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Ireland paves the EU way on plain packaging

Emma Barraclough, London

Ireland has become the first country in the EU to introduce a bill that would force tobacco companies to sell their products in plain packaging

The country’s Minister for Health, James Reilly, said yesterday that the government has given the go ahead for the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2014 to be published and presented in the country’s parliament, the Seanad.

“Ireland will be the first country in the European Union to introduce such legislation and the third country worldwide,” he said. “I understand that other EU countries are also considering such legislation.”

The bill, if made law, would remove all forms of branding including trade marks, logo, colours and graphics from packs, except for the brand and variant name which will be presented in a uniform typeface. Ireland’s standardised packaging will have graphic warnings and text selected from library of graphic images and warnings developed by the European Commission.

“The introduction of standardised packaging will remove the final way for tobacco companies to promote their deadly product in Ireland. Cigarette packets will no longer be a mobile advertisement for the tobacco industry,” Reilly added.

His ministry said that the tobacco industry has invested heavily in pack design to communicate specific messages to specific groups and that the draft legislation will take away one of the industry’s means of promoting tobacco as a desirable product.

The WTO last month appointed three panellists to hear complaints from member states about Australia’s plain packaging rules. The panellists will decide whether they think Australia's tobacco laws breach the trade organisation’s rules before the end of the year.

At a session at the INTA Annual Meeting in Hong Kong last month, panellists raised concerns about the threat posed by plain packaging to trade marks, both within the tobacco industry and beyond it. You can read a report here, and a Managing IP blog post here.


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