Lifestyle Health

Sunday 17 February 2019

Total ban on tobacco ads soon as firms back down

Brian McDonald

THE way was cleared yesterday for the Government to ban advertising of cigarettes and tobacco at the "point of sale".

PJ Carroll and Company Ltd, John Player and Sons Ltd, Gallaher (Dublin) Ltd and others abandoned their legal challenge against the Public Health (Tobacco) Acts, 2002 and 2004.

And the tobacco companies are now facing a multi-million euro legal bill after they conceded costs in the legal challenge to new laws restricting the advertisement and promotion of cigarettes.

The u-turn by the tobacco companies after three years means the legislation relating to restrictions on the advertisement and promotion of cigarettes and other tobacco products can go ahead.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday granted an application by 16 tobacco companies and others to discontinue their action, which had been due to open in the Commercial Court next Tuesday and to run for at least six weeks.

Lawyers for Health Minister Mary Harney and the State said they had only learned of the application earlier yesterday.

The challenge was to parts of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002, as amended by the proposed new restrictions, and was initiated in April 2004 by some 16 tobacco companies; others involved in supplying cigarettes to vending machines; and a newsagent representing a number of retail outlets in the State.

It was claimed the disputed provisions of the 2002 Act were unconstitutional, in breach of EU law and the European Convention on Human Rights, and would involve significant financial losses for them if they came into effect.

Junior Health Minister Sean Power said he would now begin a ban on all point-of-sale advertising for tobacco.

Effective

"At present, the only tobacco advertising and promotion permitted is in-store advertising and marketing paraphernalia and gantries which lead to prominent displays of tobacco products at points of sale. There is significant evidence that such displays are effective in promoting smoking, particularly among young people," he said.

Michael Boland, chairman of the Office of Tobacco Control, said the High Court decision was the most significant development since the introduction of the workplace smoking ban, in creating a tobacco-free society.

"Smoking kills over 6,000 people in Ireland every year from preventable diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease.

The 2002 and 2004 Acts were designed to protect the health of Irish people, particularly children," Dr Boland added.

Prof Luke Clancy, chairman of ASH Ireland, said tobacco was a killer product and any development which could potentially reduce its impact was welcomed.

"We can now proceed with legislation, which ensures that our children are not bombarded with tobacco adverts and signage every time they enter a shop or retail outlet.

"The withdrawal of this action by the tobacco industry was long overdue as the blocking of this health legislation was not in the best interests of anyone."

Ann O'Loughlin Breda Heffernan and Eilish O'Regan

Ban may soon follow smokers to their homes

IRISH smokers may soon have nowhere to hide.

Hot on the heels of the success of the ban on smoking in the workplace, research scientists are now urging the Government to examine the possibility of banning smoking at home. The first target of an extended ban is likely to be apartment blocks and other "multi-occupied buildings".

The recommendation is contained in a study carried out by researchers attached to the Department of Public Health and Health Promotion Services at the HSE West. Among the authors is Principal Environmental Health Officer, Maurice Mulcahy, an international expert whose ground-breaking research on smoking in the workplace was a key factor in the introduction of the workplace ban in March 2004.

While the ban has had a significant impact in reducing exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace, it has been unclear up to now what effect it has had on smoking in the home.

The HSE West study set out to discover the impact in the home and attitudes to smoking generally.

Carried out both two years before and 21 months after the introduction of the workplace ban, it revealed that half of the households (50pc) surveyed allow smoking in the home. This was down from the 58pc of households which allowed smoking before the workplace ban. The number of those allowing smoking in selected areas of the home dropped from 29pc to 25pc.

Significantly more households from the lower socio-economic groups still allow smoking in the home.

The main reason given by respondents - spread throughout Galway, Mayo and Roscommon - for allowing others to smoke in their homes was a lack of assertiveness.

Said the authors: "The study has shown the success of Ireland's workplace ban in terms of having an impact on the home, an area not covered in the legislation. However, smoking in the home remains a significant public health issue with half the households in the study allowing smoking in the home after the ban".

The authors say that the merits of introducing further legislation covering smoking in the home warrant further investigation.

They call for a comprehensive review of initiatives that encourage 'no smoking' in the home to be undertaken. The authors have also called for greater assertiveness training and media campaigns to support people who do not want others to smoke in their homes.

The authors stress that the dangers of smoke moving from room to room should be highlighted to help reduce the proportion of households allowing smoking in selected areas.

The study involved interviews with 512 respondents in their own homes two years before the introduction of the workplace smoking ban in April 2002.

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