71% of Irish public supports tobacco plain packaging law

05 Dec 2013
Plain Packages for Cigarettes

Children and health coalition poll shows strong support for protecting children from Big Tobacco marketing tactics

71% of Irish people support new legislation to remove all branding from cigarette packs, according to a new nationwide poll carried out for a coalition of children’s ad health organisations.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos MRBI for the organisations which include the ISPCC, Barnardos, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Asthma Society of Ireland, the Irish Heart Foundation, Irish Cancer Society, ASH Ireland and the Irish Thoracic Society. The new law is being introduced to protect children’s health by inserting large graphic warnings of the fatal consequences of smoking on cigarette packs and making it illegal for tobacco companies to use colour, text and packet size to market cigarettes.

The study shows that whilst the plain packs have the backing of 74% of non-smokers, a majority of smokers are also in favour, with 58% supporting the Government legislation which is due to come into force next year. The highest regional support for the plan was in Munster and Rest of Leinster with 74%, with the lowest in Dublin at 66%. Men at 73% were also more supportive of the legislation than women at 69%.

“This poll shows the Irish people are strongly behind the Government commitment to protect the health of children by introducing the plain packs that our previous research proves will discourage children from smoking,” said Irish Heart Foundation head of advocacy, Chris Macey.

“It also demonstrates that they have seen through the deceitful campaign being orchestrated by Big Tobacco which is petrified of any measures that will discourage the 50 mainly young people they need every day to replace the smokers who die or manage to quit.”

The survey was published as Minister for Health Dr James Reilly introduced the plain packaging Bill at the Oireachtas Health Committee today (Thurs) prior to public hearings which will be held by the Committee in the New Year.

It also revealed that after people in the over-65 age bracket, 15-24 year-olds are most supportive of the legislation. Respondents said the main benefits of plain packaging will be to discourage new smokers from taking up the habit and in protecting the health of young people.”

“The high level of support among young people for the legislation is extremely significant as its primary purpose is to discourage young people from starting to smoke,” said Irish Cancer Society head of advocacy, Kathleen O’Meara.

“Our coalition of children’s and health groups has already published focus group research by Ignite showing the massive impact of current cigarette branding on teenagers who take up smoking and the strong deterrent that plain packaging will have on them. The strong support among young people provides further evidence that they want this legislation and that it will be effective.”

Teenagers who took part in the previous focus group research said that cigarettes currently on sale in Ireland, communicate ‘fun’, ‘style’ and make the smoker ‘look and feel better’ about themselves. The findings showed that although finances and price prevent teenagers from purchasing premium brands of cigarettes, appealing packaging has the power to generate buzz, provide the incentive to purchase and can communicate perceived benefits of smoking one brand over another.

When shown the new standardised packaging proposed by Government, these were rejected by the teenagers who all said they would not smoke when the new packs are introduced because they are at odds with the image they want to portray. Asked who would smoke these cigarettes, one teen said: “I’d say an old person who smokes loads; they are too far gone and wouldn’t care if they are seen with the packs anyway”.

Notes to Editors

  • The survey released today was conducted as part of Ipsos MRBI Omnipoll telephone omnibus of nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 15+.
  • The previous Ignite focus group research released in September examined how teens respond to branded tobacco packaging and explore the potential impact of standardised packaging on their decision to smoke.  In total, four focus groups were conducted with teens age fifteen to sixteen years of age (n=24).  
  • The Government has approved the General Scheme of the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013. Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly TD will today appear at a hearing of the Oireachtas Health Committee to provide an introduction to the legislation.

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