Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson renewed her call on Assembly Health Minister, Edwin Poots to bring the North into line with Britain and the South of Ireland by urgently introducing the necessary enabling legislation introducing plain package for Tobacco Products or to spell out where the hold-up is.
Martina Anderson commented:
“As Shadow Rapporteur working on putting the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) through the legislative process in Europe, I have been driving the fight against Big Tobacco interests and indeed, it has been one of my key priorities since taking office, knowing, as we do the devastating impact tobacco use has on the wellbeing of citizens. I therefore welcome the call from Gerry McElwee, head of cancer prevention for the Cancer Focus NI charity, for Minister Poots to bring forward enabling legislation as a matter of urgency.
“The British government has announced its intention to introduce legislation bringing in plain packaging for tobacco products before the next Westminster election. This is a major reversal for the tobacco industry lobbying machine. With the Health Minister in Dublin already well advanced in his preparations to legislate on this issue it is imperative that Assembly Health Minister, Edwin Poots bring forward similar legislation so that there will be uniform regulations throughout these islands.
“I first called on the Assembly Minister to introduce this legislation back in November last year and I am disappointed in his lack of action in the interim. Since Sinn Féin is clear in its support for this legislation the question needs to be asked - where is the hold-up coming from?
“The packet is one of the last marketing devices in Europe left for the tobacco industry to exploit the opportunity to attract new young smokers to its products. With 94% of smokers taking up the deadly habit before the age of 25, it is essential that governments across the world ensure that this ‘silent sales aide’ is restricted as much as possible.
“2300 people - mothers, fathers, grandparents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces - will die in the next twelve months in the North of Ireland and over 7000 across the island because of smoking related illnesses. There is not just a demand on legislators to do everything possible to eradicate this threat to public health, it is a responsibility.
“All EU members are signatories to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control which obliges governments to ensure that public health policies are protected from undue influence from tobacco industry lobbying. Edwin Poots must act without delay to ensure the North is compliant with both the spirit and letter of this obligation. The Minister needs to recognise that Tobacco is the only product that if used as advertised will kill 50% of users. Any other product resulting in this death rate would be banned without hesitation”.