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Irish to join Australia in keeping it plain

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Ireland is set to join Australia in forcing tobacco companies to sell their products in plain packages.

The Irish Cabinet has approved a scheme presented by Health Minister James Reilly to ban lettering, logos, trademarks and designs on cigarette boxes and cartons and for all tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging.

The move came virtually a year after Australia became the first country in the world to enforce tobacco plain packaging laws after successfully defending a legal challenge mounted by several major international manufacturers.

The Irish Times reported that Dr Reilly has been a strong proponent of tobacco plain packaging as an important tool in combating the prevalence of smoking in his country. Ireland has one of the highest per capita adult smoking rates in Europe, with almost 30 per cent regularly lighting up.

The move to introduce plain packaging has come amid claims a succession of tobacco excise hikes have failed to bring about a significant reduction in tobacco use, with smokers turning to the black market to feed their habit.

The Irish Times cited a report commissioned by tobacco giant Philip Morris and prepared by consultancy KPMG which estimated around one billion cigarettes were being smuggled into the country each year, costing the Irish Government more than $700 million in foregone revenue.

The major tobacco companies have made similar warnings in Australia that the plain packaging laws and excise increases will drive an upsurge in trade in illegal tobacco.

But the previous Labor Government dismissed such claims, and the Abbott Government has committed to a further 12.5 per cent in the tobacco tax excise outlined by Labor before it lost office.

Health Department officials told a Senate Estimates hearing on 20 November that a review of the operation of the plain packaging laws would be undertaken next year.

The officials said officers from the National Measurement Institute had conducted more than 2000 site visits since the laws were introduced in order to monitor and enforce compliance.

Adrian Rollins