging the consumption of tobacco. We must go beyond that. I welcome the fact that from February the Minister will publish graphic images on cigarette packs. We should go to generic, homogenous packaging such as is used in other countries, particularly Australia, which has been to the fore in tackling the cigarette companies' ability to advertise in subtle ways. Homogenising tobacco packaging to ensure no company can be identified would be a positive step and we should consider taking it.

The European Union has been appallingly slow to promote positive health in respect of tobacco consumption. Health is a competency of the individual member states and as parties and governments over the years we have fought to retain that subsidiarity. There is, however, an obligation on the European Union to use its muscle to take on the tobacco companies and to deal with them in a forthright manner. Philip Morris, Imperial Tobacco and Japanese tobacco companies have huge resources and they are not afraid to use them. I urge the Minister to ensure that the Irish Presidency of the EU will be used to promote healthy living and more important, to address the problem of tobacco consumption. I wish the Minister well in doing so.

The Minister has given figures for the cost of tobacco consumption to the individual's health, to the State, people's lives and their families yet we can purchase this product legally in any shop. Senator Crown, an eminent oncologist, and the Minister, as a general practitioner, have said on numerous occasions that were tobacco to be discovered today or tomorrow we would all campaign to ensure that it would never be legalised. There would not be a discussion on the issue. We would talk about not allowing it into the country or the European Union. The difficulty now is that it is so tied up with vested interests, hedge and insurance funds, that it is a massive industry. It exploits not only the consumer but also the supplier, and the source countries of the raw materials. For these reasons I have no difficulty supporting any proposal or measure that will discourage tobacco consumption, decrease the number of people taking up smoking and encourage those who smoke to try to give it up.

I would also welcome any measures that make it more difficult for these companies to ply their trade. Over the past few years tobacco companies have increased their profit share per pack of cigarettes. Until 2005 or 2006 the profit was €1 per pack. As the Government, in a health policy initiative to discourage people from purchasing cigarettes, continued to increase the excise and VAT on cigarettes the tobacco companies have increased their profit share to €1.84. We must address that issue. The Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation made pre-budget submissions to the Government about bringing forward new proposals with regard to pricing and how VAT and excise would be charged to ensure that any increase in the price of cigarettes goes to the Exchequer, with a mechanism in place whereby tobacco companies make only a certain profit from the sale of cigarettes and the rest of the increase would accrue to the State. It is quite a complex and technical submission but it is worth considering because if the State pursues a policy of increasing the price of cigarettes we are inadvertently making them more profitable for the tobacco companies. We should take these pre-budget submissions on board. The industry has used the opportunity afforded by increases in tax on tobacco to increase its profits.

We endorse the proposals from the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society that tobacco prices should be controlled in the same way as prices in other sectors, such as energy and taxi fares. With such a change the proportion of the retail price of tobacco that would go to the Exchequer would increase. This could raise a minimum of €100 million in the first year, increasing to approximately €150 million in subsequent years. We want to go down this route to make sure that any increase in the price of tobacco will go to the State to help the State pick up the tab for treating many smoking-related illnesses. Tobacco companies have very low principles and morals as we saw when Philip Morris and others lied through their back teeth at Congressional hearings. They pretended that cigarettes and nicotine are not addictive. These organisations-----

The Deputy must be careful about accusing people of making false-----

They certainly were accused-----

It is not germane. We are under privilege here.

Yes but they did lie to Congressional and Senate hearings about whether tobacco was an addictive substance and whether they used ingredients that made it more difficult for people not to smoke. I am simply making that point and we need to be conscious that while many of these organisations are seen to be respectable they will use every method and mechanism to defend themselves, as I highlighted in the context of the challenges brought before the Australian Supreme Court some time ago about copyright and packaging. For all those reasons it is important to consider this budget submission.

On the broader issue of health policy and without criticising the Minister, while we welcome the moves in some areas with regard to packaging and graphic advertising, we have a long way to go in promoting the concept of a healthy society. We have not made the strides that others have, for example, Australia, New Zealand and some other countries which have made a holistic healthy lifestyle central to education, schooling, the workplace and across the board. Our effort is a little haphazard. There must be a stronger emphasis on encouraging people to make decisions, giving them information to make choices that will give them a better quality of life. It will improve society and cut down the burden to the State of funding health services to treat illnesses associated with tobacco and alcohol consumption, obesity and other areas. We should encourage people to take up exercise and while there are stated policies there is no central driver in this area. The HSE is half-obligated to promote healthy living and has a health promotion unit but we need to step beyond that to create a central policy unit similar to the Road Safety Authority.

This was very effective in targeting road safety. It was able to introduce and publish its policies and nudge governments, ensuring that all policies coming from Government and the various Departments maintained a focused and determined effort to reduce road deaths. In this it has been very successful. We must have something similar in this area, an agency that has statutory powers, advises Government and holds it to account to ensure policies emanating from a Department are in accordance with what our stated objective should be, namely, to ensure there are health-centred policies across all Departments. Even when we are talking and debating, and meeting organisations to try to encourage people to get involved in more healthy aspects of life, people will say this subject transcends children and goes into areas of education, justice, health and across all areas. At the same time we should be more proactive in setting up a statutory agency that would have powers and a strong advocacy role in promoting every aspect of healthy living.

This Bill is more or less technical in that it is intended to ensure Irish law is compatible with EU law. The broader issues must be continually targeted, however. We now know, for example, that there is a cohort of 25% of adults who smoke and there is still a take-up of smoking by young people. There is subtle advertising in other ways because companies are not allowed to advertise in the traditional way. They target young girls for example, with the message that if one smokes cigarettes this is actually a diet and one will be tall, thin and beautiful like Kate Mosse. This insidious type of advertising should be targeted at an EU level and I encourage the Minister to consider this.

I wish the Minister well during the Presidency and hope he will ensure there is a strong emphasis at EU level in tackling and reducing tobacco consumption and bringing about a more holistic and healthy lifestyle in society. Not only would this benefit Irish people but it could become a European-wide policy of healthy lifestyle and a holistic approach to living, tackling childhood obesity and alcohol-related illnesses as well as the obvious illnesses that arise from tobacco. For all those reasons, if the Minister were to use the Presidency for this purpose he would be very much supported on this side of the House and such a policy would be embraced by many people.

Ar dtús ba mhaith liom athbhliain faoi mhaise a ghué ar an Chathaoirleach agus ar gach Teachta anseo.

This Bill gives us the opportunity to focus once again on the enormous damage caused to the health of people and the huge cost to society of tobacco smoking. It also provides us with an opportunity to address the ongoing campaign to reduce and, one hopes, eventually to eliminate this practice. I support this, absolutely, and wish to see the creation of a smoking-free society. While there will probably always be a remnant of smoking among a small minority, for maximum effect the aim has to be a smoke-free society in Ireland. Much progress has been made - this must be acknowledged. Measures undertaken by successive Governments and the campaigning work of the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Heart Foundation, ASH Ireland and others have greatly reduced the numbers who smoke and unquestionably have hugely improved public health. A combination of public education and pricing measures has ensured this reduction in the numbers who smoke. Pricing measures are crucial; that is one of the two areas covered by the provisions of the Bill which I will address.

It is still a startling statistic that around a quarter of the adult population of this country smoke. The numbers of young people starting smoking and becoming addicted at an early age must be addressed on a continuing basis. It is estimated that smoking causes well over 5,000 deaths each year, mainly as a result of conditions such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and emphysema. Nearly a third of cancer deaths and 90% of lung cancers in Ireland are attributed to smoking. The cost to society in human terms and in financial terms is enormous. One estimate is that the cost to the State in health service provision in a single year is €1 billion, with approximately a third of that spent on hospital admissions. It is estimated that if smoking continues to expand as it is doing at present it will be the single biggest cause of death worldwide before the middle of this century. Smoking is expanding across the globe because the tobacco industry's great area of expansion is in developing countries that have not yet put in place the preventive measures that have been provided for in developed countries such as our own.

The tobacco industry is an industry of death and it is exploiting as never before the most disadvantaged people on our planet. Yet there are still people, including in this country, who lobby on its behalf, happy to benefit from the enormous profits reaped by these multinational drug pushers. It has been said, rightly, that if the tobacco drug had been developed in our own time it would never have been authorised for sale and would have been banned outright, a point made already in the Chamber. That is not an argument for a ban on smoking, as prohibition would be unworkable and would merely drive it underground, thus benefiting organised crime. However, the point underlines the lethal nature of this drug.

In terms of legislation the ban on smoking in enclosed work-places has been a considerable success. As well as improving the health of workers and those visiting premises, the knock-on effect of making smoking less socially acceptable has been profound. It is now common for people who smoke, especially those with children, to do so only outside their homes.

The Bill has two main purposes. First, it provides the Minister with additional powers to combat the promotion of tobacco products. Second, it amends existing legislation to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling that the setting of minimum prices for tobacco in this State is in breach of EU law. Sinn Féin fully supports the first element of the Bill and welcomes further measures to ensure the sale and advertising of cigarettes and other tobacco products are restricted. The second element of the Bill is highly problematic for us. It is an example of how democracy has been eroded by the European Union. An EU directive which provides that manufacturers and importers must be free to set their own prices for their products takes precedence over Irish law.

The European Court, in a judgment against the State and other jurisdictions - I think France and Austria, but I am not certain - ruled that the directive covered the minimum pricing of tobacco products and, therefore, struck down the relevant provisions of the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) Act 1978 and the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002. There are two major objections. First, the Dáil's right and ability to set minimum prices is nullified by a EU directive. Second, the application of the directive in this case is nonsensical. The directive is supposed to relate to facilitating competition, but in this case it is clearly being used to actually restrict measures to protect public health. One cannot get away from the fact that this is the real position. I accept that the directive does not restrict our ability to set rates of tax on tobacco products, but there are many in the Dáil who would happily see us go down the road of tax harmonisation. I refer to those who, time after time, have demonstrated their support for a federal European Union.

With the other main element of the Bill, we have no difficulty. It is a logical extension of existing legislation and allows the Minister to control and regulate the promotion of tobacco products through "special offers", whereby they are offered free or at reduced prices, together with other products. This follows on from the legislation put in place in July 2009 to prohibit all point-of-sale advertising in retail outlets and require the storage of tobacco products out of sight of the customer. Both measures are welcome and, in general, being adhered to.

As a result of the fact that the Bill provides for further restriction in tobacco promotion, we will not oppose it. However, recognising the situation in which the Minister finds himself as a result of the decision of the European Court of Justice, we must, at least at this point, record our strong objection to what I view as an unacceptable application of a EU directive which runs absolutely contrary to the public interest, in this instance, the health of the population. That must be said loudly and clearly.

I call Deputy Mattie McGrath who, I understand, is sharing time with Deputy Finian McGrath.

I wish the Acting Chairman, Members and an tAire a happy new year.

This is an historic occasion.

I may meet the Minister during his next visit to Tipperary.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the Bill which will amend the legislation on tobacco in order that we might comply with the judgment handed down by the European Court of Justice in respect of minimum and maximum pricing. I compliment the Minister on his contribution and stated intention to use our Presidency of the European Union to try to deal with this most serious and grave matter.

Tobacco is a scourge. I do not intend to criticise those who smoke, particularly those such as my colleague, Deputy Finian McGrath, who have done so for decades, because it is an extremely difficult habit to give up.

Give us a break.

We must change the culture which obtains, particularly among young people. It is completely distasteful that, as various investigations have indicated, in developing countries children as young as seven and eight years of age are being targeted by tobacco companies. Tobacco is a drug on which people can become hooked. Targeting those aged seven or eight years flies in the face of all standards which obtain in the developed world in trying to raise children to be healthy, fit and athletic and encouraging them to avoid harmful substances.

Strong action must be taken to tackle the tobacco industry. Those involved in it have been at what they do for a long time, have a great deal of experience and are good lobbyists. In addition, the industry is very powerful and has paid for massive advertising campaigns during the years. We all understand organisations, clubs, societies, big companies, television and radio stations, etc., require advertising revenue in order to finance their activities and ensure they can remain in operation. However, it is important that a balance be struck. The Minister is a doctor and has taken the hippocratic oath. In the light of his experience, he has more knowledge than most of the damage tobacco products can do to people's bodies.

I compliment the Irish Cancer Society, ASH and the hospice movement on the dedicated and passionate work they have done for many years. These organisations made extra special efforts to combat smoking on days such as Ash Wednesday, during Lent and on other occasions. One death annually from smoking is one too many. However, some 5,000 deaths each year are medically classified as having been caused by lung cancer. I have happy memories of a man who worked with my family for 55 years and smoked Woodbine cigarettes all his life. That was the culture. I often engaged in debates about smoking with the man in question who was a very good friend of mine and like a second father to me, but the cigarettes got him in the end. There is no doubt that they lead to people developing awful health problems.

I wish to call into question the standards and ethics which apply in the area of broadcasting. As is the case with alcohol, cigarette smoking can be portrayed, particularly in the case of young women and young men, as being positive and good in the context of their bodies, health and looks, the fashions and styles that they follow, etc. That myth must be exploded and completely dispensed with.

One of our colleagues in the Upper House, Senator John Crown, is lobbying hard to have action taken against smoking in cars. The Minister and his Department are examining the position in this regard. It is extremely uncomfortable to be in a car in which someone is smoking. I would go so far as to say it is an extremely distasteful activity, particularly if a baby or young person is in the vehicle. While I support what is being done in this matter, I do not support many of the Big Brother-style traceability measures introduced - the fact that people must have cards for everything - the intrusions into people's homes and so forth. Despite the fact that many cars now have air conditioning systems, it must be recognised that they remain confined spaces and that smoking within them can have extremely adverse effects on all occupants. I will support whatever measures are taken in respect of the issue to which I have just referred. I also support the Bill before the House. In the past we proceeded on the basis of agreement. Now, however, we must take cognisance of and enact the ruling handed down by the European Court of Justice. I ask the Minister to deal with this most serious issue.

While I accept the needs of my colleague, Deputy Finian McGrath, I support the idea of making the Leinster House complex a smoke-free zone. While I lobbied against the prohibition of smoking in licensed premises and hotels, the decision to introduce such a prohibition was one of the best ever made. The tobacco industry did not collapse as a result of it. Even though I was not then a Member of the House, when the prohibition was being introduced, I was lobbied strongly by small businesses in my constituency which were concerned that their trade would be diminished.

Trade was diminished somewhat but they are still in business. Trade is not flourishing but they are doing well. Freedom of choice must be acknowledged, but it comes at a cost. I refer in particular to the costs for the Exchequer and the Department of Health. The Minister for Health could do with any savings that could be made, but there is a cost to treating the ailments caused by smoking. Information to discourage smoking should be made available in schools at all levels, including preschools.

We are debating the smoking of tobacco, but I completely abhor the smoking of other substances which are even more harmful and dangerous.

The Commission for Tobacco Control is anxious that the legislation be amended as soon as possible. In the interim, the draft regulations were signed by the Minister in December 2012. This is a worthy subject to be discussed as one of the first items of business to be dealt with in 2013. It will be argued that the regulation of smoking will mean job losses in the advertising sector as well as losses to the Revenue Commissioners.

I refer to Deputy Kelleher's contribution in which he stated that the tobacco companies have increased their profits in recent years. The tobacco lobby is very powerful and it is all about profit. I refer to good investigative television programmes about the importation of tobacco products by way of Northern Ireland. These products are very noxious and are dressed up in cigarette packets. This activity must be tackled in the strongest possible fashion. The ingredients alleged to be in these cigarettes are a cause for great concern and are shocking. There is a need for urgent action to counteract these activities, as is the case with laundered fuel. The imports are depriving the State of valuable revenue. These products are freely available, if not openly. The programme makers had no difficulty in buying these cigarettes, which cost less than legal products. The public should be warned that these are deadly products. I note that cigarette packets contain a warning about possible damage to health through smoking.

I meet constituents who lobby me about issues such as poor housing conditions, for example. I have noted that in many such houses, the two people are smokers. I have often said to them that the cost of smoking, at €10 a packet, adds up when they smoke 20 cigarettes a day. There are competing demands for money and services in any family. I sympathise with and encourage anyone who is trying to stop smoking. The best part of a family budget is often spent on cigarettes, which is detrimental to the overall well-being of the family. The budget for food may often suffer. Thankfully I have never smoked, except when I experimented with it as a schoolboy, just as everyone else did. It is said that smoking affects the appetite and a person who smokes may not have a good diet. Many of the old cigarette brands such as Woodbine and Sweet Afton have been banished from the shelves because cigarettes are all tipped now.

Smoking is a serious issue and we must do all we can, as legislators, to encourage people to cut down on smoking. We must ensure our young people are educated about smoking and the damage it does. Smoking is often to blame for house fires and car fires. It can often be a combination of cigarette smoking and alcohol. A person may nod off to sleep leaving a cigarette which has not been extinguished sufficiently. I wish the Minister well in his endeavours.

I will be taking a strong and differing view from that of the Minister and the rest of my colleagues. It is important that dissenting views-----

I was hoping Deputy McGrath would give them up.

-----are heard. I am not giving them up. I will also be challenging some of the statistics presented by the Department of Health, the HSE, ASH, and most of my colleagues in the Oireachtas. I am asking for a reasonable, balanced and fair hearing.

It is important that this is a debate that is balanced and based on reliable facts and information. Attacking or marginalising smokers is not acceptable. Treating people like lepers should never be an option in any democratic or inclusive society. The reality is that 30% of the population smokes and hounding them is not working. All Government Deputies should accept this reality. All we ask for is a little bit of respect and understanding. Of course we all respect the rights of non-smokers and we all respect the views of people who have genuine concerns about health, which must be protected at all times. However, that does not mean we cannot facilitate smokers. Knee-jerk reactions will never be a solution.

I am a smoker and I am addicted to cigarettes. I know it is not good for my health. However, trying to drive me and others out of the Dáil precincts, as Senator Crown and others have suggested - pushing us out onto Kildare Street - smacks of gross intolerance. It is unacceptable for a Member of the Seanad to do that. It is also unacceptable for the 30% of Oireachtas staff who are smokers to push us outside the gates of Leinster House into the rain. This proposal by Senator Crown should never be an option. Let us use the designated smoking areas here. Senator Crown should stop whingeing.

The Bill provides for the repeal of certain provisions contained in section 2 of the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) Act 1978 and the amendment of section 38 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 in respect of activities which are intended or are likely to promote the sale of tobacco products. Section 1 amends section 38 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 and provides for the Minister to make regulations in respect of activities which are intended or are likely to promote the sale of tobacco products. Section 2 repeals provisions contained in section 2 of the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) Act 1978 and revokes Regulation 17 of the Tobacco Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Sales Promotion) Regulations 1991. Section 3 provides for short title, collective citation, construction and commencement.

We all accept that smoking damages health, but so do excessive eating, drinking and lots of other things. We need to bring balance to the argument. We should not forget the significant tax contribution made by smokers to the Irish economy, which amounts to between €300 million and €400 million and could be as high as €500 million. This revenue from our taxes is available to the health service and the mainstream Exchequer.

I am opposed to an overreaction by the State. I know it is no longer trendy to be a civil libertarian but that is where I stand. I am very concerned about the strong emphasis on a nanny state from the new and younger Deputies. They want to investigate our private lives and practically look in our bedroom windows every night of the week. I am an old-fashioned civil libertarian.

This kind of cosy consensus should be challenged. I reject the Government's view, which is obviously the majority view in the House. This is a democratic society and I make no apology for having a pint and cigarette with my friends and neighbours. That is part of my life.

During the previous debate on smoking, I advocated having designated areas in every pub as a way of resolving the problem. This debate is part of distraction politics on the part of many on the politically correct wing of society. There are many other issues that need to be dealt with. There are patients on trolleys, including cystic fibrosis patients. There are all sorts of other problems in the health service to be addressed.

During the last debate, I argued that one third of a pub should be designated as a smoking area, with the other two thirds designated as a non-smoking area. The two areas would be separate, thereby causing no problem. This could easily have been achieved while respecting people's rights.

Many among the anti-smoking brigade have failed to mention the proper, modern ventilation equipment that can result in 12 air changes per hour. It is on the market but nobody mentions it at all. It is being used by sensible publicans and others who care about the 30% of the market comprising smokers. The latter are human beings also.

Let me deal with the economic arguments. The example of New York is regularly used in this House. United Restaurant and Tavern Owners of New York, which represents state restaurants and taverns, said that since the new smoking ban was introduced, turnover is down by 30%. Small family businesses in Ireland have been under severe pressure since the introduction of the smoking ban. They have lost from 25% to 30% of their regular customers. Having spoken to people in the trade, I note that in the region of 3,000 jobs have been lost. We have not considered the impact. The statistics I am presenting were researched by number of organisations, including universities. The needs of both smokers and non-smokers could be addressed in a sensible way.

Let me refer to the health impact and the number of deaths. It is important that we ask fundamental questions. Environmental tobacco smoke or smoke from passive smoking is classified as a human carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Almost everything we touch, eat or wash with can be described as carcinogenic to some degree. I am sure the Minister is aware that a number of carcinogens are present in a cup of coffee, for instance. Does he want to ban the drinking of a cup of coffee?

Let me refer to the figures mentioned by the Minister and other colleagues this morning. The 5,000 cancer deaths in Ireland each year are widely attributed to tobacco-related illnesses. There is no scientific foundation for such a statement. We have been fed this line for the past few years. The figure relates to the total number of deaths from cancers in Ireland. The National Cancer Registry lists the number of deaths occurring every year. The commonest cancers were those of skin, large bowel, lung and of the breast in women and the prostate in men. The registry does not indicate in any way that these cancers are due to smoking. This is something that the Irish have not been told. The statistic was simply a lie. However, if one throws out a figure such as 5,000, it lodges in people's minds.

I must interrupt the Deputy.

The Minister may not.

The Deputy should withdraw his remark. He has accused people of lying to the House.

I will not withdraw it. The Minister may revert to me when he is replying.

The Minister may not be aware that the US Environmental Protection Agency study that gave rise to this type of figure was found by the federal court in the United States to have "knowingly, wilfully, and aggressively disseminated false information with far reaching regulatory implications in the US and worldwide". On account of this, the court ordered a summary judgment against the agency and nullified the its environmental tobacco smoke risk assessment. I will quote examples from other countries before the Minister gets up on his high horse again.

It is Deputy McGrath who is on his high horse.

I am making my point and have asked for a balanced debate.

He is making nonsensical and erroneous statements and misleading the House.

I am putting forward another point of view, I am not misleading House. I am asking questions about the Minister's figures and am entitled to do so. He may answer them later if he wants to do so.

The expert report issued before the ban instigated by former Minister, Deputy Martin was couched in numerous caveats, such as "may be", "could be" and "might be". One matter is clear however - the conclusion recommends further research to assess the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke, particularly in the hospitality industry. To suggest that such a report is unequivocal in demanding a ban on smoking in the workplace is bending the truth to an outrageous degree. I am only asking the questions. I am asking the experts to consider their own reports, in which I am picking out flaws, as is my democratic right. The nanny state brigade in this House will not bully me or get me off the pitch in regard to that issue.

"Bully" is not a word that should be used.

Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor should listen to some of the facts, for once. She is the one who was always talking about heckling people. Let us cool down and have a bit of respect for people.

There are many modern ventilation systems that allow for 12 air changes per 60 minutes. Previous Ministers shied away from this fact, claiming in a previous debate that outdated technology allowing for one air change per house was ineffective. We have moved beyond the old technology and have specified 12 air changes per house for many years. Pubs all over Ireland are certified by the HSE as a result of a six-year clean-air initiative in pubs. These are issues that have not been mentioned at all in the debate, and it is right that they be mentioned. They are mentioned in public houses and community facilities all over the country.

Studies point to the efficiency of ventilation equipment. Research by the University of Glamorgan shows that ventilation can be highly effective in protecting bar staff and customers from the adverse effects of environmental tobacco smoke. Consider a study from Tennessee in the United States, for example. The Oak Ridge National Library's study of restaurant and tavern workers in 16 cities, and over 1,500 subjects, concludes: "A well-known toxicological principle is that the poison is in the dose", and that "It's pretty clear that the environmental tobacco smoke dose is pretty low for most people". A study carried out on environmental tobacco smoke levels in the Black Dog Pub near Toronto in Canada indicated that "ETS component concentrations in the nonsmoking section of the facility in question were not statistically different [...] from those measured in similar facilities where smoking is prohibited". These quotations are from reports from the United States and Canada. These issues should be considered in an honest way. If the Minister proves me wrong tomorrow morning based on independent research, I will accept it. However, he should not make sweeping statements and outline statistics while expecting all the world to go happy-clappy and follow him down the road. We made that mistake in the past regarding other issues.

We should not be shying away from the issue of taxation. A packet of 26 cigarettes costs €9.30 at present. Of this, €7.31 is paid in excise duty and VAT. This amounts to a tax rate of 79%. One should consider the important contribution smokers are making to the Exchequer. These matters should be examined in a balanced way.

The Minister is very concerned about crime. Since the Government got into power, activity in the illegal cigarette trade is increasing. Owing to the high cost of cigarettes, people are getting involved in smuggling. We hear that some criminal drug-trading gangs believe there is a better market for illegal cigarettes than heroin and cocaine.

They would not be selling them unless there was a demand.

There is a demand for cheap cigarettes. The Deputy is missing the point. The Government's policy is resulting in the loss of more jobs in the retail sector. If the Deputy goes to Waterford and questions the proprietors of small shops there, he will learn the facts. Displacing smokers to the black market is part of the policy of this Bill. The argument is that the more cigarettes are taxed, the more consumers will buy non-Irish duty paid products, on which no duty is due in the State. We are losing out on duty and not realising our potential.

I met people engaged in small businesses throughout the north side of Dublin prior to the announcement of the budget and they said that if we did not do anything about the illegal cigarette trade, thousands of jobs would be lost in the sector because their takings in the retail market were down by 20% to 30%. They are the ones who pay taxes and rates every week and nobody seems to give a toss about them. That is the point I am making. I am not saying and never have said smoking is good for one's health, but in the debate the Minister is closing off consideration of the views of all the people concerned who would challenge him on the basis of economic, health or civil liberty arguments. He wants to marginalise us and throw us out in the cold, but that carry-on is not acceptable in a modern, inclusive, democratic society. He should go to Cuba, sit in a bar and have a pint-----

He should have a cigar and also take note of the great health service it has bearing in mind that it is a very poor country.

To return to the legislation, it is amending the existing legislation to comply with the judgment of the European Court of Justice that having minimum retail prices for cigarettes infringes European Union law. The ruling does not interfere with the State's ability to levy taxes and duties on cigarettes to maintain higher consumer prices. The Bill also sets out the ministerial powers on the sale and promotion of tobacco products.

I have given a different view and accept it is not popular and part of the cosy consensus here, but I say to the Minister and all of my colleagues that 30% of the people deserve to be shown a little respect on this issue. Let us stop the moralising and lectures and listen to people. If they have valid arguments, be they economic, health, social or political, the Minister should listen to them.

The next speaker is Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor who I understand is sharing time with Deputies Coffey and Walsh.

I listened carefully to what Deputy Finian McGrath had to say and while his arguments are highly amusing, they are false. He has dismissed World Health Organization reports and everything else. He has run out through the door of the Chamber and did not listen my criticism. I fundamentally disagree with what he said and it would wrong of us to let that erroneous message be sent. He stated the Bill was an attack on smokers; it is not, rather it is an attack on the cigarette and tobacco industry. I understand it is difficult to give up smoking and ask the Deputy to try hard to do so because it can be done. I smoked cigarettes for 20 years and was successful in stopping. It is as if the Deputy is involved in fantasy politics. He dismissed the arguments made by the Minister for Health who is a qualified medical doctor and also those brought forward by Senator John Crown, a renowned oncologist, as if this was some kind of game. I thought it was April Fool's Day and that he was pulling all of our legs. The argument made by the Deputy is totally wrong. He may not realise it, but 5,200 people die every year as a result of smoking. This accounts for 19% of all deaths. The Deputy may be able to laugh it off, but there are people who will die in this country as a result of smoking cigarettes. In my former profession I was a school principal, something I share with the Deputy. It is very irresponsible that, as educationists, we put out the message to children that smoking is okay; it is not.

There are also costs associated with smoking. In 2008 it was claimed that smoking was responsible for 36,000 hospital admissions, at a staggering cost of €280 million. People have to take time off work; they suffer from lung disease, strokes and cancers, all of which impacts on the cost of smoking. Let us be clear about this: as taxpayers, we have to foot the bill and cough up €280 million required through extra taxes. Nothing annoys and upsets me more than seeing a child or a pregnant woman smoking.

The Irish Heart Foundation reports that 12% of school age children are smokers. It claims that children from lower socioeconomic classes are likely to smoke. It also points to research indicating that smoking is largely a childhood phenomenon, with 78% of smokers reporting that they started to smoke before the age of 18 years. More than half started before the age of 15 years. IHF research in 2011 indicated that 21% of women in Ireland had smoked during pregnancy and that it had a negative impact on the foetus. These statistics give cause for real concern and they are factual. I, therefore, ask Deputy Finian McGrath to check his statistics.

One method the Government has used to reduce the level of smoking is the setting of minimum retail prices for cigarettes. However, this approach has been deemed contrary to EU law. Minimum pricing will no longer be an option for the Government in controlling cigarette sales. However, it will still be capable of controlling the price of cigarettes through taxes and levies. As a preventive measure, price control is important. I will not dismiss what the World Bank and the World Health Organization argue, namely, that price is a key factor in reducing the number who smoke. Young people are particularly more sensitive to price rises. It is found that, on average, they will reduce their level of consumption three or four times more than adults.

In 2002 the New York city tobacco control programme put in place by Mayor Bloomberg included the raising of tobacco tax. In the ten years before the programme was implemented there was no decrease in smoking rates. After the control programme was introduced, the rate of smoking among teenagers decreased from 17.6% in 2007 to 8.5% in 2011. Irish figures also show that a price increase resulted in a decrease in the level of consumption. Figures further show that new smokers, especially children, become addicted when the price remains constant. These figures reinforce the argument in favour of the Government maintaining and raising the price of tobacco. The World Health Organization states, "Increasing the price of tobacco through higher taxes is the single most effective way to encourage tobacco users to quit and to prevent children from starting to smoke".

The Irish Heart Foundation also suggests the implementation of a price cap regulation which would set a minimum price tobacco companies could charge for their product based on an assessment of the genuine costs each firm faced. A price cap could have a number of benefits: it could address the excessive profits of tobacco companies, increase Government revenue by transferring excess industry profits to the Government and deliver many public health benefits. However, it is likely that such a move would also be struck down by the European Union for infringing EU law. The Irish Heart Foundation also recommends extending smoke-free zones to protect children. The Minister for Health is making great strides to achieve this and I congratulate him on that promotion.

I am also delighted many county councils have banned smoking in playgrounds. Smoking must be denormalised for children who should not associate smoking with something Mammy does in the car on the way home from school, with something Daddy does in the playground or with something Granny does while waiting outside the school grounds. Second-hand smoke is a significant cause of death and disease. For the benefit of Deputy Finian McGrath, I repeat that it is a significant cause of death and disease. Children, pregnant women and unborn babies are particularly susceptible in this regard.

When tobacco price increases are mentioned, an argument usually is made about tobacco smuggling. We heard it made here earlier.

A recent Revenue analysis stated that increasing tobacco taxation will increase consumption of untaxed tobacco products. The Irish Heart Foundation disagrees while the World Bank and the World Health Organization, WHO, also concludes that tax is not a major driver in smuggling. WHO points to other factors such as weak customs controls.

Announcements of tobacco seizures are not always well advertised but it is determined on how effective our controls are. As of September 2012, almost 81 million contraband cigarettes had been seized in 2012. There is no doubt that cigarette smuggling is big business. The measurement of the scale of illicit trade is difficult in any country. Revenue has estimated that illicit cigarettes accounted for 14% of all cigarettes consumed in the State in 2009. This represents a potential loss of €200 million in excise duty for the Exchequer.

I too welcome the opportunity to contribute to the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill which makes provision for the Minister to regulate in respect of activities that may promote the sale of tobacco products. In a cross-parliamentary way, I commend the previous Fianna Fáil Administration that introduced the smoking ban in 2004. It was a good day's work when people could not smoke in public places. Many of those who opposed it at the time now see the benefits in it.

Anything we can do to lessen the serious and lasting negative health impacts of smoking is important and must be welcomed. I am also conscious that at this time of the year, many people make new year resolutions to try to give up smoking. They must be encouraged and supported in every way possible in doing so. We must also acknowledge the efforts of the staff in the Health Service Executive, HSE, and in organisations such as ASH Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation, for the work they do in raising awareness and assisting people who wish to give up smoking.

I come from a family that had heavy smokers. Both my parents smoked heavily but, thankfully, I do not. As I have seen the long-term damage to health done by smoking, I cannot understand how Deputy Finian McGrath, himself a teacher, could express some of those irresponsible views he expressed earlier. I am not attacking smokers personally as this is a much wider health issue. I always respect differences of opinion and respect what Deputy Finian McGrath has to say. I am surprised, however, that he has taken the steps contained in this Bill so personally. Why does he resent its provisions so much? Is he in denial of the facts about smoking?

Almost 6,000 people die from smoking-related diseases in Ireland every year. Up to 90% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. Up to 50% of all smokers will die from smoking-related diseases. Smokers have an increased risk of cancers, heart disease, strokes, low birth weight and many other diseases. It costs the State €1 billion a year to provide health services for smoking-related illnesses. I am not trying to force my opinion on any individual who smokes. I have family members who smoke heavily. I certainly do not want to be looking into Deputy Finian McGrath's windows. However, as legislators, we must ensure the non-contamination of people's air quality and encourage healthy and fit living practices. Many of those who opposed the original smoking ban in 2004 now see its benefits.

I am concerned by the number of young people who smoke. I am not sure whether it is due to image, peer pressure or easy access to cigarettes. The best way to address this is through education and health initiatives in schools, youth clubs and the home. Parents must take responsibility in this regard and lead by example by not passing on habits that will lessen the long-term health and life prospects of their children. I recognise it is an addiction and not easy to give up cigarettes. However, smoking is a significant cost to health and to the State in providing health services.

I welcome this Bill and welcome any action in lessening the damage caused by smoking in society.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this important legislation. Listening to Deputy Finian McGrath's contribution, I was reminded of a "Yes, Minister" episode in which Sir Humphrey Appleby was trying to impress upon the Minister that the effect of smoking on people's health was greatly outweighed by the benefits that accrued to the Exchequer from duty and VAT receipts. Deputy Finian McGrath's contribution would be more appropriate to a sitcom of that nature. It is clear his motivation was to give a soundbite that would allow him occupy some column inches in the newspapers. In his tirade of misinformation, he attempted to set this debate back 40 years. He added weight to his claims by arguing that this is what is being said in the public houses around the country. What next can we expect from Deputy Finian McGrath? Will he start quoting some of the graffiti from the cubicles in these public houses?

At a time when our overarching economic challenges dominate the public agenda, predominantly technical legislation such as the Public Health (Tobacco)(Amendment) Bill tends not to come into sharp focus. However, the importance of the underlying issues and any changes to the law in this area should not be diminished or underestimated. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths and is responsible for over 5,000 deaths per annum. In addition, 35,000 people are admitted to hospital each year with smoking-related illnesses at a cost of €280 million to the Exchequer. Such statistics make for stark reading. These are fatalities which one would associate with conflict, epidemic or natural disaster but they are entirely avoidable. I believe the continuing effort to reduce tobacco use will be seen in the fullness of time as one of the most important social issues of our generation. Already we have come a long way in this regard. We have seen cultural and legislative changes that have succeeded in encouraging people to kick a most destructive habit.

Praise rarely traverses the floor of the House. However, as Deputy Coffey said, the ban on smoking in the workplace introduced in 2004 was a significant milestone in the campaign to protect our people from the harmful effects of tobacco. Regulating in this regard for restaurants and bars proved to be a difficult area in the European experience. The ease with which the Irish hospitality industry adapted to the challenges of the ban is to its enduring credit.

Maintaining high tobacco prices has long been a central tenet of our health policy towards tobacco. The necessity of this legislation arises from a ruling of the European Court of Justice in which it held that minimum retail pricing for cigarettes infringes on European competition law. There was some concern that the ruling would lead to a reduction in the price of tobacco and its availability at lower prices would encourage more people to smoke. Such fears should be allayed for two reasons, however. First, retailers have not reduced the cost of cigarettes since his ruling was made in 2010.

Second, while minimum pricing may be disallowed, the same result can still be achieved through taxation measures. Maintaining high prices should remain a central part of our efforts to reduce smoking. There is considerable evidence that this the single most effective way of doing so. There is some debate over whether there is a correlation between high prices and the proliferation of cigarette smuggling. I am disinclined to accept this argument for lowering the price of tobacco. Instead, we should propose that a strategy of maintaining high prices be pursued in tandem with vigilant policing of the black market. In recent years the Revenue Commissioners have continued to have considerable success in this regard. We have come a long way in reducing the prevalence of tobacco use and in protecting our people against its associated health risks, but it is an enduring challenge and it is incumbent on all Members to continue to augment their efforts in order that more people can enjoy longer, healthier lives.

I wish to share time with Deputy Catherine Murphy.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2013. This is an important issue, bigger than the views of any individual Deputy. Smoking is remarkably harmful to the individual and society. We must ensure we establish a culture that reduces the number of people who smoke, especially younger people. These people create considerable health difficulties for themselves and others.

The necessity for the Bill arises from the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union on minimum retail pricing of cigarettes. The court maintained that European law had been infringed. That may well be the case and the legislation before us arises from that, but we must ensure that we continue and extend campaigns to stop smoking in the country. We must ensure that the price of tobacco products, including cigarettes, remains high, because price is a key factor in discouraging smoking. We must ensure there is no below-cost selling of tobacco or tobacco products and that there are no so-called special offers. We must ensure that we maintain the prohibition on advertising and on displays in retail premises.

All of the organisations involved in this area agree that there should be a three-pronged approach. There should be price increases for tobacco products, there should be a comprehensive smoking cessation programme, and there should be stronger smuggling controls.

Earlier, I noted that smoking is remarkably harmful for the individual and society. The facts are there for everyone to see. There might be a question about whether there are 5,000, 6,000 or 7,000 deaths, but there are a significant number of deaths, at least 5,000, each year. Some agencies put the figure as high as 7,000 deaths annually arising from smoking. The HSE has said that there are 360,000 admissions to Irish hospitals every year as a result of smoking and has reported a cost of approximately €280 million to the Exchequer as a result. The figures of ASH Ireland are significantly higher: it referred to 7,000 deaths per year and a cost of €1 billion.

Irish cigarettes prices are currently the most expensive in Europe and they should stay as such. Price has a significant effect on consumption and it definitely reduces smoking. Some surveys show that a 10% increase in price will decrease smoking by between 5% and 7% on average. The World Health Organization has already been referred to. It has concluded 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." Prices are a significant factor in ensuring a reduction in smoking and they should be kept high. We should ensure there is no below-cost selling and no way in which tobacco companies and the industry can get around very high tobacco and cigarette prices. I support the call from ASH Ireland for a 50 cent environmental levy on the tobacco industry for each packet of 20 cigarettes sold.

The facts relating to smoking are horrendous. Significant initial headway was made with the ban on smoking in public places in 2004 but, unfortunately, it appears that despite this initial headway the rate of smoking is now at pre-2004 levels. There is a particular concern about the percentage of young women and less well-off people who are smoking.

Tobacco is the single largest cause of preventable death and disease in Ireland, killing half of all lifetime users. Approximately 30% of people in Ireland smoke and 16 people per day die as a result. Up to 79% of smokers wish to quit, but it is difficult to do so. Smoking causes one third of all cancers and nine out of ten lung cancers. Clearly, this is remarkably harmful to the individual and to society in general as well.

It has been stated that the cost to the State of smoking is approximately €1 billion. There would be a great cost advantage to the State in ensuring that there is a proper comprehensive campaign to turn this around. This has been done to a large extent in the area of road traffic accidents by the Road Safety Authority and there is no reason it should not be possible in this area as well. I welcome the provision whereby graphic images will be on cigarette packets in future.

I believe that certain actions are necessary, as do organisations such as ASH Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation. I support the ban on smoking in cars transporting children and a complete ban on smoking in playgrounds and recreation areas used by children.

We must ensure a comprehensive programme is put in place and operated to tackle this issue. It has been done in other areas, which shows that it is possible to do it.

Smuggling and the black market have also been mentioned. Cross-Border traffic and illegal importation account for in the region of 20% of the overall market. It is an issue which must be tackled by way of addressing weak customs controls, slow judicial processes, low penalties and lack of communication with neighbouring jurisdictions. It is an urgent matter and I hope that as a result of the debate on the Bill, the issues of increased prices, a comprehensive campaign and smuggling and the black market will all be addressed.

I regret that legislation is necessary owing to the judgment of the European Court of Justice in a case which was strongly defended by Ireland, Austria and France and in which it appears the European Union's fair market principles overrode public health concerns and interests. I question the morality of that approach and as a result, cannot support the legislation, notwithstanding that it is required of us to implement the court's judgment. One must ask what values the court is working to when an important vehicle to assist member states to inform and decide behaviour in public health matters is not permitted to be used. It is strange and must be galling for the Minister for Health who is a medical doctor to have to sponsor the Bill.

We have used minimum pricing since 1978 as a vehicle to reduce the incidence of smoking, which approach has had considerable success over the decades. I am sure smokers themselves wish to discourage others from smoking because of how addictive it is and the difficulties they experience in trying to kick the habit. This vehicle was being used to prevent people from becoming addicted in the first instance. The cost of smoking to the health service is greater than the revenue yielded from taxes on cigarettes. There is ample evidence of the damage cigarettes cause and it has been articulated by many. While one can talk about the evidence in an academic sense, people also talk about family members who smoke. My father died of lung cancer. When it is close up and personal and one has to watch for 12 months someone with less than an egg cup of capacity in his lungs gasp for breath, panic and experience pain, one is assured of the appropriateness of a health policy which discourages people from putting themselves in that position. No one would want his or her children to put themselves at that risk, which is what the health policy was intended to achieve. It was designed to stop young people, in particular, from starting to smoke in the first place.

One in every two people who is a life-long smoker will die from a smoking related illness. There are other significant effects of smoking, with 25% of all strokes being caused by cancer, for example. The incidence increases among young people, whereby more than half of young adults who experience a stroke are smokers. It is not merely about failing to survive a stroke, it is also about living with the damage the stroke will have caused to ruin a young person's life and limit his or her potential. We tend to think of older people when we think of strokes, but they can happen at any age.

The statistics are alarming. Aviva Health carried out research recently which showed that 24% of Irish females and 22% of Irish males smoked. The amount of money spent on cigarettes is astonishing. Smokers spend €293 a month, or €3,500 per annum from taxed income. It is astonishing to consider the sum which has to be earned in gross wages by a person in the 41% tax band in order to pay for cigarettes. Research shows that smoking rates have actually increased recently and that women smoke twice as many cigarettes as men. We should seek every vehicle possible to discourage smoking. I smoked for a few years but gave them up a long time ago, before I became pregnant with my eldest child, and know how difficult it is to stop. I sympathise with those addicted to cigarettes, of whom very few would not give them up if they had a choice. Smoking is hugely addictive, expensive and damaging to health.

The cornerstone of Irish health policy to discourage the use of tobacco was price control, which is widely seen as the most successful tool to reduce the incidence of smoking. The policy has been successful in a number of countries. This is an almost textbook case of the ideals of free trade and open competition taking precedence over public health concerns to our detriment. A certain amount of industry lobbying will have been involved. We must engage at European level to change the values and attitudes which informed the decision. We should ensure the precedence of the European philosophy on free markets over public health and the social good is as temporary as possible.

Instances of lung cancer are increasing according to the Irish National Cancer Registry and estimates based on recent figures are for increases of 59% for men and 136% for women by 2020. There is no point in looking back and saying we could have done something to prevent this. We must do everything we can to reduce the figures. We need clear assurances from the Minister that the regime for the pricing of cigarettes will not change at the consumer end. We can implement the same restrictive pricing levels through taxation. While I cannot support the Bill, I would support legislation to ensure prices do not change at the consumer end. Ultimately, we will need to engage with the European Union on the issue. I want the Minister to assure the House that this will happen.

This is not simply about lung cancer. There are a range of cancers at issue. While the treatment of persons who have suffered a stroke is estimated to cost the health service €1 billion a year, the Irish Heart Foundation indicates that, unfortunately, less than €7 million is spent on community rehabilitation measures. A great deal of rehabilitation is required by the victim of a stroke who does not get to a stroke unit early, which is the ideal. What is even more ideal is ensuring someone will not have a stroke in the first place. Some 25% of all strokes are caused by smoking, which statistic rises to 50% among young adults as a result of a stroke caused by a blood clot.

Smoking is responsible for up to 2,500 strokes and 500 deaths from the disease every year according to the Irish Heart Foundation. We relate things to the death rate on our roads and this equates to road deaths. I know that not every stroke is preventable and that some strokes happen in old age but they happen across the age range. Young adults who smoke substantially raise their risk of stroke.

I will finish up. The ban on smoking in the workplace was not about punishing smokers. I will return to what Deputy Finian McGrath said about this. It was about protecting workers from secondary smoke, which has been demonstrated to be significantly damaging. We all remember the fog in restaurants and pubs when one was in a horrible environment. This was obvious from the outward effects of it and one can clearly imagine the internal effects.

Ireland is a target because we are the most expensive country in terms of the way we implement price controls. We should continue to be an example in respect of that. I want to hear assurances from the Minister about a corresponding tax initiative to override this piece of legislation.

The next slot is a Government one and the first speaker is Deputy Joe O'Reilly. I understand he is sharing time with Deputy O'Donovan.

The Deputies have ten minutes each.

The legislation before us today is necessitated by the European Court of Justice ruling on minimum pricing. I am impressed by the response to the court ruling in that while the legislation accepts the court ruling, it deals very well with it in that the Bill prevents cigarettes being distributed free as an incentive with another product, tobacco product or service. It prevents that type of sinister marketing that would be dangerous and prevents making cigarettes available at a reduced price in that scenario. The Bill is a good response to the court ruling in that respect.

The court ruling does not prevent the imposition of excise duties with the health policy objective. I presume and would be strongly of the view that we should continue that policy and one assumes that has been the case in recent budgets and will continue to be the case. To that extent, the Bill is an intelligent, proactive response to a court ruling based on a very fine and defined principle relating to competition.

I also accept the point that was made very well by Deputy Catherine Murphy that public health issues like alcohol and cigarette consumption need to be looked at in the context that where there is absolute evidence of a health scare or a threat to people's health, one would assume that would impinge on court rulings. The Bill gets over the issue very well.

The statistics relating to cigarette smoking in Ireland are frightening. The Bill responds to those statistics and we must continue to respond to them. One in four Irish people smokes, which is a frighteningly high figure. A total of 5,000 deaths arise from cigarette smoking annually and one half of all long-term smokers will die prematurely due to a smoking-related illness. In 2008, smoking was responsible for 36,000 hospital admissions costing €280 million. These are frightening statistics that merit repeating and putting on the record of the House and into the public arena any time we get the opportunity. They also deserve a very strong emergency response from us as legislators and the Government. It would be churlish and remiss of me if I did not acknowledge that the initiative by the past Government in respect of the smoking ban has been an unqualified success and is to be welcomed. Not only has it acted as a preventative measure, it has acted as a significant support to those who are trying to give up cigarettes. One of the difficulties people trying to recover from the addiction faced in the past was that when they went into public places where everyone around them was smoking, refraining from smoking cigarettes put an extraordinary strain on them. That challenge has at least been removed which is to be welcomed, apart from the other objective merits of the measure.

There is no doubt that in addition to the ban, all empirical data from the World Bank and the World Health Organization, WHO, would suggest that there is an absolute relationship or correlation between the price of cigarettes and the numbers of people who smoke and, very important, the numbers of young people who will start smoking. It is to the credit of Government that we are continuing a policy of a high level of excise duty on cigarettes and this has been included in the current budget. Studies confirm that consumption decreases by between 5% and 7% for a 10% real increase. The WHO states that increasing the price of cigarettes is the single most effective way to encourage quitting and prevent children from starting smoking. I also welcome the fact that graphic images will soon appear on cigarette packets. The Minister referred to it earlier in his opening Second Stage speech. This will have an impact to some degree as have the images of car accidents.

The smuggling of cheap cigarettes into the country is a significant issue. Coming from a Border constituency, I suspect that it would happen irrespective of price. Even if we had not pursued a policy of increasing cigarette prices as a preventative exercise and were cigarettes to be at a lower price, contraband or smuggled cigarettes would still come into the country at a lower price. The response to smuggling is not to decrease the price to compete with the smugglers but rather to stop smuggling. I urge the Government to continue putting all the machinery in place, remove the bureaucratic impediments to dealing with smuggling that seem to exist and work at European level to achieve this.

I welcome the fact that the legislation deals with efforts to give out free cigarettes or have prices below the minimum price as an incentive with other products to get people hooked. In the very fine research carried out by the Oireachtas Library & Research Service, I see that P. J. Carroll & Company states that 25% of cigarettes smoked are bought on the black market, which is a frightening figure because there is also evidence to suggest there might be extra additives and dangerous chemicals in those cigarettes which is of concern.

The health problems caused by smoking cost the Exchequer more than €500 million and kill 7,000 people per year. All of the figures are frightening and unacceptable. Deputy Catherine Murphy related them back to the death of her father. Although, thankfully, I did not have that immediate experience, it was the case in the extended family and we all know where this is the case among neighbours or friends. It is horrific to watch. While pricing and graphic images on cigarette packets are crucial, as a reformed smoker, I think the thrust of our anti-smoking efforts should be a positive agenda. We should accentuate the degree to which not smoking improves one's life.

The Deputy has two minutes left but as it 1.30 p.m., I ask him to move the adjournment.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.