ASH Ireland welcomes Axa decision to ditch tobacco

 

ASH Ireland welcomes the decision by Axa Insurance to dispose of its tobacco industry shares and cease investing in the industry.  This is an important signal for all those involved in the fight against tobacco and also for those who continue to manufacture and market a product that is known to contribute to the death of 1 in 2 of its users.

Interestingly AXA has affirmed in its statement, released today, something that the health sector have been emphasising for decades – “The human cost of tobacco is tragic; its economic cost is huge”

Tragically close to 6000 Irish people lose their lives each year due to the harmful effects of smoking and further thousands are continually endeavoring to cope with tobacco related disease.

It is imperative that our Government continues its efforts to reduce smoking prevalence and in this should have the support of all sectors of society. The drive for profit should never be allowed to take priority over the health of our citizens.

*Media queries to: Wally Young, Young Communications 087-2471520

ASH Ireland -   0818 305055

International Callers:  00 353 818 305055

ASH Ireland warns against undermining the Workplace Smoking Legislation

ASH Ireland would be deeply concerned that any consideration might be given to undermining the Workplace Smoking Legislation.
Dr Patrick Doorley, Chairman of ASH Ireland said this morning, “This is one of the most progressive and successful pieces of health legislation introduced in recent years, and has been replicated by countries all around the world. This pro health legislation has shown the Irish Government as international leaders in the fight against tobacco and nicotine addiction.”Since the introduction of the workplace-smoking ban, prevalence in Ireland has been reduced by close to 10% to 19.5%. This is a remarkable development, which will save lives and massively reduced smoking related illness.  It will also contribute to the reduction of the close to €1bn spend on tobacco related illness annually.This legislation was introduced to protect workers from environmental tobacco smoke, an established carcinogen.

The public support for this legislation has always been over 90% and interestingly over 70% of smokers support this legislation.

The introduction of a ban on smoking in our pubs and restaurants has for the first time in decades allowed people with respiratory diseases, including asthma to socialise in public areas – surely we would never contemplate reversing this.

ASH Ireland would expect that the present Government will now proceed with the introduction of standardized packaging and look for every possible measure to save lives and reduce illness from tobacco related disease.

For media enquiries contact ASH Ireland at 0818 305055. International Callers:  00 353 818 305055

Or contact: Wally Young, Young Communications 087-2471520

 

Workplace Smoking Legislation – 10 years on, Dr Ross Morgan

All of us can look back with pride on the decision of the Irish government to introduce workplace smoking legislation on 29th March 2004 – 10 years ago. This health initiative has been replicated by countries all around the world, and the Irish government, that took such a brave and revolutionary decision have been rightly complimented for this lifesaving health initiative.

When we look back some 10 years we have to ask how an Irish government could have developed consensus around this initiative, tackled major opponents and simply put the health of the nation ahead of the wishes of well-established profit based vested interests. It all seems so obvious now, but at the time and in its time, this was ground-breaking.

There were a number of key factors which perhaps contributed to the Irish government’s decision. There was significant exposure of key information regarding the international Tobacco Industry in the 1990’s. This primarily emerged through major litigation against the industry in the United States. The World Health Organisation also decreed that environmental tobacco smoke was a Class A carcinogen and this essentially changed the entire debate. One could say that the individual has a right to smoke and suffer the health consequences, but that no individual should have the right to smoke in areas where other persons could be harmed. Clearly the workplace, which included bars and restaurants in particular, could be clearly defined as areas where environmental tobacco smoke harmed the non-smoker.

The revelations around the practices and activities of the Tobacco Industry through the US litigation also led to a significant reduction in the impact of their global advocacy machine. Governments, especially in the US, Europe and Australia became more questioning and in many ways were left with little option but to address the serious issues which had now been clarified in regard to the harmful effects of smoking and crucially, second-hand smoke.

During the 1990’s some major pro-health and anti-tobacco advocates became more prominent in Ireland, one of those being ASH Ireland. Two of its leading spokespeople at this time, Professor Luke Clancy and Dr Fenton Howell, had a deep interest in the harmful effects of tobacco, and the questionable practices of the Tobacco Industry. Groups such as ASH Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation ensured that the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee, under Deputy Batt O’Keeffe, examined the possibility of a workplace smoking ban in 2001.

In 2002 Dr Shane Allwright from Trinity College researched a range of available evidence on environmental tobacco smoke and produced a report entitled “The health effects of environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace”. This report essentially found that employees must be protected; that ventilation was ineffective; that environmental tobacco smoke causes heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer; and critically that legislation was required to deal with this. In responding to the report Minister Micheál Martin said “There is no moral option open to me other than to take action…. this report changes everything”.

The old arguments which had been put forward by the vested interests who were opposed to a workplace smoking ban were:

• Environmental tobacco is harmless;

• Ventilation works;

• Severe economic consequences will emerge from such a ban;

• This ban represents a nanny state policy.

These arguments were firmly rejected by the Allwright report and the leadership taken at this time by Minister Martin in introducing the legislation was critical.

It is also very clear that Tom Power, a most astute and strategic civil servant in the Department of Health, now deceased, was a key player in the entire process of planning for, and the introduction of the workplace smoking legislation.

From early on it was obvious that Minister Martin and the government would have significant support; emerging from opposition parties, the public service, the unions, and in particular major health bodies within the NGO sector. The introduction of the legislation in March 2004 represented a major success by the pro-health coalition and a major defeat for the Tobacco Industry and its partners. As other countries examined the possibility of introducing workplace smoking bans, they consulted with some of those organisations involved here in Ireland, and essentially adopted the Irish model as a way of implementing this health initiative.

The overall support among the Irish public for the workplace smoking legislation runs continuously, at 90% or greater. Whereas there is no direct scientific correlation, smoking prevalence in Ireland has been reduced from 29% to 21.7% over the past 10 years. In evaluating the drop in prevalence we also have to consider the introduction of the ban on advertising and promotion in retail outlets, and the greater awareness worldwide of the health risks directly linked to smoking and passive smoke.

In more general terms, we now have bars and restaurants that are generally smoke free and more importantly, carcinogen free. We are also aware that people who suffered from respiratory diseases such as asthma found it very difficult to socialise in bars and restaurants prior to the ban. Thankfully for them this is not now the case.

Evidence continues to accumulate for large public health benefits since the ban. Immediate improvements in lung function tests and reductions in symptoms were reported by barmen. Subsequently reductions in death rates, with specific benefits observed in heart attack, stroke, and respiratory disease have been found and these findings replicated in other parts of the world. Importantly, these benefits have persisted with longer follow up and been shown to be proportional to the extent of the smoke-free environment; the more comprehensive and encompassing the legislation the more significant the public health benefit.

At a recent seminar to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the ban Professor Luke Clancy of the TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland advised us that, as a direct result of the ban in Ireland, over 3,700 smoking-related deaths have been prevented in this country – and this is a very important bottom line. In addition, the smoking ban has been shown to reduce the number of small-for-gestational age or pre-term birth rates, demonstrating benefits from early life in a vulnerable population group.

ASH Ireland is firmly of the view that we must continue to introduce legislation and support initiatives which continue to denormalise smoking and protect the health of our citizens. Without doubt all of us in the medical profession have a specific responsibility in this area. ASH Ireland is strongly supportive of Minister Reilly’s plans to introduce a ban on smoking in cars transporting children; an initiative first raised by ASH Ireland, and we are also strong supporters of the proposal to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco. Currently ASH Ireland is involved in encouraging all county councils to introduce smoke-free children’s play areas and we have had a 75% positive response on this initiative.

Over the past 3 years we have been liaising with the third level sector with a view to voluntarily introducing smoke-free campuses and we are very pleased to confirm that several of our third level institutions are evaluating this health initiative.

Recently we have contacted the three main sporting bodies in this country, the FAI, IRFU and the GAA to again ask them to consider voluntarily introducing smoke-free stadia at local, regional and national level. This has the potential to be a vitally important initiative in regard to the de-normalisation of smoking among our young population.

Much has been achieved in this country in fighting the scourge of tobacco and nicotine addiction, but there is much more that can be done in assisting our citizens to quit and discouraging our young people from commencing the habit.

 

Ash Ireland seeks 50c environmental levy on pack of cigarettes in Pre-Budget Submission

ASH Ireland has submitted its Pre-Budget Submission to the Minister for Finance.  This submission makes five different proposals, as follows:

  • A 50 cent environmental levy on each pack of 20 cigarettes sold; to be imposed on the Tobacco Industry, on the “polluter pays” principle.
  • The removal or reduction of VAT on nicotine replacement patches.
  • An increase of 60 cents in the price of a pack of 20 cigarettes. (Also proposed by Irish Heart Foundation and Irish Cancer Society).
  • An increase of €5 million in funding the fight against the tobacco smuggling.

Dr Ross Morgan said today, “We sincerely hope that the Minister for Finance, with the support of his cabinet colleagues, will look favourably at our four point Pre-Budget Submission.  We believe it is particularly important that there is a significant increase on the price of tobacco and we fully support a detailed submission on price increase made by the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation last week.  It is well established that tobacco constitutes the main component of urban waste and we are asking the Minister to place a 50 cent levy on each pack of 20 cigarettes sold to recoup the cost of dealing with this waste, which is also a significant environmental hazard.  We are insisting that the highly profitable Tobacco Industry pick up the cost of this levy.

Dr Morgan went on to say “There is a significant price differential between the cost of nicotine replacement therapy in Ireland when compared to other EU countries.  We are asking the Minister to remove or reduce the VAT on nicotine replacement patches as one way of addressing this price differential.  Nicotine replacement patches are VAT rated at 5% in the UK, whereas in Ireland it is 23%.  We are also asking the Minister to increase the levels of funding for those agencies involved in the fight against tobacco smuggling.  Tobacco smuggling is a serious criminal issue and must be treated as such by the agencies who are directly responsible.  It is vitally important that the Tobacco Industry who have a vested interest in the smuggling issue are not directly involved as advisors, or supporters to the government on the smuggling issue.”

ENDS

For contact: ASH Ireland:  0818-305055

Wally Young, Young Communications:  087-2471520

 

Ash Ireland welcomes positive news from Australia on plain packaging

ASH Ireland welcomes positive news from Australia on the impact of plain packaging of tobacco products.

Australia introduced plain packaging on all packs of cigarettes in 2012.  The report in the BMJ finds that plain packaging “is associated with lower smoking appeal, more support for the policy (of plain packaging) and more urgency to quit among adult smokers”.  The smokers also felt that cigarettes from plain packs were of a lower quality than from packs which were branded.  The survey also found that smokers were more likely to have thought about quitting at least once a day and to rate quitting as a higher priority in their lives when using plain packaging.  The survey was based on a group of 536 smokers of whom 72% were smoking from a plain pack and 27% were smoking from a branded pack.

Dr Ross Morgan, Chairman of ASH Ireland said today, “The positive findings contained in the study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on 22nd July, on the impact on plain packaging on smokers in Australia is to be welcomed. This is an important and timely input to a debate, which takes the vital importance of health measures for society and the protection of profits by the Tobacco Industry into the same arena”.

Dr Morgan went on to say “This is the most effective and valid study available to us on the actual impact of plain packaging on smokers.  It will be of immense assistance in clarifying the on-going efforts of the Tobacco Industry in blocking the introduction of plain packaging in jurisdictions which are now planning to follow the Australian model.   Minister Reilly is to be complimented on his on-going efforts to denormalise smoking and reduce smoking prevalence in this country”.

ENDS

For contact: ASH Ireland:  0818-305055

Wally Young, Young Communications:  087-2471520 

ASH Ireland welcomes the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee’s adoption of the Tobacco Products Directive

ASH Ireland welcomes the decision of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee’s decision to adopt the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).

The main measures adopted were:

The inclusion of Mandatory pictorial warnings covering 75% of front and back of cigarette packs;

A ban on slim cigarettes;

A ban on flavours and restriction on additives in tobacco;

The reinforcing of the anti-smuggling and anti-illicit trade measures throughout the EU.

Dr Ross Morgan said “I want to compliment the Environmental, Public Health and Safety Committee in the European Parliament on taking this important health initiative to the next stage.  This Tobacco Products Directive, if enacted, can potentially be one of the most important health initiatives taken in Europe this decade.  I now expect that the European Parliament will proceed with this initiative in September and that the on-going and sustained efforts by the Tobacco Industry to block and circumvent it will be prevented at every level.  It is also important to note that this Tobacco Products Directive freely allows individual countries to take additional anti-tobacco measures and  Minister James Reilly has already set the tone in this regard with his proposal to introduce plain packaging on all tobacco products on sale in Ireland.”

ENDS

For contact:  Wally Young, Young Communications:  087-2471520

ASH Ireland:  0818-305055