Following in the footsteps of Canada and other countries that have chosen to federally regulate the appearance of cigarette containers in an effort to curb smoking, Ireland has recently passed a ban on branded cigarette containers, opting instead for packaging that highlights the negative health impacts of smoking.
The decision, which was reached on Tuesday, follows a 2004 ban on workplace smoking, and is intended to bring the nation one step closer to its goal of being a tobacco-free society by 2025.
Bill 2014, the public health bill which has now passed through all stages of Ireland’s parliament, makes standardized packaging for cigarettes mandatory. Specialized packaging, such as lipstick-like containers designed for women smokers, are no longer permitted under this new legislature.
Smoking Is A Global Health Concern
In 2003, the World Health Organization debuted the WHO Framwork Convention on Tobacco Control, the first treaty negotiated by the World Health Organization, aimed at reducing tobacco use globally by encouraging limits on the packaging, sale, and advertising of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Since the treaty took effect in 2005, it has been signed by more than 170 countries, including Ireland.
Efforts in the United States to curb smoking – such as Surgeon General’s warnings, and the landmark Master Settlement Agreement that, since 1998, has placed significant prohibitions on the advertising, marketing, and promotional activities of cigarette manufacturers – have recently resulted in significant drops in the number of smokers in the US, with smoking rates in 2013 being the lowest in over 50 years.
Big Tobacco Fights Back
Tobacco companies aren’t going down without a fight – globally, there is a significant trend of legal and economic intimidation on the part of large tobacco companies, aimed at preventing restrictions on tobacco packaging, promotion, and sales.
In Namibia, for example, the passage of a tobacco control law in 2010 resulted in threats of legal action on the part of tobacco companies, who claimed that the new law “violated the country’s obligations under trade treaties”. Under significant pressure, the country has yet to enforce a single statute of the law since its passage five years ago.
Namibia isn’t alone – in a 2012 speech, WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan brought attention to legal actions against Australia, Norway, and Uruguay – actions “deliberately designed to instill fear” in countries trying to place restrictions on tobacco promotion and sales.
Time will tell if Ireland will be the next country to face pressure from these economic powerhouses to go back on their commitment to preventative public health measures.
- https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/8620117/Australia-bans- cigarette-pack-logos-in-smoking-crackdown.html
- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/03/ireland-passes-plain-packaging-bill-cigarettes- smoking-tobacco
- https://publichealthlawcenter.org/topics/tobacco-control/tobacco-control-litigation/master-settlement- agreement
- https://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/13/health/tobacco-industry-tactics-limit-poorer-nations-smoking- laws.html?_r=0