As the Deputy will know, and as I have made clear on a number of occasions, I am fully aware that there will be a range of interests which will oppose the introduction of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013. However, as the Deputy will also be aware, Government approval was received on 19 November 2013 for the publication of the General Scheme of the Bill and to proceed with the drafting of the legislation based on this General Scheme.
There is a wealth of evidence on the effects of tobacco packaging in general and on perceptions and reactions to standardised packaging which supports the introduction of the measure. Research shows that standardised packaging will:
- Increase the noticeability, recall and impact of health warning messages;
- Reduce the ability of packaging to mislead consumers to believe that some products may be less harmful than others; and
- Reduce the attractiveness of the tobacco product, for both adults and children.
Finally, I would like to point out to the Deputy that tobacco consumption is today the greatest single cause of preventable illness and premature death in Ireland, killing over 5,200 people a year; that smokers die on average 10 years sooner than non-smokers; that one in every two children who experiment with cigarettes goes on to become a smoker, and that one in every two of them will die from a tobacco related disease. In this context, my priority is to reduce the consumption of tobacco across the board, to meet our policy target of making Ireland tobacco free (i.e. with a smoking prevalence rate of less than 5%) by 2025.