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James Reilly vs tobacco industry: Stop making smoking look attractive to girls

He follows in the footsteps of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey and ex-minister Micheál Martin in the vendetta against the habit.

Warning: The video contains some graphic images

(YouTube: MerrionStreetNews)

IRELAND WAS THE first country to implement a full smoking ban in workplaces in March 2004 but even before then the nation’s leaders tried to lead the way in the fight against smoking-related illnesses.

Earlier this week, Health Minister James Reilly took up the mantle, issuing a warning to tobacco companies that they will soon lose the “last vestige of an advertising billboard that they have” – the cigarette box.

Revealing the disturbing graphic images to appear on the boxes, the Fine Gael TD said the proposed legislation – which an Oireachtas committee is to hold hearings on shortly – is “another important step in the government’s fight against the scourge of tobacco”.

He outlined his aim of “de-normalising smoking” and, in the above video, he says the move is to protect children (girls, in particular) from being tempted by cigarettes.

People are giving up the habit, while others are dying, he explained. The tobacco industry must replace its customers are therefore looking to recruit “our children”.

Holding up a metallic, silver box, Reilly says it is designed to be attractive to young girls and looks more akin to something that would hold perfume, and not cigarettes.

“We have a duty to our children. The tobacco industry are terrified of this move because they know it is going to impact. This is the last vestige of an advertising billboard that they have. I want it gone.”

Reilly is not the first office holder to hold such strong views against the tobacco industry.

Micheál Martin rallied against the lobbyists ahead of the 2004 ban, which was implemented almost seamlessly to the surprise of most across the country. The rule was even adhered to in pubs and nightclubs and has become one positive in the Fianna Fáil politician’s legacy.

imageImage: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

During his time as Taoiseach, Charles Haughey was adamant to change the culture of smoking in 1980s Ireland.

Documents released last year under the 30-year-rule – and highlighted by this website – revealed the extent of the Fianna Fáil leader’s desire to rid the country of the habit.

A 1982 letter to the then-Minister for Health Michael Woods, outlined his strong stance against advertising by cigarette companies.

“I have recently been struck by what seems to me to be an intensified campaign of cigarette advertising which has dominated our daily and Sunday newspapers in recent times,” he wrote, attaching an example of certain ads to illustrate his point.

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He said he did not think the Government health warning, reproduced at the bottom of such colourful and prominent ads, had the impact intended in the 1978 Act.

The Taoiseach asked his Minister to look into the matter and to come up with proposals “for rectifying the situation”.

“Perhaps there is a case for a regulation obliging advertisers to incorporate an appropriate Government health warning within the colour advertisement plate rather than outside it as is the case at present,” he suggested.

  • Read Haughey’s letter, in full, to Michael Woods, here>

A non-smoker, Haughey also answered correspondence with citizens who were disappointed that Cabinet members were seen in public smoking.

Replying to a letter from Australia which criticised the number of Irish smokers, the Taoiseach’s private secretary said that Haughey was a “non-smoker” who campaigns extensively against the habit.

The moves taken by Haughey’s Government could be seen as the catalyst for Ireland becoming the first country in the EU to implement a total ban on all tobacco advertising, a development which occurred in 2009.

Now, all in-store tobacco products must be stored out-of-view of customers and self-serving vending machines are prohibited except in licensed premises and registered.

-All images Paul Hyland/National Archives

For further study, see National Archive Reference No: 2012/90/207

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