Plain packaging law passed by Oireachtas

Fewer children will take up smoking as a result of the new law introducing plain packaging of tobacco in Ireland.  On 10 March 2015, President Michael D Higgins signed into law the legislation introducing plain packaging on cigarette packs.

This followed the successful passage of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2015 through the Houses of the Oireachtas, with cross-party support.

Scaremongering by the tobacco industry has only reinforced support for the initiative.

Plain packaging works and that’s why tobacco companies are fighting it tooth and nail

The tobacco industry now has only one option left – to take the State to court.  The experience of Australia clearly shows that any attempt by Big Tobacco to assert its rights to intellectual property, for instance, will be defeated by the public health argument, since tobacco is a product that kills one in two long term users.

Head of Advocacy for the Irish Cancer Society Kathleen O' Meara meets  Minister for Children James Reilly.

JTI and British American Tobacco (owners of PJ Carroll) alleged that Australia’s right to introduce plain packaging in 2012 was unconstitutional.

The High Court found the interest of public health trumps branding rights and called the case taken by Big Tobacco ‘delusive’ and ‘unreal’.  The industry lost the case so spectacularly they were forced to pay Australia’s legal fees.

The coalition of health and children’s charities, including the ISPCC, Barnardos, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Asthma Society of Ireland, the Irish Thoracic Society, COPD Support Ireland, ASH Ireland, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation, believe plain packaging is a proportional response to the health damage caused by smoking.

No breach of intellectual property laws

"The tobacco industry’s allegation that restricting their branding is in breach of intellectual property laws and potentially unconstitutional has no basis”, says Kathleen O’Meara, Head of Advocacy and Communications at the Irish Cancer Society.

“Nor is there any requirement in the Irish Constitution for the State to pay compensation when restricting property rights in accordance with the common good/social justice as alleged by the tobacco industry.

“In fact, we already restrict tobacco branding through a ban on advertising and the inclusion of health warnings on the packaging, and other industries such as pharmaceuticals are subject to branding restrictions.”

“The tobacco industry is against plain packaging because they know that it will mean a massive blow to their profits,” says Sharon Cosgrove, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland. “Fewer children being enticed into trying cigarettes, means fewer lifelong addicted customers for big tobacco.

"Many people now suffering from chronic life limiting diseases were hooked on highly addictive tobacco products when there were no restrictions on advertising. This bill will help to save lives and prevent a new generation from being hoodwinked by glamorous branding to take up smoking", says Damien Peelo, Director of COPD Support Ireland.

Big tobacco has deep pockets and is not afraid to spend it on legal firms.

But children’s rights trump the rights of an industry that causes 5,200 deaths every year in Ireland.

Read the health facts about plain packaging

Date Last Reviewed: 
Friday, April 10, 2015
Date Last Revised: 
Friday, April 10, 2015