SMUGGLING TIMEBOMB

THE Government has been warned that introducing plain packaging for cigarettes could end up making life easier for smugglers.

Northern Ireland MP Ian Paisley Jnr – and son of the outspoken Ian Paisley – also said that if the move was introduced in the Republic it would have a knock-on effect on the economy of the North, particularly for people employed by the big tobacco giants.

"While I applaud the Government's objectives to reduce and prevent youth smoking, I believe there are many negative consequences to this measure," he said in a letter to Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

"If plain packaging is introduced in the Republic of Ireland, there is every potential that this would have significant repercussions for the economy of Northern Ireland."

Asked about his letter to the Minister, Ian Paisley MP last night told the Herald: "I don't in anyway encourage the use of tobacco. I don't smoke and I wouldn't want any of my children to smoke.

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"If any of the proposals were backed up with any proof that it will reduce the number of people smoking I would support them.

"However, the only evidence we can go on is in Australia where plain packaging has been installed, the smoking rate has remained constant and the illicit market has gone through the roof."

He claimed that plain packaging will make it easier to produce counterfeit cigarettes and added that "children are the prime target of the smuggler".

In his letter, Mr Paisley pointed out that over 1,000 people are employed by Japan Tobacco International (JTI) in Ballymena.

He added that JTI's factory is one of the largest manufacturing companies in Northern Ireland, and makes a significant contribution to the local economy.

"On top of the millions of pounds entering the economy through employee salaries, the factory currently provides business for over 200 companies in the region, amounting to over £20m (€24m) of spending in the local economy," Mr Paisley said. "If these businesses were impacted as a result of plain packaging, this could threaten employment."

The MP added: "As part of my own campaign against plain packaging in the UK, I highlighted my concerns that plain packaging would make tobacco smuggling simpler and exacerbate this already critical problem, as criminal organisations would only need to master one pack design."

Health Minister James Reilly replied to Mr Paisley's letter in December saying: "There is a wealth of evidence to support the introduction of standardised packaging."

He said plain packaging will "reduce the attractiveness of the tobacco product, for both adults and children."

The minister added that: "The cumulative effect of Ireland's tobacco control legislation to date has been a decrease in the number of people smoking."

FDILLON@HERALD.IE


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