TWO leading health charities have written to Enda Kenny expressing their shock that he met tobacco manufacturers.
The chief executives of the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation say the meeting by Mr Kenny, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter with the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee should not have happened.
Now they have asked for an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach and the two ministers as soon as possible.
The charities said they were very concerned that the most senior level of Government met an industry on May 7 "whose only objective is to keep people smoking".
"The tobacco industry costs the State €1bn more in healthcare costs than the Exchequer collects in taxes annually.
"It is not a normal industry and should not be allowed a seat at the decision-making table," the charities said.
"In Ireland, the tobacco industry has to attract 50 new smokers a day to replace those who die or quit," they claimed.
"Most of these are children who go on to be lifetime smokers and half of whom will later die from their addiction.
"There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry's interests and public health policy interests," they wrote in their letter to the Taoiseach.
Kathleen O'Meara, head of advocacy and communications at the Irish Cancer Society, said: "The tobacco industry is trying everything it can to derail efforts designed to stop Irish people dying from smoking."