Plan to renew measures on tobacco, alcohol and sugar

The introduction of plain-packaged cigarette boxes, an end to drinks industry sponsorship of sporting events and the resurrection of his sugar tax proposal are part of Minister for Health Dr James Reilly’s plans for tackling pressing concerns such as obesity and chronic illness, he revealed at the launch of a new national health and wellbeing framework in Dublin last week.

Dr James Reilly with the report

By Catherine Reilly.

From the Irish Medical Times

Minister Reilly stated at the publication of ’Healthy Ireland:   A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025′, that he intended to bring a memo to Government shortly on a move towards plain-packaged cigarette boxes as an extra measure to the graphic images already in place.

Speaking to media afterwards, the Minister said he wanted Ireland to follow Australia’s lead in eliminating cigarette-box branding and including larger images relating to the ill effects of smoking.

Holding a cigarette packet from Australia, he said : “It is a plain package so there is no fancy attractiveness around this; it will have stark pictures of people damaged from health issues related to smoking and it will have a small little area at the bottom to mention the brand name.”

He was “convinced” that the tobacco industry targeted children “because in survey after survey, both here and in Europe, over 70 per cent of smokers started smoking under the age of 18”.

Some 5,200 people in Ireland die every year from tobacco related illness, he said, and “the industry has to replace them ”” and to replace them with our children, and to us that is utterly unacceptable”. One-in-two smokers dies from a tobacco-related disease.

Minister Reilly said he would “love it” if each individual cigarette cost ?1, “so people would think long and hard before they inhaled long and hard” ”” and dismissed suggestions that a decrease in cigarette sales would harm Ireland fiscally.

“In Europe, the industry generates ?20 billion annually. It costs our health services ?25 billion and there is another ?8 billion cost from loss of people at work through illness etc, so morally, ethically and economically it is a no brainer.”

Challenged on the fact that his sugar tax proposal hadn’t gained traction, Minister Reilly said change “doesn’t come simple or easy”, but he would persist. “To paraphrase a certain other individual, that sugar tax issue ’hasn’t gone away’,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Minister said he fully backed proposals to end sponsorship of sporting events by the drinks industry but believed in leaving “a reasonable period of time so people can get new sponsors”. He said he hoped to see a ban in place before the end of the decade.

His junior departmental colleague, Minister of State Alex White, had earlier told those gathered for that launch that addressing issues concerning pricing of alcohol and marketing and sponsorship demanded a cross-departmental approach.

Chronic conditions, cancer, alcohol and drugs, smoking, obesity, mental health and sexual health ”” and the rising associated costs to the health service and society ”” were identified as key issues in the Healthy Ireland framework.