Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2003: Committee Stage.

Sections 1 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 7.
Question proposed: "That section 7 stand part of the Bill."

On the prohibition of sponsorship, I presume that the operation of this section will depend on regulations or guidelines being put in place by the Department. Is the Minister in a position to tell the House if and when he will be making such regulations? I would have thought it normal in respect of any prohibition of sponsorship, on which we all support the Minister's initiative, that guidelines would need to be put in place. Alternatively, will the Minister be making orders in relation to the section?

Are the Deputy's questions in reference to the section dealing with sponsorship?

We envisage a lead-in time for guidelines to issue. The Act is clear in terms of what a person can or cannot do. This is not an enabling measure, therefore, regulations will not be required. We will work with people in terms of compliance. Sponsorship is currently forbidden under existing Acts. The latest example related to a snooker tournament some years ago when sponsorship was banned under legislation. This measure will copperfasten existing practice and strengthen the law.

I understand the imposition of section 7 is to give legal effect to what the Minister is doing anyway.

The question of a lead-in period has been raised. The Minister referred to the snooker case, which involved such sponsorship. Is he aware of any other sporting organisations which would be affected by this? In the context of the lead-in time in respect of any additional guidelines he might make, has he any idea as to the timeframe in question?

I do not believe I will need any lead-in time. This will be law once it is passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 8.
Question proposed: "That section 8 stand part of the Bill."

It is proposed to introduce a register of tobacco retailers. Will the Minister consider giving guidelines to the health boards regarding the practice established by them over many years of using minors to attempt to purchase tobacco products in shops in order to find out how effective is the legislation? I spoke on this on Second Stage. As a member of a health board, I have objected strenuously over the years to this practice. We see headlines on local papers stating that a person was fined for selling tobacco products to minors. However, the method by which they were found out was through trapping them by sending a health board official accompanied by a young person into the shop to establish whether the young person could purchase particular products. It is time to operate the legislation in some way other than by using minors because it is an abuse. The Minister should indicate to the health boards, agencies and statutory bodies which have responsibility for implementing the legislation that they should desist from using minors in this way.

To be fair to all concerned, there may not be an easy alternative mode. There has been a major push in recent years since we increased the age limit to 18. We wanted to bring across a strong culture of compliance in order to try to stop minors from smoking or to reduce what are termed "initiation rates". The most recent national lifestyles survey shows that we had arrested the rate at which young people actually start smoking. That is the key battleground for the future. Many retailers are co-operating and are anxious to be seen to be doing so. The next issue that arises, therefore, is that of a level playing pitch. If some retailers are adhering to the law and they hear about a particular retailer who is not doing so, the whole system can be called into question and it means that some retailers will be disadvantaged on competition grounds, etc.

I will contact the health boards and discuss the modalities they employ in respect of enforcement in the area of under-age smoking. Surveys and research have been carried out with regard to how under-age smokers secure cigarettes, particularly in terms of different types of selling and retailing.

I understand from where the Senator is coming on this matter. On the other hand, the health boards that are using this modality are probably using a system that is foolproof. If a young person goes into a shop and is sold cigarettes without any checking being done, someone is clearly in breach of the law.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.