I have three questions for our esteemed Minister, James Reilly.
The first is to ask how this plain packs lark is supposed to work.
For some time now there hasn't been a single advertisement for cigarettes anywhere. They are banned from print, television, sports sponsorship and every other conceivable public spot. I can guarantee that you can walk the length of Ireland and never see a single image of a cigarette apart from those ubiquitous no smoking signs [which in themselves ensure that cigarettes are constantly pushed into the consciousness?].
Furthermore if you go into any tobacconist or other shop you will not see a pack of cigarettes anywhere as they are all hidden behind panels. In other words, the only place you will ever see a cigarette packet in this country is in the hands of a smoker as he or she briefly takes it out of a pocket. So how precisely are plain packs supposed to make cigarettes less enticing for kids when they can't see them anyway? How can changing the appearance of something that is invisible supposed to achieve anything? Forget all those stupid "experiments" that proved nothing and just look at the simple logic.
The second question regards the assertion that this is "an important step in protecting our children".
We have seen some of the most Draconian laws in Europe implemented here in Ireland in the last decade or so. Presumably they were all "important steps" so why have they had no effect on smoking rates? Why is this the next major step and why is it superior to any of the previous steps? What can it possibly do when every other measure has failed? It comes across as a desperate grasping at straws in a rearguard battle that cannot be won by force. All this is doing is making cigarettes even more enticing for rebellious youth; a fact which appears to be born out by statistics from Australia.
The third question is to ask who is going to ay for all of this.
The tobacco companies have stated categorically that they will take Ireland to court. It is not a threat; it is a fact. One would assume that the companies involved have done their homework? They have the resources and access to the best legal teams in the world, so a threat of litigation is not an idle one. If it does go to court, it is unlikely to go in Ireland's favour, which will cost the Irish taxpayer millions in court costs and if the legislation goes ahead, millions more in compensation. Who is going to pay for this? The ordinary tax payer, smoker and non-smoker, of course. And if the legislation goes through and the smuggling rates go through the roof then there will be further massive losses to the exchequer. Again, the tax payer will have to make up the loss in revenue. From now on, just about any tax increase will in effect be a "plain packs tax" on every worker in the country.
This plain packs lark has gone too far. It is nothing more than a delusional fantasy by a handful of people who are driven by an obsessional and irrational hatred.