Ireland has announced plans to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products, but a series of parliamentary hurdles and constitutional conundrums mean that the bid is still a long way off.
Irish health minister Dr James Reilly unveiled his plans for Ireland to become the second country in the world to introduce plain pack cigarettes ahead of World No Tobacco Day. He has received approval from the government’s lower house to begin drafting plain packaging legislation.
However, he is still to work through the five stage process of gaining the support of the upper house, or ‘Senaid’.
The plans, which also need to be adopted by the European Parliament, are also wide-open to being challenged on Intellectual Property Grounds.
Unlike the Australian constitution, the Republic of Ireland’s constitution contains an explicit reference to the right to protection of property including intellectual property designed to protect the balance sheets of companies that own high value brands.
Challenging Reilly’s claims that plain packaging would reduce brand appeal amongst young adults, National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN) Ireland president Joe Sweeney said criminals alone would benefit.
“I support the government in its efforts to curtail the use of tobacco and alcohol. In doing this though, it must seek to find a balance between regulating harmful but legal, taxed behaviour and driving consumers into the black market to buy illicit products from criminals and subversives whose activities pose an even greater threat to society,” he said.
“The minister is sticking his head in the sand on policies towards the tobacco black market in Ireland which are putting retailers out of business.At a time when at least one in four cigarettes smoked in Ireland is illegal, his failure to address the growing criminal fuelled trade in tobacco products shows a breath-taking lack of joined-up thinking,” Sweeney added.
Ireland was the first country in the EU to introduce a display ban in shops back in 2009.