Tobacco Industry makes false claims ahead of Dail Committee debate

Health and Children’s charities reject Big Tobacco’s legal ultimatum and welcome further step towards plain packaging on shelves

17 February 2015 – A coalition of health and children’s charities has exposed a briefing note that misuses data to make false claims, which the tobacco industry circulated to TDs on Monday, ahead of today’s (Tuesday, February 17th), Dail Committee debate on legislation that will ban branding on cigarette packets.

The coalition said that the existence of the briefing note, as well as a legal ultimatum to the Government, highlights the desperation of the tobacco industry to retain their last great marketing tool. The legislation is expected to pass Committee Stage without opposition because the removal of branding is proven to make smoking less attractive to young people.

Two of the largest tobacco companies in the world are responsible for the latest legal threats and misinformation supplied to Oireachtas Members ahead of today’s debate. On the same day that Japan Tobacco International threatened the Government with litigation, John Player circulated an inaccurate briefing note to TDs. The coalition says that legal threats received by the Cabinet from the tobacco industry are not surprising as this tactic was unsuccessfully used in Australia when the industry tried to block plain packaging legislation there. In Australia, the High Court ruled that the interest of public health trumps branding rights and called the case taken by Big Tobacco ‘delusive’ and ‘unreal’.

John Player, who circulated the briefing note at the same time JTI issued letters threatening legal action against the State, claims that plain packaging is not necessary or proportionate response to Ireland’s smoking problem. However, the coalition says that when protecting children’s health, such measures are absolutely justified and necessary. The briefing note from John Player also claims that the State is liable to compensate tobacco companies for taking away their branding. This is false. There is no requirement in the Irish Constitution for the State to pay compensation when restricting property rights in accordance with the common good/social justice.

The tobacco industry will do anything to block, amend and delay plain packaging and their tactics are becoming increasingly desperate.

The coalition of health and children’s charities, including the ISPCC, Barnardos, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Asthma Society of Ireland, the Irish Thoracic Society, COPD Ireland, ASH Ireland, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation, have come together to tell politicians that plain packaging works.

“Since their introduction in Australia in 2012, the doomsday predictions of the tobacco industry have all failed to materialise,” says Kathleen O’Meara, Head of Advocacy & Communications at the Irish Cancer Society. “The latest figures from the Australian Government show that the smoking rate there is at a historic low of 12.8%. Here in Ireland it’s just over 20%.”

“While the Australian Government were introducing plain packaging legislation, the Tobacco Industry used every legal mechanism possible combined with persistent advocacy to block the legislation,” says Dr Ross Morgan, Chairperson of ASH Ireland. “Thankfully the Australian Government showed leadership and courage and now this health initiative is proving to be positive in every respect in Australia.”

“The tobacco industry has a long history of protecting their profits using misleading information to distract from the simple fact that their product kills,” says Sharon Cosgrove, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland. “We know that standardised tobacco packaging will cut the number of smokers in Ireland and we must not be bullied by tobacco industry scare tactics.”

"Marketing has been used by the tobacco industry to the detriment of countless Irish lives throughout the 20th and into the 21st century,” says Professor Anthony O’Regan, Consultant Respiratory Physician and President, the Irish Thoracic Society. “We now have an opportunity to remove the last vestige of marketing power available to the tobacco industry and this will have a major impact on tobacco related illness in future generations of Irish children.”

“In order to maintain current smoking levels, the tobacco industry has to attract 50 new smokers a day to replace those who have either died or quit,” says Caroline O’Sullivan, Interim CEO of the ISPCC. “Given that 78% of smokers start smoking before they’re 18, most of these new recruits are children. The ISPCC believe that children have a right to be protected from the marketing of a highly addictive and seriously harmful product. Plain packaging is one way to achieve this.”

2015 marks ten years to the goal of a Tobacco Free Ireland.  The tobacco industry will continue to misinform and threaten. The coalition of health and children’s charities welcome this latest step forward and want plain packaging on the shelves as soon as possible. 




17th February 2015