Legislation that would impose standardized packaging on tobacco sold in Ireland is not fit for purpose, according to the smokers’ group Forest Eireann.
In a submission to the Oireachtas (parliamentary) Joint Committee on Health and Children, the group said that standardized packaging would not stop children smoking and could boost the illicit trade in cigarettes.
The group said the government should assess the impact of standardized packaging on smoking rates and the illicit trade in Australia before introducing similar legislation in Ireland.
“The case for plain packs is based on the fallacy that children are encouraged to smoke because of exposure to so-called glitzy or colourful packaging and that without branding far fewer children or young people would be tempted to start,” said John Mallon, spokesman for Forest Eireann.
“This argument is based not on fact but on speculation and conjecture.
“If the government really wants to protect children from smoking it should seek tougher enforcement of existing laws and focus on further education in schools.”
In its submission to the committee, which is about to conduct hearings to consider the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013, Forest Eireann argued that tobacco control studies failed to consider the unintended consequences of standardized packaging.
There was a wide body of expert international opinion that believed that counterfeiting could have a serious impact on public health and business, it said. Standardized packaging could put children at greater risk, not less, because criminals didn’t care who they sold to.
So the government had to address the concerns that people had about the impact of counterfeiting before proceeding with standardized packaging.
Failure to do so could have serious consequences for children and for adult consumers, especially those tempted to purchase counterfeit goods.
“Plain packaging has nothing to do with health and everything to do with the ‘denormalization’ of a legal product and the 1 million adults in Ireland who continue to smoke tobacco despite fierce opposition from anti-tobacco campaigners and politicians,” the group said in a press note.
“The dull, grotesque packaging envisaged by campaigners is a form of state-sponsored bullying designed to stigmatise the consumers of a legal product and denormalise a perfectly legitimate habit.”
“Ireland, like many other countries, continues to face a precarious financial situation.
“A global recession has resulted in a sharp drop in international trade, rising unemployment and slumping commodity prices.
“As a result many people are suffering profound hardship.
“Despite this the tobacco control industry wants government to devote precious parliamentary time introducing legislation for a policy for which there is no credible evidence that it will work.”