Tuesday 23 April 2019

Big tobacco claims new law is being rushed in

John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The Department of Health failed to properly consider the costs, benefits, impacts and "unintended consequences" associated with legislation to introduce plain packaging for tobacco, a report prepared for the Irish arm of tobacco giant JTI claims.

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) owns brands including Silk Cut, Benson & Hedges and Camel.

The tobacco industry has been waging a campaign against plans to force the introduction of plain packaging. A bill has already been debated by the Dail and could be enacted this year.

In a report commissioned by JTI Ireland, EPS Consulting claims that the Department of Health "ignored" numerous Government and EU guidelines in an effort to introduce legislation as quickly as possible.

It claims that a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) on the possible consequences of the legislation was only commissioned four months after the Government had decided to legislate for the introduction of plain tobacco packaging.

EPS Consulting claims the delay in commissioning the RIA was in contravention of the current programme for government, as well as EU and OECD best practice.

Igor Dzaja, the general manager of JTI Ireland, claimed the absence of an RIA meant that the Government's decision to publish a bill on plain packaging and debate it in the Dail and Seanad, happened "in absence of fundamental information".

"When the RIA did appear it was apparent that it had been produced to support a policy decision that had already been taken," claimed Mr Dzaja.

He insisted the RIA "paid little heed" to the "valid concerns" raised by stakeholders during what he said was a brief period of consultation.

"The overall result is that the integrity, completeness and robustness of the policy-making process have been seriously jeopardised," he said.

He described the RIA that was completed as a "box-ticking exercise" by the government "in order to give the impression of some level of regulatory process".

Mr Dzaja called for the Dail debate over plain packaging to be suspended to allow a "credible and compliant" RIA to be commissioned.

Ten EU member states have already raised objections to Ireland's plain packaging plan.

Coincidentally, the Department of Health has just published a notice seeking tenders to undertake an "assessment of the economic costs of smoking in Ireland".

It says that 5,200 deaths every year in Ireland are directly attributable to tobacco use.

"In light of the implementation of recommendations contained in the Government-approved Tobacco Free Ireland (policy), it is timely to commission a more comprehensive economic analysis of the societal cost of smoking," it said.

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