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Ireland, UK Join Australia in Requiring Plain Packaging for Tobacco Products

March 17, 2015


Ireland and the United Kingdom have become the second and third countries, after Australia, to require that cigarettes and other tobacco products be sold in plain packaging, free of free of colorful logos and other branding that encourage tobacco use.

Ireland’s president signed that country's law last week. Britain's Parliament gave final approval to its legislation on Monday. These laws, which take effect in May 2016, will require that cigarettes be sold in plain, standardized packaging with large, graphic health warnings.

Both countries have acted despite threats of national and international lawsuits by tobacco companies. In Ireland’s case, the country has been threatened with lawsuits by Philip Morris International, Japan Tobacco and Imperial Tobacco. Philip Morris’ threats were recently mocked by comedian John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Australia in December 2012 became the first country to require plain tobacco packaging. Australia last year reported that the smoking rate dropped by more than 15 percent between 2010 and 2013, a faster decline than recent years. Australia, too, faced lawsuits from tobacco companies. The companies lost in Australian courts, but are still challenging the plain packaging law as a violation of international trade and investment agreement, which has become the tobacco industry’s latest tactic in fighting measures to reduce tobacco use.

In the face of this industry bullying, Ireland and the United Kingdom refused to back down.

'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. We have a duty to prevent our children from being lured into a killer addiction,' said James Reilly, Ireland's Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

The United Kingdom's Health Minister Jane Ellison predicted 'the plan would bring the country one step closer to our first smoke-free generation.'

Both countries have been leaders in the global fight against tobacco. Ireland in 2004 became the first smoke-free country when it implemented a law making all workplaces and public places smoke-free. The UK followed in 2007.

We applaud the Irish and British governments for standing up to the tobacco industry and taking action to protect children and save lives. They have set powerful examples for the world.