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Friday 22 August 2014

Reilly's cigarette pack ban at least three years away

Fionnan Sheahan

Published 16/06/2014 | 02:30

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Health Minister James Reilly may be set for a shuffle. Photo: Mark Condren
Health Minister James Reilly may be set for a shuffle. Photo: Mark Condren

HEALTH Minister James Reilly's clampdown on cigarette packets won't come in for another three years – if it ever makes it into law.

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Dr Reilly has rushed ahead with his legislation for plain packaging, before clearing difficult EU approval hurdles, amid speculation it will be one of his final acts as Health Minister.

The Fine Gael deputy leader is widely expected to be moved from his portfolio in next month's reshuffle and replaced by Leo Varadkar.

While Dr Reilly is thought to be on the brink of being moved aside, Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan is predicted for demotion.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan is still strongly linked with the European Commissioner's post, while there is uncertainty around Jobs Minister Richard Bruton.

"Reilly won't be in health. He [the Taoiseach] will find it hard to hold on to Deenihan," a senior government source told the Irish Independent.

A number of junior ministers are also expected to be dropped.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is also thought to be under pressure to promote female TDs from the backbenches to the junior ranks.

Following a range of failures around reform of the HSE, managing the health budget and the medical card fiasco, Dr Reilly is believed to be seeking some legacy issues to leave behind.

The minister published the cigarette legislation, the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014, last week.

But his prospects of passing the law remain in doubt and he won't be able to proceed with passing the legislation until next year at least as the measure has to be referred to the EU.

The bill will be introduced in the Dail and Seanad but can proceed no further as the legislation still has to go to the EU for a six-month consultation period.

A number of European countries are expected to object to the legislation on the basis of interference with intellectual property and the open market.

The Government was unable to explain last week why the legislation was being published and introduced before being approved at EU level.

Tobacco companies are also expected to sue the Government, claiming it breaches EU law.

Dr Reilly got the go-ahead for the drafting of legislation to force tobacco companies to introduce plain cigarette packaging, to help reduce the level of smoking, a year ago.

Legislation

At the time, the Health Minister said he hoped to have plain packaging legislation for cigarette packets enacted by this year.

But the minister's legislation also says it won't come into full effect until May 2017.

Assuming the legislation is passed, plain cigarette packaging will begin to appear from May 2016 onwards, but retailers and manufacturers won't have to comply with the new measures until May 2017.

The Department of Health said the plain packaging legislation has to work in tandem with the European Tobacco Directive 2014.

"Standardised packs will start appearing in shops from May 2016. From May 2017 it will be prohibited to sell a non-standardised pack," a spokesman said.

Irish Independent

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