Sunday 27 May 2018

Reilly's plain cigarette packaging bill goes to Cabinet

Health Minister Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins
Health Minister Dr James Reilly. Photo: Collins
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

HEALTH Minister James Reilly will bring his legislation for plain cigarette packaging to Cabinet today – but his prospects of passing the law remain in severe doubt.

His position as Health Minister is under scrutiny and he is widely expected to be dropped in the forthcoming cabinet reshuffle.

Dr Reilly won't be able to proceed with passing the law until next year at least as the measure has to be referred to the EU.

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.

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

But the legislation, the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014, is only being drafted now.

Dr Reilly will bring the legislation to the Seanad and also introduce it in the Dail, but it will then have to wait for the EU to sign off on it before going any further.

Ireland is the first EU country to introduce such a law, following on from similar moves in Australia and New Zealand.

But countries producing tobacco and countries with large cigarette industries are expected to lobby hard to block the legislation.

The legislation will ban all forms of branding, trademarks and logos on cigarette packs. Companies will only be able to write the name of the brand in a generic format.

The packets will contain large graphic health warnings.

The aim is to make tobacco packets look less attractive and make health warnings more prominent.

But restricting the use of brands is problematic under Irish and European law and international trade treaties, and is open to challenge.

They include issues such as intellectual property rights, national and international trademark law and articles contained in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and even the European Convention on Human Rights.

Cigarette companies are understood to have already begun the legal groundwork to challenge the proposals all the way to the highest court in Europe.

However, they will wait until the Heads of Bill are published by the Government to see if the legislation will offer compensation for loss of trademarks.

Irish Independent

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