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Last weekend the Irish Cancer Society welcomed the beginning of the ‘wash-out’ period; the gradual introduction of standardised tobacco packaging, which will occur over the next year.

Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society said: “We’re delighted that plain packs will start to hit the shelves in the coming months, and today marks the end of a hard fought battle to remove the tobacco industry’s last great marketing tool – its packaging.

“Plain packaging will make smoking less attractive, especially to young people.  The tobacco industry has spent decades strategically targeting, manipulating and exploiting children, and has thrown the kitchen sink at stopping plain packaging, but thankfully the public interest has prevailed”.

Any new tobacco produced for sale in Ireland must now come in plain packaging accompanied by graphic health warnings, with no other distinguishing features apart from brand names in plain text.

All tobacco manufactured for sale in Ireland will be required to appear in plain packaging, the wash-out period will allow retailers to sell their old stock until 30 September 2018.

Mr. Buggy continued: “Great credit and praise must go to all the legislators and public servants who made this possible.  We’re very thankful for the efforts of successive Ministers Leo Varadkar, Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy and Simon Harris, in seeing the Standardised Packaging Act 2015 commenced.

He also paid tribute to the “Trojan” efforts of both Minister James Reilly and the Department of Health’s Tobacco and Alcohol Control Unit in ensuring the relevant legislation became a reality.

An alliance of charities, including the ISPCC, Barnardos, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Asthma Society of Ireland, the Irish Thoracic Society, COPD Ireland, ASH Ireland, the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation, worked together to make politicians aware of how how plain packaging can protect young people.

Mr. Buggy said: “Ireland can be very proud of its record on tobacco control since the beginning of this century.  We’re now viewed as a world leader in the area thanks to actions such as the workplace smoking ban in 2004, the ban on point of sale advertising in 2009, the introduction of graphic warnings on pack in 2013, and plain packaging today”

Mr. Buggy highlighted the strides that have been made in reducing the smoking rate among children in Ireland aged 10-17 years old; decreasing from 21 per cent (1998) to 8 per cent (2014).

It is hoped that Ireland will follow the trend in Australia after the introduction of plain packaging, where smoking rates among 12 –17 year olds fell from 7 per cent to 5 per cent.

Mr. Buggy stated: “It’s clear that bravery is required from our politicians to help see off the fierce lobbying interests of a powerful industry such as ‘big tobacco’, which has sought to bully and harass sovereign nations from Africa to Australasia to Europe to South America”.

He concluded by saying that Ireland can take great pride in its role as an innovator in tobacco control and must continue to stand up for legislation that protects public health from vested interests, who can be placed directly responsible for rapidly rising cancer mortality rates.