Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Questions (434)

Maria Bailey


434. Deputy Maria Bailey asked the Minister for Health if he has the authority to prohibit the sale of so-called combi boxes which contain rolling tobacco, papers and filters under the Public Health Tobacco Acts, in view of HSE research which reports huge growth in the use of rolling tobacco by under 25s; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41867/17]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The HSE report referred to by the Deputy entitled "Roll Your Own Cigarettes in Ireland - Key Patterns and Trends" indicates a significant increase in the consumption of roll-your-own tobacco, particularly among those under 25 years of age. This is in the context of an overall decrease in the numbers who smoke tobacco products in Ireland in recent years.

The Public Health (Tobacco) Acts 2002 to 2015 do not prohibit the sale of the roll-your-own tobacco "combi boxes" referred to by the Deputy. However, a number of measures have been introduced aimed at having a positive public health impact on the numbers of people smoking roll-your-own tobacco. The EU Tobacco Products Directive came into force in 2014 and was transposed into Irish legislation in 2016. Under that legislation the sale of roll-your-own tobacco packs weighing less than 30g is prohibited. Prior to this roll-your-own tobacco could be purchased in 12.5g and 25g packets. This increase in the size of the packet has the effect of making roll-your-own tobacco less affordable than before, particularly to younger adults. Evidence indicates that pricing is a key means of reducing tobacco consumption. Government Policy, Tobacco Free Ireland, contains recommendations in relation to raising taxes on tobacco products including reducing the price differential between roll-your-own tobacco and cigarettes. In the context of Budget 2018, my colleague, Minister Harris has recently written to Minister Paschal Donohoe TD requesting that consideration be given to increasing the excise duty on tobacco products generally and, in particular, to increasing the excise duty on roll-your-own tobacco so as to reduce the price differential between roll-your-own tobacco and cigarettes.

Irish legislation which came into force on 30 September 2017 provides that all retail packaging of tobacco products manufactured from that date must be in standardised packaging. The aim of standardised packaging is to make all tobacco packs look less attractive, make health warnings more prominent and prevent packaging from misleading consumers about the harmful effects of tobacco. In relation to the health warnings the EU Tobacco Products Directive had the effect of significantly increasing the size of the picture health warnings on tobacco packaging.

It is anticipated that these and other tobacco control, cessation and health promotion measures will continue to reduce the numbers smoking tobacco. My Government colleagues and I are committed to the on-going implementation of Tobacco Free Ireland.