Democratic Unionist Party MP Ian Paisley jnr lobbied the Government against its plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes, claiming it would make it easier for tobacco smugglers on both sides of the Border. The letters were sent in March and are the latest in a series of correspondence received by the Government expressing opposition to Minister for Health James Reilly’s proposals.
The Bill on plain packaging is expected to go to Cabinet in the coming weeks, and Government sources said it is being strengthened in the Attorney General’s office in anticipation of challenges in the Supreme Court, the European Court of Justice and at the World Trade Organisation. Others to have lobbied on the issue include United States congressmen and governors, as well as some of the world’s biggest tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris Ltd, the British arm of Philip Morris International, which is responsible for brands such as Marlboro.
Mr Paisley has campaigned against plain packaging in the UK, and initiated an open letter signed by 52 MPs two years ago which said “there is no reliable evidence that plain packaging will have any public health benefit”.
Earlier this year, he also delivered a letter signed by 73 MPs to the British health secretary expressing opposition to plain packaging.
Japan Tobacco International, the maker of Glamour and LD cigarettes, is based in Ballymena in Mr Paisley’s constituency, and he says it employs 1,000 people and “makes a significant contribution to the local economy”.
The letters sent to Irish Ministers and civil servants include his House of Commons and constituency addresses and Mr Paisley warns of the “many negative consequences to plain packaging that need to be taken into consideration” before plain packaging is introduced, even though he “supports the Government’s objectives to reduce and prevent youth smoking”.
Mr Paisley sent the letters to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, as well as Martin Fraser, the secretary general of Department of the Taoiseach and David Cooney, the secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Dr Reilly has said he intends on making the Republic “tobacco free by 2025” and claimed “no amount of lobbying will divert us from our goal”.