Retailers disappointed by Health Committee report on plain packaging

Examples of plain packaging used in Australia
Examples of plain packaging used in Australia

'Legitimate concerns of shop owners discarded' in rush to introduce plain packaging policy, says NFRN



7 April 2014

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Additional recommendations contained within the report include:

  • That the proposed legislation includes an offence for the possession by retailers of non-conforming tobacco products;
  • That the primary sanction upon conviction would be the suspension, and in the case of repeat offences, the loss of the privilege to sell tobacco products;
  • The proposed legislation should provide a wider range of penalties available to include official warnings/cautions and on-the-spot fines;
  • That consideration should be given to the introduction of mandatory opening/trading hours for tobacco products (i.e. not during or after a certain time, for example, between 7am and 9am and not after 6pm);
  • That consideration should be given to prohibiting the sale of cigarettes in licenced premises (for example pubs and clubs);
  • That consideration should be given to regulating the sale of e-cigarettes;
  • That consideration should be given to setting up a Freephone complaints line/email address to encourage compliance (through answering enquiries) and the reporting of breaches of the legislation.

Information messages which set out the ingredients and emissions of tobacco products, similar to those used in Australia, should be required on at least one side of tobacco packaging, according to a new report by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.

Brand and variant names appearing on individual cigarette sticks should also be prohibited in any new legislation on tobacco plain packaging.

The recommendations are among 26 in a report on the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013 which was presented to the Minister for Health James Reilly and published on the website on Thursday, 3 April 2014.

Tobacco Free Ireland measures

The report also states that the recommendations and measures set out in Tobacco Free Ireland should be implemented as soon as possible. This particularly refers to banning smoking in cars where children are present; prohibiting the sale of tobacco products from mobile units/containers (at fairs and markets); and making nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) more widely available, including in retail outlets where tobacco products are sold.

NFRN Ireland said that despite presenting the Joint Oireachtas Committee with a large volume of credible evidence, its report failed to address the fact that growth in illicit trade will follow the introduction of plain packaging.

NFRN Ireland added that the legitimate concerns of shop owners had been discarded in a rush to introduce a policy which has shown no evidence of success since its introduction in Australia 18 months ago.

Body of evidence

The federation pointed to research in Australia conducted by KPMG which has shown that the introduction of plain packaging consumption of illicit tobacco has reached a new high of 13.3% of the market, growing by 12.7% in just 12 months. The KPMG data shows that before plain packaging was introduced, the illicit tobacco trade in Australia had been in decline since 2010.

Further research in Australia by the consultancy London Economics found that data does not show a change in smoking prevalence after plain packaging came into effect.

Meanwhile in Ireland, the latest figures from MS Intelligence’s empty pack survey show 28.7% of cigarettes consumed in Ireland in the last quarter of 2013 have not been taxed here. This figure reaches an astonishing high of 40.4% in Leixlip, Co Kildare.

Tackling illicit sales

Commenting on the report, NFRN Ireland President Peter Steemers said: "Illicit tobacco sales are the biggest threat to NFRN Ireland members. The Grant Thornton report found that in the past year there has been a decline of almost 80% since 2009 in the volume and value of smuggled and illicit tobacco products detected by Revenue and gardaí. The number of convictions for illegal cigarette selling decreased from 76 in 2012 to 45 in 2013."

In its weekly newsletter, the CSNA commented: "We welcome the recommendation that the Committee acknowledges the link between increases in excise duties and the growth of illicit tobacco sales but do not accept that the Department of Health is the appropriate government department to conduct any such assessment, as recommended by the committee."

The announcement of the committee coincided with a statement in the UK parliament that plain packaging will also be introduced in that jurisdiction. 



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