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EPHA: Ireland leads the way in Europe in tackling the tobacco epidemic

On 23 January, the Irish parliament (Oireachtas) launched a consultation on a draft public health bill that introduces standardised tobacco packaging. If the bill passes, Ireland will become the first EU Member State (the second country in the world after Australia) to ban branding from tobacco product packaging.

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) sent an open letter to the Chair of the Committee on Health and Children of the Oireachtas supporting its ‘Plain Packaging’ plans. EPHA encourages the public health community to congratulate Ireland for taking this bold step to fight against the tobacco epidemic. Future generations must be protected from the harmful effects of tobacco products and Ireland should act as an encouraging example for Europe.

Tobacco packaging is carefully designed by the tobacco industry to target consumers, for example, slim cigarettes are used to target women. Evidence shows that warning messages and pictures encourage smokers to quit and non-smokers to never start smoking.

Youth in Europe has the highest smoking rates in the world. EPHA welcomes the Irish government’s commitment to protect children from tobacco marketing but know from the UK experience that the tobacco industry will still put up a fierce fight to block, amend or delay the introduction of standardized packaging. By removing bright colours and marketing tools from cigarette packaging, attention will be draw to health warnings instead.

The new EU Tobacco Product Directive (TPD), endorsed by the European Council and the European Parliament, will mandate that picture and text health warnings cover 65% of tobacco packages; EU Member States can, however, adopt more stringent measures to regulate tobacco products, such as plain packaging. The launch of Ireland’s ‘Plain Packaging’ consultation should set a positive example for other EU Member States to step up their public health measures.

Open letter available here: EPHA contribution to the consultation on the Public Health Bill - Support from the European Public Health Community to the General Scheme on Plain Packaging in Ireland

Originally posted on 6 February 2014

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