Wednesday 23 October 2013


I've written before about Ireland's high smoking rate, its massive smuggling problem and its reputation as tobacco control's jewel in the crown (the former apparently being no disqualification for the latter). Tonight I'll be making that argument in Dublin at an IEA debate. As a taster, I've written an article for the Irish Independent...

According to children's charity Barnado's, "children start smoking in Ireland at a younger age than any other country in Europe". After years of bans and price hikes, this should be seen as a clear admission of failure.

Irish tobacco control has overwhelmingly and demonstrably failed – there has been no significant reduction in the number of smokers, and cessation rates are 10 times worse than the OECD average.

Now, rather than acknowledging failure and trying a new approach, the Government is doubling down on the failed neo-prohibitionist approach. Health Minister James Reilly has said he wants to make Ireland tobacco-free by 2025, and has announced plans to introduce plain packaging for tobacco products.

Ireland's crusade against the tobacco giants has seen them lose focus on what really matters – effective harm reduction and lowering smoking rates.

If the objectives of tobacco control were to demonise and irritate smokers and 'wage war' on the tobacco industry, then Ireland could certainly claim some small victory. But when it comes to stopping people smoking, Ireland's tobacco control policies couldn't be any less successful if they were set by the tobacco industry itself.

Read the rest here.

I arrived in Dublin last night and have had several interesting conversations with taxi drivers about the smoking issue. The first driver was a smoker, as was his wife. Between them they spend €700 a month on cigarettes. They spend less when a friend brings them cigarettes in from abroad, which is often. When I mentioned that the smoking rate hadn't fallen as much as might have been expected, he immediately pointed the finger at the black market. Everybody here is acutely aware that Ireland has a big smuggling and counterfeiting problem, largely run by the IRA.

The second driver didn't smoke, but he drank. He always goes over the border to buy his alcohol, saving about €7 on each bottle of whisky.

The third driver hated smoking but he described the display ban and plain packaging as "idiocy - idiocy beyond belief" (a phrase I might borrow). The smoking ban had damaged pubs, he said, and he was surprised that anyone ever obeyed it in the first place.

1 comment:

Junican said...

I understand that you had some fun during the debate. We look forward to your report.