The Irish government has said that it is prepared for a legal challenge from tobacco companies following the enactment of its standardized tobacco packaging bill, which has now passed all stages of the Oireachtas [national parliament], according to a story in the Irish Times. Ireland has become the second country, after Australia, to pass such legislation.
In welcoming the passage of the bill, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. James Reilly, said it would protect people from the harmful effects of tobacco and provide a lead for other EU countries; as the smoking ban did a decade ago. Reports in the Irish press last month had it that John Player and JT Ireland had threatened to take legal action against standardized tobacco packaging legislation and, asked about such threats, Reilly said the government was prepared.
“The Attorney General has her team together and we fully expect, once the legislation is enacted and commenced, that they will probably file a lawsuit,” he said. “They will do it more in the hope than certainty. They do it more to intimidate us and to intimidate other countries who are prepared to follow suit.” Reilly said the impact of the legislation could not be underestimated, either in Ireland or abroad.
“We know the UK will have a free vote on this, hopefully before they rise for the next general election,” he said. “We know that France wants to follow suit and a number of other EU countries are looking at implementing the same measures as us. “This is about protecting people from the harmful effect of tobacco – 700,000 Europeans die from tobacco-related disease each year.”
Meanwhile, an RTE News story quoted a Japan Tobacco International spokesperson as saying that standardized packaging was a disproportionate, unjustified and unlawful measure. There was no credible evidence to suggest it would result in public health benefits, the spokesperson added.