I welcome the Minister back to the House. As all of us here know and as the Cathaoirleach said, this is a Seanad Bill. What disappointed me somewhat was that when the Minister introduced this Bill to the House and there was a long debate, it received very little media coverage at the time, although it got some. Perhaps that was because it was the summer, but I would like to think it has as much to do with the fact that, as often happens with Bills initiated in the Seanad, the media suddenly find out that there is a Bill six months later when it is introduced in the Dáil. I would make a plea to the media that they would do a little more research. In fact, in all of the coverage that has taken place in regard to this legislation and all of the amendments that are made in it, this was done out of context in that there was no context to much of the reporting, in particular in The Irish Times and the Irish Independent, which talked about the Bill as if was brand new.
I compliment the Minister on holding fast and being resolute against very stiff opposition from the tobacco industry. It affords me an opportunity to outline what these evil people are doing. Senator John Crown referred to them several times as the enemy and he is right: they are the enemy. This is about people's lives. The Minister is fully aware, as a practising medical doctor, of the impact smoking has had on patients.
I highlight the tactics being used by the tobacco industry which most recently, shamefacedly, attempted to intimidate the Minister and the Government by threatening legal action. This is nothing new.
A World Health Organization report states:
The tactics used by the tobacco industry to resist government regulation of its products include conducting public relations campaigns, buying scientific and other expertise to create controversy about established facts, funding political parties, hiring lobbyists to influence policy, using front groups and allied industries to oppose tobacco control measures, pre-empting strong legislation by pressing for the adoption of voluntary codes or weaker laws and corrupting public officials. Formerly secret internal tobacco industry documents provide evidence of a 50 year conspiracy to "resist smoking restrictions, restore smoker confidence and preserve product liability defence". The documents reveal industry-wide collusion on legal, political and socially important issues to the tobacco industry and clearly demonstrate that the industry is not disposed to act ethnically or responsibly.
Lobbying by the alcohol and tobacco industries, in particular, and other sectors is extensive.
I found the following gem of a quote from Mr. David Cameron prior to his becoming British Prime Minister, "We all know how it works, the lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-Ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way."
EU Council Directive 98/43/EC introduced in the early noughties by the then European Community sought to end all tobacco advertising and sponsorship in EU member states by 2006. Initially proposed in 1989, the directive was adapted in 1998 and was annulled by the European Court of Justice in 2000 following a protracted lobbying campaign against the directive by a number of interested organisations, including European tobacco companies. The tobacco industry lobbied against directive 98/43/EC at the level of member state governments, as well as on a pan-European level. The industry sought to prevent passage of the directive within the EU Legislature, to substitute industry-authored proposals in place of the original directive and, if necessary - this is relevant to what happened here in the past few weeks - to use litigation to prevent implementation of the directive after its passage. The tobacco industry sought to delay and eventually defeat the EU directive on tobacco advertising and sponsorship by seeking to enlist the aid of figures at the highest levels of European politics, while at times attempting to conceal the industry's role. An understanding of these proposed strategies can help European health advocates to pass and implement effective future tobacco control legislation. I am sure the Minister by now is very much aware of these strategies.
Tobacco Control is an online international peer review journal covering the nature and consequences of tobacco use worldwide, tobacco's effect on population, health, the economy, the environment and society, and efforts to prevent and control the global tobacco epidemic through population level education and policy changes, the ethical dimensions of tobacco control policies and the activities of the tobacco industry and its allies. Its conclusions, following quantitative text mining techniques, were as follows:
We observe that tobacco industry lobbying activity at the EU was associated with significant policy shifts in the EU tobacco productive legislation towards the tobacco industry submissions. In the light of the framework convention on tobacco control additional governance strategies are needed at European and at national levels to prevent undue influence of the tobacco industry on EU policy making.
In terms of its key findings in its investigations of lobbying it states:
The dominant approach used was to nurture and sustain long-term relationships with policy makers, within which subtle forms of influence were exercised. This reinforces and is reinforced by the industry narrative that they are key stakeholders in the policy process whose voices should be heard.
How many times have we heard, "we are key stakeholders; listen to us"? It continues:
Where these long term relationships fail to secure a favourable regulatory environment, however, industry actors will lobby key decision-makers forcefully on an issue by issue basis, including both Government Ministers and Opposition TDs. Where this proves unsuccessful they will pursue their interests through other means, including threatening and conducting legal challenges under national and international law. This underlines a highly pragmatic approach to policy influence in which long term relationships are favoured but where the partnership approach is abandoned if circumstances demand it.
I say all of this in order that people will know what it is we are dealing with. We are dealing with an industry that has absolutely no scruples or ethics when it comes to changes or proposed changes in the law. I do so also to reinforce the support on this side of the House for the Minister's initiative.
I applaud him once again for what he has been doing and hope to ensure this House will fully support the efforts he has brought forward. We hope it will be effective legislation. I have no doubt that if it results in the saving of even one life, that one life would make it worthwhile for the rest of us.