“We have a duty to prevent our children from being lured into a killer addiction.”
IRELAND’S ban on branded cigarette packets could pave the way forward for the rest of Europe according to the latest news reports.
All tobacco products sold in the Republic will soon have a standard dark-coloured wrapper depicting large health warnings and images of diseases associated with smoking emblazoned on their packaging.
Brand names will be printed in the same small font across the board to curb any marketing tools used by the various tobacco companies.
Ireland follows in the footsteps of Australia, who in 2012, became the first country to ever enforce cigarette plain packaging laws as the federal government believed it to play a key role in stopping the younger generation from developing the habit.
Their cigarette packaging now consists of drab olive green coverings with not only images of disease but also depictions of children and babies made ill by their parents’ smoking.
By stripping the habit of glamour, they hoped to curb the number of people taking up smoking before the age of twenty six, as U.S studies show this is the deciding age if a non-smoker will ever develop the habit.
A long time in the making: Minister James Reilly speaking two years ago on the need for plain packaging cigarette legislation.
This new legislation has received mostly positive reviews from smokers and non-smokers alike. Lisa Fahey, a 28-year-old mother of two and frequent smoker, feels that this legislation is long overdue and should have been enacted years ago:
“I feel like I was duped, looking back. I was eighteen when I started smoking and it was something at the time that I hadn’t put much thought into. Starting college, it seemed like everyone around me was taking out these shiny cigarette packets and I just bought in,” she says.
Mrs Fahey believes in the power of advertising and how a specific selling point, such as branding, can make a product seem very attractive to many:
“Maybe if they hadn’t seemed so appealing at the time I never would have started. I’d like to think that my kids will have a better chance than I had at a normal, healthy life with the help of these new laws,” she said.
Research available certainly demonstrates that standardised packaging would have a positive impact on health and this can be based off the success it has had in Australia in reducing the number of young smokers.
Mr Reilly further emphasised this by stating almost eighty per cent of smokers start when they are children, so by targeting the younger generation, we are creating a brighter future for all if the number of people smoking can be reduced:
“The interests of public health will be served when children decide never to take up smoking in the first place and if smokers are persuaded to quit,” he said.
Vincent Meehan, a 47-year-old single father of one and non-smoker, agrees that this legislation can only but strip away the glamorous connotations associated with smoking.
Voicing his concerns about the future generations, in particular his only child, Mr Meehan states that the alluring qualities of cigarettes because of their marketing campaigns is not strictly kept to women and young girls either; boys and older men are affected too:
“It’s the image of being cool, being with the in-crowd. I think that plays, and still plays to this day, a huge role in the reasons behind some people developing the habit. Particularly for boys, you want to fit in and be one of the lads. If they’re all doing it, not much will stop you,” he says.
Mr Meehan commends the government for taking action in the hopes that it will reduce the likelihood of younger children being persuaded, through marketing and peer groups, into starting smoking.
The UK could also be soon to follow the actions of Ireland based on 2012 research conducted at the University of Bristol which suggests that certain packaging can make smoking less appealing to teenagers.
This research used eye tracking and measured brain activity to identify which health warnings were more prominent to a number of test subjects from three secondary schools in the UK.
The findings indicate that plain packaging increases the visibility of health warnings and therefore more attention is paid to them as opposed to actual branding, by smokers and non-smokers alike.
It was also highlighted that a number of adolescents who never once smoked paid close attention to the health warnings on both types of packs, regular and stripped down, which possibly reflects their decision not to smoke because of health reasons as opposed to being aware of marketing ploys.
However, not everyone agrees when it comes to introducing this new legislation. According to Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, many jobs will be put on the line and a total of €125 million in annual tax revenue will be at stake:
“Most job losses are not expected in the tobacco sector, but rather in the rest of the economy. The likely tax losses due to plain packaging are particularly worrying since taxation of tobacco products accounts for almost 3% of the Irish government’s total revenues, far above the EU average,” they state.
This will result in commoditisation according to Berger and pricing on the tobacco market will become much more aggressive, triggered by illicit market suppliers who earn high margins.
The impact it may have on the economy is not the only worry however, for some it is also a case of moral judgement. Aoife Kearney, a 20-year-old student at Trinity College Dublin and health activist, believes the legislation itself is deceptive to the public:
“It’s not plain packaging, it’s packaging depicting some of the most horrific images I have ever seen in my life. I don’t smoke but I think if I did I would be feeling absolutely horrible about myself if I had something like that in my bag. It’s a judgement call and I don’t think it’s ethical,” she says.
Mrs Kearney believes in promoting cancer awareness but that the government has taken it too far when it comes to trying to curb the public into not smoking:
“They don’t have stickers depicting liver disease on pints in the pub so why have it on cigarette packets? There’s plenty of campaigns on television and radio as it is, but this is taking it to a disgusting new level. I don’t agree,” she states.
Despite a slight divide in judgement between members of the public and officials also, the plans will go ahead and legal action will be taken care of in the meantime.
Minister James Reilly has told the TheJournal.ie that plain packaging will come into effect by as early as May 2017 and will be available in all shops across Ireland around that time.