Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014: Second Stage

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

I thank the Senators for beginning this Bill in the Seanad. It is appropriate, given that we have just finished another public health Bill which will protect our citizens, particularly our children, from malignant melanoma, which, as Senator Crown said, is highly preventable. The Bill we are now discussing is another that will lead to a great reduction in the incidence of cancers in this country, particularly lung cancer, which in the vast bulk of cases is entirely preventable.

I will begin with a few quotes to give a sense of what we are dealing with here. "We don't believe it's ever been established that smoking is the cause of disease," "I'm unclear in my own mind whether anyone dies of cigarette smoking related diseases," and "I do not believe that nicotine is addictive." These statements were made, under oath, by the vice president of the Tobacco Institute, Murray Walker, the chairman of Philip Morris, Geoffrey Bible, and the chief executive of Brown and Williamson, Thomas Sandefur, as recently as 1994 and 1998.

The tobacco industry has a dark track record of hiding the truth to protect its profits. Do not expect it to change now. Its internal documents clearly show its own scientists were warning that smoking causes cancer since the early 1950s and that smoking is addictive since the early 1960s. For five decades, the industry deliberately concealed these facts in an attempt to deceive Governments and the public of the dangers of smoking. Now, it is using bogus arguments about illicit trade to terrify responsible retailers into opposing this legislation. I believe its arguments today remain as bogus and as dishonest as they have been for the past five decades.

The consequence of this legislation is clear. It will protect our children from marketing gimmicks that trap them into a killer addiction. If the tobacco industry did not get our children addicted, the industry would disappear within a generation. We all know that to be true and so does the industry. To replace the smokers who quit and, sadly, those who die, the tobacco industry needs to recruit 50 new smokers in Ireland every day just to maintain smoking rates at their current level. Given that 78% of smokers in a survey said they started smoking under the age of 18, it is clear that our children are targeted to replace those customers who die or quit.

Research has shown that, when consuming cigarettes from the standardised packs which we intend to introduce, smokers are 66% more likely to think their cigarettes are of poorer quality, are 70% more likely to say they found them less satisfying and are 81% more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day and rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives. This Bill will regulate the appearance of tobacco packaging and products. The aim is to make all tobacco packs look less attractive to consumers, to make health warnings more prominent and to prevent packaging from misleading consumers, particularly children, about the harmful effects of tobacco. The Bill will also implement some aspects of the newly adopted tobacco products directive of the European Union and it will give effect to Ireland's obligations under the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

What is standardised packaging? It means that all forms of branding - trademarks, logos, colours and graphics - would be removed from tobacco packs. The brand and variant names would be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands, and the packs would all be in one plain, neutral colour.

I will now take the House through the Bill section by section to clarify its provisions. The Bill is divided into four parts. The first part of the Bill deals with preliminary and general provisions and covers sections 1 to 6. Section 1 of the Bill makes standard provisions setting out the Short Title of the Bill, the collective citation for the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts and arrangements for its commencement.

Section 2 deals with the interpretation of the Bill and defines the meanings of some of the terms used for the purposes of the Bill. Section 3 deals with regulations, allowing the Minister for Health to make regulations to bring the legislation into operation. Section 4 is a standard provision dealing with expenses.

Section 5 clarifies that nothing in the Bill operates to prohibit the registration of a trademark, or will be grounds for the revocation of the registration of a trademark. It also makes clear that nothing in the Bill will affect the law in regard to tax stamps.

Section 6 makes transitional provisions which will allow retailers and manufacturers time to comply with the new measures. Current packets may be manufactured until May 2016, and there will then be a one-year period to sell outstanding stocks. Non-compliant retail packaging may not be manufactured from May 2016 and may not be sold after May 2017.

Part 2 of the Bill deals with the retail packaging and presentation of tobacco products and covers sections 7 to 14. Section 7 sets out the requirements for the retail packaging of cigarette packets. The Bill specifies that cigarette packets must be a prescribed matt colour on the outside and inside, not have any decorative features, such as ridges or embossing, or coloured adhesives, and may not have any marks or trademarks other than a barcode or similar identification mark. Packets may not have anything inserted or affixed to them, apart from items prescribed by law. The colour and decorative feature provisions will not apply to the health warnings that must be printed on packaging or to other items prescribed by law.

The Bill allows for the brand or company or business name and a variant name to be printed on the packet, but regulations will set the font type, size, colour and positioning of these. The wrapper must be transparent, not coloured, and must not have any decorative features, marks or trademarks, or affixed items apart from those provided for by law. It may have a tear-strip, which will be prescribed for in regulations. These provisions will apply to retail packaging of all cigarettes intended for retail sale in the State.

This section also transposes provisions of the 2014 EU tobacco products directive which must be applied to those products for sale in the EU: namely, the cigarette packet must be cuboid in shape, although it may have rounded or bevelled edges; it must be made of carton or soft material; and may only have a flip-top or shoulder box hinged lid.

Section 8 lays down the requirements for the appearance of cigarettes. These must be white, with a white or imitation cork tip. They may have a brand or business or company name and a variant name printed on them, but in accordance with regulations which will set the colour, font, size, positioning and appearance. It will be an offence to manufacture, import or sell non-compliant cigarettes. These provisions will apply to all cigarettes intended for retail sale in the State.

Section 9 provides the specifications for the appearance of roll-your-own tobacco packets. These are similar to the requirements for retail packaging of cigarettes. These provisions will apply to retail packaging of all roll-your-own products intended for retail sale in the State.

This section differs from section 7, however, in that it allows a unit package of roll-your-own tobacco to be either cuboid in shape - similar to a cigarette packet - or cylindrical, or in the form of a pouch. As before, these provisions were included as they transpose parts of the 2014 EU tobacco products directive and, therefore, must be applied to packaging of all cigarettes for sale in the EU.

This section also sets out how the brand or business or company name and variant name is to be printed on different-shaped packs. They must be printed in a colour, font and size to be laid out in regulations.

Section 10 provides specifications for the retail packaging of tobacco products other than roll-your-own tobacco and cigarettes - for example, pipe tobacco and cigars. It contains the same features as sections 7 and 9 pertaining to colour, decorative features and so on, and allows for cuboid and other shaped packets.

Section 11 deals with the linings of unit packets of tobacco products and provides that, where a lining is present, it shall be of a prescribed colour and material. Section 12 provides that the tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide content shall not be printed on any form of retail packaging of tobacco products. As this is, again, transposing part of the 2014 EU tobacco products directive, it applies to all tobacco products for sale in the EU.

Section 13 deals with the general appearance of tobacco products and, again, transposes in part the 2014 EU tobacco products directive. As before, therefore, it must be applied to the packaging of all cigarettes for sale in the EU.

It is an offence to manufacture, import or sell tobacco products that do not comply with section 13.

Section 14 prohibits sound effects and sense features that alter appearance after sale.

The third Part of the Bill sets out the offences, proceedings and penalties and covers sections 15 to 19, inclusive. Section 15 sets out the offences under the legislation. It will be an offence to package, manufacture, import or sell tobacco products that do not comply with section 7 or sections 9 to 14, inclusive. However, the Bill provides for a defence if a person can show the he or she made all reasonable efforts to comply with the legislation.

Under section 16 there are three types of penalties for offences under the Act. For a first offence a person may be liable to a class B fine or six months imprisonment or both. For subsequent offences a person may be liable for a class A fine or 12 months imprisonment or both. On conviction on indictment a person may receive a fine, or eight years imprisonment or both. A person convicted of an offence may also be ordered to cover prosecution costs and expenses.

Section 17 sets out provisions relating to offences committed by bodies corporate and their directors, managers or officers. Section 18 states that proceedings under the Act may be brought and prosecuted by the Health Service Executive.

Section 19 sets out provisions relating to evidence brought before proceedings. It states that tobacco products or packaging bearing the name or trademark of an importer or manufacturer will be used as evidence that the products were manufactured or imported or packaged by that person unless the contrary is proved.

Part 4 of the Bill deals with miscellaneous matters. Section 20 amends section 5A of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts. The legislation will now provide that if a person registered to sell tobacco under section 37 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts is found guilty of an offensive under the current legislation he or she may be removed from the register for a specified period.

Section 21 amends section 37 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts so that offences committed under the current legislation will be taken into account when a person applies to register to sell tobacco products.

Section 22 amends section 48 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, as amended. Section 48 will now provide the Health Service Executive with the necessary powers to enforce the current legislation.

This is a killer product. It kills some 5,200 Irish citizens and 700,000 European citizens every year. It will kill one in two of the children seduced by its packaging and gimmicks into taking up the killer habit. We cannot, must not and will not allow this to happen. I commend the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 to the House.

I welcome the Minister and thank him for introducing this Bill, which we support. As the Minister pointed out, some 5,200 people die as a result of tobacco products every year and this is equivalent to the population of Tipperary town. Some 22% of the Irish population is hooked on the drug and it costs taxpayers €500 million per year to deal with the health problems tobacco causes. The main question to ask is whether this Bill will work. Will plain packaging have the desired effect of helping move us towards a tobacco-free society? Australia is the country that implemented this measure most recently and tobacco consumption there has fallen by a third. In total, Australians have spent $1 billion less on tobacco since the introduction of plain packaging. Some 81% of smokers there said plain packaging would make them consider quitting and, as the Minister said, this means they are considering it more often than those using branded products.

We must examine what the tobacco companies are doing as they perceive this measure to be a threat to their profits. Profit is their only motive. As the Minister pointed out, they are instigating a huge campaign around the world to rubbish the idea that plain packaging will have any effect in reducing tobacco consumption. Numerous red herrings have been used, including a supposed potential increase in smuggling and consequent loss to the taxpayer. They allege that plain packaging will make the activities of smugglers easier. However, as the Minister and Mr. Mike Daube have pointed out, the tobacco companies have lied for 50 years so why would they stop now? They will not stop lying but they will not stop lobbying either and this may be more worrying as we are used to lies but not so much to lobbying. In the US, prior to the hearings on Capitol Hill, the chief executive of Brown and Williamson, Thomas Sandefur, made the famous statement that he did not believe nicotine to be addictive. In fact, the people in question had evidence nicotine was addictive. The more nicotine in cigarettes the more addictive they are. It is hard to believe the chairman of Philip Morris, Geoffrey Bible, said he was unclear in his own mind whether anyone dies of cigarette smoking related diseases when his own company's research showed it caused the death of millions of Americans. This suggests that whatever lobbying and research is carried out by tobacco companies they will continue to perpetuate lies. Any lobbying by tobacco companies and their public relations firms should be taken with a grain of salt.

The ban on smoking in the workplace has had a very positive effect on people's health, especially those employed in the service industry in bars, restaurants and so on. It is hard to imagine someone lighting a cigarette on an aeroplane or entering a public building clouded in a haze of smoke. This is all thanks to the Government and the health industry slowly pushing back against the tobacco industry. I support this Bill. It may require technical amendments but it is welcome. It will be attacked by the extremely wealthy tobacco industry but we must fight for the greater good. We must think of the 5,200 people that die as a result of tobacco products every year. More important, children targeted by the tobacco industry take up smoking in Ireland at a younger age than in any other European country. We are fighting for the health and well-being of the children of this State and it is a cause worth fighting for.

The introduction of this Bill is welcome and long overdue. The Minister has already outlined the difficulties faced in this country and, along with my colleague, Senator Daly, pointed out that tobacco kills some 5,200 Irish citizens and 700,000 European citizens every year. It is amazing that these figures neither deter people from starting smoking nor encourage them to stop. The death of 5,200 people per year translates to 100 deaths per week and this is a lot of people. Yet some young people are still attracted to smoking and become addicted at a young age. We must address the issue of the number of young people who are smoking and ensure the information is circulated so that the number falls. Not long ago three out of ten people were smokers but more recent figures show this has fallen to 2.2 out of ten. There is still a long way to go. Much progress has been made with young people and the introduction of this legislation is very welcome.

In the early 1960s the surgeon general in the US identified the clear connection between smoking and cancer.

Yet, 50 years on, the product is still for sale and people willingly spend a substantial amount of money on it every day of the week. Much research has been done over the years and the direct connection between smoking and the various health issues that arise from it is unchallenged.

Not long ago, major film stars advertised that the only way to be popular was to smoke a particular product. It took a substantial time before we were able to restrict advertising and move forward, and this is another major step in taking on the challenge of the tobacco industry. It has been argued that introducing standard packaging will increase smuggling, but let us face that challenge if it arises. Smuggling and the illegal importation of cigarettes happens and the Garda and customs officials have a major challenge on their hands but are being very proactive in dealing with it. It is important that we all assist them by ensuring that any information we or the public have is made available to them to reduce smuggling and the trade in illegally imported cigarettes. We all have a part to play in that. It is not just about the tax revenue but about health.

I have raised the issue that there is nothing in the legislation to prevent the production of holders for cigarette packets. We need to keep a watchful eye on it because people will be only too willing to produce these holders that will cover the negative message highlighting the dangers of smoking which we want to give out through the packaging.

I welcome the legislation and it is important that we enact it. There is a three-year time period, up to 2017, for the full enforcement of the provisions in the Bill. Although there is a likelihood of legal challenges if we enforce it too quickly, it is a substantial time period and I wonder if it can be brought forward. Because it is a health issue, we should re-examine the timeframe. Overall, I welcome the Bill. It is the right step forward and will make a substantial contribution over the coming years to reducing the number of people whose health is adversely affected by smoking.

The Minister is very welcome and I thank him for bringing this Bill to the Seanad to begin its work. As a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children I had an opportunity to participate in an excellent series of hearings on the heads of the Bill, and I thank Deputy Buttimer for his chairing of those hearings. We heard from a wide range of witnesses, including health experts, advocacy groups, children's rights organisations, legal representatives, and representatives of the business and retail sectors and the tobacco industry. In preparing for each of these hearings I studied the submissions and presentations, and I will share with my colleagues the experiences I had of sentences repeatedly jumping off the pages of a number of submissions. The footsteps of the tobacco industry over certain submissions were clearly evident. Submissions cited many reports, such as the KPMG Star report, the Transcrime Factbook on Illicit Trade in Tobacco Product, LECG, the report on the impact of plain packaging of cigarettes in Australia, and the SKIM report on the impact of plain packaging on the illicit trade in the UK. All of those reports were commissioned by the tobacco industry.

I read the reports. I also read the Roland Bergen report, which is often cited. Surprise, surprise - it was commissioned and funded by the tobacco industry. I studied it very carefully because it said we would have job losses if we introduced the legislation, and we are all concerned about job losses. The figures are based on estimates rather than evidence. The Australian data comes from the trade and not from official figures. The report drew from other reports, the ones I have already mentioned that were funded by the tobacco industry. Therefore, I urge my colleagues, when evidence is put before them, to ask who funded it and what research it is drawn from.

Senator Colm Burke mentioned the warnings on health hazards from the US Surgeon General 50 years ago. The report of the US Surgeon General released in January 2014 shows that cigarette smoking is even more hazardous than previously thought. The report documents that, by a wide margin, smoking causes even more diseases, kills even more people and costs the nation even more in medical bills and other economic losses than has previously been reported. As we heard during the hearings, tobacco is the only product that kills when used as intended.

My colleagues have talked about the number of people who die of smoking-related diseases each year. We heard very compelling testimony from Dr. Finbarr O'Connell, who stated that 95% of lung cancer cases in Ireland are directly related to tobacco. Everybody can think of somebody they know who has had lung cancer. Consequently, that startling figure brought home to me the realisation that it is within our grasp to improve people's health. My colleague, Senator Crown, will be able to give more information on the health aspects.

As the Minister said, in Ireland tobacco companies need 50 people a day to take up smoking in order to replace those quitting or dying. Given that research shows that 78% of people start before the age of 18, the target is 39 children every day. At the committee hearings the tobacco industry representatives told us it does not aim products at children. I clearly told them that either they are getting the marketing wrong or they are targeting children, because that is way past any margin of error. If anybody heard of a polling company that had a 78% margin of error, we would question its figures. Irish people begin smoking at an earlier age than in other European countries. Let us be clear that the tobacco industry’s biggest growth market is children. At the hearings we heard very clear support from children and children's rights organisations for the legislation.

The warnings about smuggling are scaremongering. At the hearings we heard from representatives of the Garda, who cited the European Anti-Fraud Office, OLAF, the Revenue Commissioners and Customs and Excise. They stated that there is no evidence to indicate that the introduction of plain packaging will lead to an increase in the illicit trade of tobacco products. The only independent research on smuggling rates in Ireland has been carried out by the Revenue Commissioners and the HSE's national tobacco control office. It shows a smuggling rate of 13% in Ireland, which would alarm one until one examined it. One percent of this involves "illicit whites", cigarettes that are produced illegally but are not counterfeit.

Some 1% is counterfeit and 11% of the product is from legal industry. Of that 13%, 11% comes from the industry. It is clear from evidence given in 2002 before the United Kingdom Committee of Public Accounts by ASH UK that exports of tobacco to Andorra, for example, increased from 13 million in 1993 to 1,520 million in 1997. To put it simply, the amount of cigarettes being supplied to Andorra in 1997 meant that every man, woman and child would need to smoke 130 cigarettes a day, every day. They oversupply certain countries in order to supply other countries. That is absolutely clear.

Last October, the Rt. Hon. Margaret Hodge appeared before the UK Committee of Public Accounts and stated that the supply of some brands of hand-rolling tobacco to some countries in 2011 exceeded legitimate demand by 240%. The evidence is there for us to see. In November 2013, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, said in the Dáil, "I have a suspicion that the legitimate trade is involved in the production of illicit cigarettes". We need to be careful in this debate that we throw around the word "illicit". I believe the tobacco companies are fuelling this market. It must be remembered that of 13%, 11% is from legal product. The words "smuggling" or "counterfeit" are to make us all feel worried and they are to disarm us, but we need to make sure that we say clearly that these figures cannot be substantiated. It is in the interest of the period in which we are debating the Bill that the tobacco industry will be able to point to smuggling and job losses. We will have all that scaremongering. They themselves are fuelling this market.

The only criticism I have of the Bill is that it is not taking effect soon enough and, in particular, the transitionary measures. Australia used two months as a wash-through period for retailers to exchange the cigarette products. From the time the Bill is enacted, the Minister is allowing 12 months for it to go through the system. I will table an amendment on Committee Stage to reduce that period to three months. Three months is ample time, given the lead-in time that will be available. The Minister has my unequivocal support. Clearly, this is a children's rights issue. In supporting this Bill we are protecting our children and young people from taking up smoking. We do not need any more reports to tell us how much smoking kills. The evidence is there. I thank the Minister for bringing the Bill before the House.

I welcome the Minister. It is appropriate that the Minister has introduced the Bill in the Seanad on the same day that we concluded legislation to prohibit the use of sunbeds to those under the age of 18 years. Those are two pieces of legislation which undoubtedly will save many lives into the future. His introductory comments where he quotes senior members of the tobacco industry, as recently as ten years ago, who blatantly deny the great harm that tobacco does are worth noting. They point to the lengths to which the industry will go to protect its profits. Truthfulness or integrity does not enter into it where profits of such large proportions are being made. Some 50 new smokers are required every day to maintain the current customer base and one third of those customers are required to replace customers who have died by the use of it. That is worth reflecting on.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout has pointed to the fact that tobacco is the only product we know of where its intentional and stated use is to shorten one's life and kill one prematurely. We know that children under 18 years of age are the most likely cohort to target to replace customers who have died. It is the same cohort that is most amenable to advertising. It makes perfect sense that we should do everything possible to reduce the number of children who start smoking. The Minister said that 76% of people start to smoke before the age of 18 years. We have a good history in Ireland with regard to pioneering legislation when it comes to harmful products. We can point to the Minister's predecessor who was responsible for banning smoking in the workplace. At the time the industry issued all kinds of dire warnings and said the sky would fall in on our heads if this was done. We did it and life just carried on very much the same as before. The industry raised hares that were not accurate in its efforts to maintain market share.

The tobacco industry is acting a little more insidiously this time, rather than directly confronting the Minister and the Department. This time, it is raising red herrings and things that are not directly affected. On the issue of smuggling, I would point to Andorra as Senator van Turnhout has done. The industry does not care where the tax is being paid. The differential in prices is what makes it worth smugglers' time doing it. The industry receives a profit from Andorra and places where low taxes apply. That they are subsequently shipped across borders illegally is of no concern to the industry but it is a matter of great concern to us. Smuggling is the great red herring that is being raised.

I have heard it stated many times that the Bill will not work. On TV3 the Minister gave an interview in which he said he was confronted with the argument that there was no evidence that this will work. Other arguments put forward suggest that if one is serious about doing anything about reducing tobacco consumption, one should do something else. Those who say that singularly fail to point out what the "something else" might be. There are many reasons the tobacco industry can put forward such as, there are other things in society that are more harmful than cigarettes. The point has been made about sunbeds that if one was serious about preventing cancer, one would ban sunbeds. At least we did that. That is one argument that can no longer be made to us. The evidence is contained in this and 76 reports and reviews and in Australia where the demonstrable effects or benefits are there for all to see.

I commend the Minister on his work in this and many other areas. He has been a pioneering and reforming Minister in this area. Let us do it.

I welcome the Minister. This is a very good day for him. I laud his efforts in public health and I think he will be remembered for the good work he has done on these two Bills, among other aspects of his good work.

Some 5,000 per year is the figure. Let us put a perspective on that. This is a little country of 4.5 million people and we lose 5,000 people per year from smoking. We are all aware of the appropriate level of national introspection the US has had over the loss of its young military men and women in two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars it has collectively referred to as the "war on terror". In ten years, the US has lost approximately the same number of people as we lose every year from smoking. That is a country of roughly 80 times our population. Therefore, it puts a perspective on the scale of the loss. Everybody has to die. Some of the folks who die from smoking are old folks who may get other illnesses within a few years in any case but many deaths are from preventable causes. Many of them, by definition, are premature causes of death. This sets the context.

We are in a war against terror, the terror of the tobacco industry. We are and should be implacable and irreconcilable foes. There is nothing they want that we do not want to oppose. There is no partnership, no meeting of minds, no common ground. The fundamental core of what they want to do is opposed to what we, as thinking members of society charged with the well-being of the public, want to do. They want people to smoke whereas we want them to stop. There is no common ground. We must be blunt about this. The lack of common ground extends all the way down the tobacco chain. What do we want for the tobacco companies? The answer is bankruptcy. We want them gone. We want them out of business. If they do not have the wisdom and the good judgment to reinvest their financial and capital assets into other areas we would prefer if every one of them went out of business tomorrow. If collectively the entire world had a colossal burst of messianic insight tomorrow and stopped smoking and not one more cigarette was sold tomorrow and all that tax revenue and all those jobs disappeared and all people had to find other employment, it would be better for the world.

It would be better for everybody if that happened. None of us is trying to protect any part of this industry. We want it gone. We want the retailers on the corners to sell something else. I cannot make this happen, but as a backbencher I would love to bring in legislation which would allow the Government to give financial incentives to shops that declare themselves to be ethical, tobacco-free businesses or I would like to ensure that shops, pubs, hotels, restaurants and whole shopping centres that would declare they would sell nothing that contains tobacco on their premises would have a lower rate of VAT on everything they sell, be it jeans, food, clothes, pharmaceuticals or whatever. I would like to be able to do that, but we cannot.

I am trying to get money for research in order to look at a very interesting area of cancer biology, heterogeneity diversity, which is the amazing ability tumour cells have to keep mutating or this bad trick they can do to stay ahead of our smart bomb treatments by their ability to mutate and change their genotype. This research would look at ways of linking this to what causes cancer. I have been advised by some of the smart cancer scientists with whom I work that we should exclude tobacco from the equation altogether, because the mesmeric, breath-taking list of things in one puff of cigarette smoke which cause cancer is so complicated that it is almost impossible to study it or to make any kind of sense of it. In addition, its ability to induce that kind of genetic instability, at the earliest stage in the cancer process, may be unique, in comparison with other things which cause cancer. With tobacco, we know we are dealing with a phenomenally bad product which is sold by phenomenally bad people and bought by people because they are addicts. Rational people do not act against their self-interest, but addicts do. This is why people who overwhelmingly know tobacco is bad for them, continue to smoke.

This brings me to this plain packaging legislation. It is extraordinary how this coalition has emerged - the coalition of the tobacco companies and their various front organisations. Looking out the window of this Chamber, I can see the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, which some months ago unknowingly and unwittingly ended up hosting an indirectly tobacco company funded symposium on how to stop smoking. This was sponsored by an organisation called the Institute of Economic Affairs, which I believe is a paid gunman for the tobacco industry, and by local PR companies such as Red Flag.

This tells us something about the lengths tobacco companies will go to try to stop the Minister in his tracks. Why is this? They say plain packaging does not work and there is no evidence that it will make any difference. If it does not make any difference, why are they investing so many millions of euro into lobbying, PR and, probably, bribes at European level, to try to thwart the attempt to get the legislation passed? It is because they know it does work. They would have us believe that it is because they are trying to block smuggling. Those of us who watched the World Cup every night this week, soccer fans like me who worshipped Bill O'Herlihy for years, are sad now to see him and know that he organised a meeting of leading tobacco company executives with members of the Government to try to persuade everybody that their concern was smuggling. We know the tobacco companies love smuggling. Most of the product smuggled is product they sell. Our primary means of controlling their activity is through our tax laws. Smuggling is a way for them to outsmart our tax laws. Smuggling is a weapon they use against us.

It is important to realise this is a war. Anything the tobacco companies oppose, we propose. Anything they propose, we oppose. They are our implacable foes and we want them gone. We would like to offer them the olive branch of asking them to do something else, but if they do not, we would prefer to see them on the bread line. That is what we want for these companies, because they are making their money out of the misery they inflict on our fellow citizens. I believe the Minister will be in the firing line on this, but no better man. As he has been forged in the steel of various firing lines over the past several years, I believe he will be able to bat these puny challenges aside.

However, it is critical we look at the international context in terms of what these companies are capable of doing. Why did Ukraine take a World Trade Organization case against Australia over plain packaging? It is widely recognised that some tobacco interests got to the Ukrainians and persuaded them this is something they should do. Why did the world tobacco organisations gang up on little Uruguay, the GDP of which is less than the revenues of Philip Morris International? Thankfully, Mayor Bloomberg came to Uruguay's defence and provided a legal defence fund which enabled it to try to deal with the problem.

This is a call to war and we will support the Minister in his declaration on it. I will put forward some amendments to the Bill, because like my colleagues I see no reason we cannot do this tomorrow. I have looked at the data from Australia and am convinced this initiative will result in some decrease in the number of people who smoke. Sometimes people will be put off by the plain packaging, but this is another opportunity for us and the Minister to get the debate on smoking going. Every time the debate becomes public, more people think about the effects of smoking and are motivated to stop. The plain packaging has one other spin-off benefit. If it hurts the companies, that is a good enough reason to do it.

I wish to share my time with Senator Ó Domhnaill.

I welcome the Minister. I wish to endorse everything that has been said. This Bill is probably as significant, in terms of the impact it will have on the general health of the population, as that of the former Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin, which introduced the smoking ban and hopefully that legacy will remain for all time and the Minister will be remembered for it.

Much comment has been made on the Australian experience. I agree the three-year period seems long and will support amendments to reduce it. In the context of the significance of packaging, a study in France which monitored the eye movements of people when shown a plain pack of cigarettes and a branded pack showed that people spent longer looking at the health warnings on plain packs. In Canada, research has shown that people remember health warnings better from plain packs than from branded packs. Plain packaging eliminates the last great marketing tool for the tobacco industry, which is why the industry is fighting a rearguard action as has been pointed out by Senator Crown and others.

The Minister has commented on what standardised packaging will do in the context of the impact on smokers. Currently, cigarette companies use design-heavy packaging and colours, imagery and design are used to attract smokers and reduce the impact of on-pack health warnings. In 2010, a trade magazine tobacco reporter ran a series of articles on the importance of packaging to the industry's business. This stated:

In many countries, the cigarette pack is now the only remaining avenue of communication with smokers. This development is challenging packaging suppliers to be creative.

The extensive legal challenges to standardised packaging in Australia show how effective the tobacco industry expected standardised packaging to be at reducing the take-up of smoking among young people.

Due to the short time available for my contribution, I just wish to endorse everything that has been said. I will conclude with an anecdote in the context of people's perception on smoking. The late Nat King Cole, who died of lung cancer, smoked what he believed to be a product that helped to give timbre to his voice, so he smoked menthol cigarettes. That was then, but some people still believe that different cigarettes may be less harmful. This legislation will ensure we now have a level playing field. The tobacco industry must now shape up or ship out. I agree with Senator Crown that this is a war we must win.

I agree with the comments made by Senator Burke in regard to cigarette holders. This is something the legislation should examine. The tobacco industry is not only ingenious and vile, it is a creative industry and it will fight tooth and nail to ensure it keeps its share of the market. Therefore, anything that in any way helps that cause should be stopped in its tracks.

I commend the Minister on bringing this legislation to the House.

Today is a good day for the public health of the nation in terms of the passage by the Seanad of the legislation governing the use of sunbeds and the introduction of this legislation. I congratulate the Minister on bringing forth both pieces of legislation. It is disheartening to hear that the average smoker began smoking at around 16 years of age. The health consequences of that throughout a person's life are horrendous. It was mentioned that 5,200 people die as a result of smoking. Many other people are also affected, including relatives, friends and others who often suffer respiratory illness and poor health as a result of second-hand smoke. In addition to those who lose their lives there are knock-on consequences for many others.

This legislation is a major step in the right direction. I do not believe that the Government, the Minister or the Irish people should be bullied by the tobacco industry. In terms of my use of the word "bullied", I believe that is what the tobacco industry is doing. I agree with Senator van Turnhout that the smuggling issue is a red herring being floated by the industry. I contributed to the previous debate in this House on cigarette smoking, following which I received a request from representatives of the industry to meet with me to discuss some of my commentary. I met with them but the only item on the agenda was the smuggling issue, which is being fed by the industry because it produces the cigarettes. While some of the smuggled cigarettes are produced in factories which are not regulated, the vast majority of them are made in regulated factories. In terms of the smuggling issue, the industry is flying a red herring.

The Minister might when responding indicate whether European approval is required before this legislation can be implemented. I agree with Senators van Turnhout, Mooney and others that the sooner this legislation is implemented the better. The lead-in period should be only two or three months. I again congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this legislation. It is not often Members on this side of the House praise Ministers. However, today we praise the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly.

This Bill is another element in the legislative framework designed to combat tobacco smoking. It gives us the opportunity to again focus on the enormous damage tobacco smoking does 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, hopefully, eventually eliminate this practice, creating a smoke free society.

There will always be a remnant of smoking among a small minority but for maximum effect the aim has to be a smoke-free society in Ireland. Much progress has been made. 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 number of people smoking and have unquestionably hugely improved public health. A combination of public education and pricing measures has ensured the reduction in the number of people who smoke.

It is still a startling statistic that just under 25% of the population in Ireland are smokers. The number of young people taking up smoking and becoming addicted at an early age must be continually addressed. 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. Almost one third of cancer deaths and 90% of lung cancers in Ireland are attributed to smoking. The cost to society in human and financial terms is enormous. One estimate of the cost to the State in health service provision in a single year is €1 billion, approximately one third of which goes on hospital admissions. It is estimated that if smoking continues to increase at the current rate it will be the single biggest cause of death worldwide before the middle of this century. This is because the tobacco industry’s greatest area of expansion is developing countries that have not yet put in place the preventive measures that have been provided for in developed countries such as Ireland.

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

In terms of legislation, the ban on smoking in enclosed workplaces has been a huge 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. This Bill provides for plain, standard packaging for tobacco products and as such is a welcome addition to the legislative framework. It will not, of itself, I believe, lead to a dramatic reduction in consumption but it has to be seen as another element in the campaign to reduce smoking.

The tobacco industry spends enormous sums on product design and presentation. It is also opposed to legislation of this type, which is reason enough to support it. Guím gach rath ar an reachtaíocht seo agus tá súil agam go dtiocfaidh sé chun cinn chomh tapaidh agus is féidir.

I wish to share my time with Senator Walsh.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the Minister to the House. It is symbolic that on the day we debated in this House legislation governing the use of sunbeds, we do not need them in Ireland. The Minister is now, in terms of the legislation currently before us, proving we do not need tobacco either. I hope this is a double triumph for the Minister.

On 10 June, the British Medical Journal contained an article in the name of 600 specialists in the United Kingdom which was in favour of measures such as those in the legislation the Minister is proposing today. An article in today's edition of the British Medical Journal in the name of 100 of those specialists relates to the dangers of e-cigarettes. I have no doubt that overwhelmingly the evidence supports what the Minister is proposing here today. I wish him every success in that regard.

I note the ingenuity of the tobacco industry in having strawberry and bubble gum flavours added to the nicotine in e-cigarettes. The Minister will be aware that e-cigarettes are due for categorisation by the World Health Organization in October under the general controls on tobacco. I wish him well in that endeavour. I often pass the Player Wills building on the South Circular Road, which is derelict. It was previously a major centre of the tobacco industry but is no more. I hope, too, that that is symbolic of what we are trying to do. As we move towards becoming a smoke-free society, we should no longer permit cigarettes to be sold in food shops, petrol stations or duty-free shops. That is not the type of introduction we want for people coming to our country. In addition, EU subsidies to the tobacco industry should be abolished.

Like other Senators, I propose to table amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. Section 12 provides that tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide content shall not be printed on the unit package. I would put the alternative proposition that that information be included on the package so that people can see how damaging the product is. I will discuss the matter further with the Minister on Committee Stage.

In the UK, there is support for what the Minister is proposing today in terms of the Chantler report. As I understand it, the issue is currently being considered by the British Minister with responsibility for public health, who is supported by the Labour Party shadow Minister. Many tactics are being used against what is being proposed. I will like to deal briefly with two of them. On the claim that the legislation infringes people's intellectual property rights, it does not. Only the wrapping is being changed. It will still be possible to produce this type of poisonous product and to derive profits from doing so. A change to the wrapping is not an infringement of intellectual property rights. I am sure the tobacco firms will bring a legal case against the Minister in that regard.

On the claim that what is proposed interferes in the free trade of the European Common Market, that is not true. It will still be possible to export these products. I recommend nobody consume them. The only change is to the packaging. From now on the packaging will be plain but the product remains exportable. I am sure the tobacco industry will be hiring the best brains in the Law Library to take a case against the Minister. I may also table amendments to provide that neither the right to engage in free trade nor one's intellectual property rights are infringed by plain wrapping. I wish the Minister the best of luck with this legislation.

I applaud and support the Minister in his efforts in this regard. In my view, the tobacco industry is evil. People say it is a bad industry but I believe it is an evil industry second only, in my opinion, to the abortion industry in that abortion directly targets the life of the baby while in this instance the lives of people are being directly targeted. Some 50% of people who smoke will die from a tobacco related illness. This is an industry which for many decades has been well aware of the risks and dangers of tobacco. As has been said, it has continued to exploit people, particularly poor people, across the world who through marketing and advertising became addicted to this product. As a consequence, many of them have lost their lives. The Minister should not allow himself to deviate from his intention as a result of propaganda arising from the tobacco industry. It will happen.

Smuggling was mentioned.

Yesterday I was in Belfast to attend a hearing of the sovereign committee of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and heard that there has been an increase in smuggling in Australia since the introduction of these packets. I do not know whether that is true; it may well be propaganda. However, the Minister should look at the packaging to see what can be done to counterfeit-proof it, in so far as he can, and the industry should be made pay for the initiative. We provide that extra security for currency and other things. There must be some way for us to add something to the package that will make it very difficult for anybody involved in illicit activities to tamper with them.

Finally, the Minister might consider - whether as a next step or as part of this Bill - a requirement for the tobacco industry to enclose within cigarette packages some sort of information leaflet which would detail every single chemical ingredient in the cigarettes, and outline the risks and effects that each ingredient will have on the health of an individual who uses the product. We do that with medication, with the co-operation of the pharmaceutical industry. The risks and effects are clearly set out and attached to medication and we could do the same for tobacco products. The tobacco industry uses a wide variety of chemicals and we could make it a very strongly punishable offence not to name every ingredient. The tobacco industry needs to be taken on, and taken on strongly, and the Minister has the full support of this House in doing so. It is great to see that the House is unanimous on this live issue, and I wish we had had such unanimity in the past. We have it now, so we should harness it and back the Minister in what he is doing.

It is past 7.30 p.m. and the Companies Bill is due to resume. I remind Members that we must be conscious that another Minister is waiting outside the Chamber. Do Members wish to allow the Minister a few minutes to respond and finish Second Stage? Agreed. I shall let him know when five minutes have elapsed.

The Leas-Chathaoirleach knows how close this matter is to my heart. As I have said elsewhere, it is political, it is professional and it is personal.

I thank all the Senators for their very supportive views and comments this evening. I also thank and acknowledge the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Heart Foundation, the Asthma Society of Ireland, the organisation dealing with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ASH Ireland and many others for their support.

Let us remember why we are here this evening. Ireland has been to the fore, as others have said, with tobacco control measures. We can be proud that the measures we have introduced to date are working. There has been a decrease in the number of people smoking. In 1998 the percentage of people smoking was 33%, but the most recent figures we have indicate that 21.5% of Irish adults now smoke, and data on school-aged children also indicates a clear downward trend. However, we cannot be complacent. To achieve the target set out in Tobacco Free Ireland, a lot of work needs to be undertaken. This includes the ongoing development of educational initiatives, media campaigns and cessation services. It also includes further legislative initiatives such as the smoking in cars legislation, developed by Senators of this House, which I hope to initiate in the Dáil in the very near future.

It is important that we de-normalise smoking and educate parents as well. There is nothing more conflicting and confusing for a child than to learn in school, from a teacher he or she trusts, that cigarettes kill, only to get a contradictory message when he or she goes home and sees a parent or parents smoking.

To those who argue that standardised packaging will not reduce smoking prevalence I say that this measure, together with all of the other measures in the past and future, will have the impact of reducing the incidence of smoking. It will also de-normalise how society views tobacco and smoking.

We are not alone in pursuing standardised packaging. As people have said, Australia has introduced standardised packaging; the UK will consult in the near future on the introduction of legislation in this area; and New Zealand has started the legislative process for standardised packaging. The initiative is steadily being embraced globally.

There is a wealth of evidence to support the introduction of standardised packaging. In preparing the legislation, my Department commissioned an international expert in the field, Professor David Hammond, to carry out an evidence review on standardised packaging of tobacco products. The review unequivocally found that tobacco packaging is a critically important form of tobacco promotion, particularly in countries such as Ireland which have comprehensive advertising and marketing restrictions. The review outlined the strong evidence base in existence for the initiative.

A legal challenge by the tobacco industry cannot be ruled out, and I say that with tongue in cheek because it is inevitable as far I am concerned. However, I am confident that the research available to us demonstrates that standardised packaging will have a positive impact on health and, importantly, is a proportionate and justified measure. The threat of legal challenges should not be an obstacle to our making progress on public health policies. We must press on with our mission to make Ireland tobacco-free. Ireland is a small country, like Uruguay, so the tobacco industry thinks it can bully us and influence public health policy. It will not do that, especially when it comes to the life of our children. Many other countries are watching us and holding back to see how Ireland gets on. The tobacco industry operates by intimidating one country, thus intimidating other countries by proxy. That ploy will not succeed, as the Members of this House have shown their unanimous support, and I am sure we will have tremendous support in the other House as well. Also, to comply with our European and international obligations, the Bill has been notified to the EU and the World Trade Organization.

In response to one of the few issues that were raised, smuggling will be unaffected, according to the Revenue Commissioners. A classic ploy by the tobacco industry is to pivot away from the real issue. It kills one out of every two customers it creates by getting them addicted to its products, and talks about something else like smuggling in order to sanitise the situation.

The time period for implementation is three years, and there are reasons for that which we can go into at a later date. People have talked about job losses here and we have talked about it in the European Parliament. It should never be a case of job losses versus loss of life, because it is totally in a different league.

Senator Crown made a lot of points about the industry and said we were in a war. It does resemble a war, because people die in wars and people are dying in this war. Our citizens are dying and our European friends are dying as well. Therefore, we must protect children and remind adult citizens that what they are doing harms their health.

I have already pointed out how plain packaging has increased awareness and people's willingness to give up tobacco products.

With regard to stating the carbon monoxide and tar content of cigarettes on packages, the reason it is not allowed is part of the EU directive and the rationale behind the policy is that it allows the industry to pretend that one cigarette is less harmful and better for one's health than another type. However, they all kill, and that is the point we are trying to get across.

Counterfeit products were mentioned. I can assure the Senators that the packets are counterfeit-proof. They will be more counterfeit-proof now because they will have a tax stamp.

In closing, I wish to express my gratitude again to the Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children, Deputy Jerry Buttimer, and members of his committee. The public hearings held by the committee in February informed the composition of the Bill. I thank the committee for its invaluable contribution to the issue and for the assistance it provided to me and my officials. I also thank my Cabinet colleagues for their support on this initiative. We have some heavy hitters from abroad leaning on the Government.

I commend the Bill to the House and look forward to working closely with my colleagues in the Seanad as we discuss the legislation in the House. I thank Senators again for their support.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

At 2.15 p.m. on Thursday.

I thank the Minister and wish him well. The sun has shone on him this week.

Go raibh maith agat. It is a different type of heat that I am feeling, so.

Committee Stage ordered for Thursday, 19 June 2014.