Turning to the legislation, these provisions will have far-reaching implications for retailers and in their impact on jobs, cigarette smuggling and the infringement of intellectual property rights. We are being asked to support the Bill in the absence of information regarding the regulatory impact assessment that was conducted last February.
In effect, Deputies do not know what the cost benefit and the impact of this Bill will be or if the tobacco companies sought compensation in their submissions. This information should be made available to Deputies so they know for what they are voting. Regardless of one's personal attitude to cigarettes and tobacco products, the Minister will agree that they are serious issues for all Members of the Oireachtas.Of course they are, so it is fishy - to say the least - that the Irish government is hiding this evidence, as originally highlighted at the end of June.
Tobacco company John Player has called on the government to reveal how much plain packaging for cigarettes will cost the state.
John Player has criticised that a Regulatory Impact Analysis carried out this year has not yet been published.
“The Minister is expecting TDs to debate the Bill on the blind without any idea of what it might ultimately cost the State,” the company noted.You would have thought, wouldn't you, that this is absolutely vital information, but it is being squirrelled away somewhere out of sight. In a modern age where transparency is apparently valued by, ahem, scrupulous states all across the globe, this kind of hidden information is surely unprecedented, right?
Well, no actually. Because, you see, as the Times reported in January last year, exactly the same thing happened in the UK, and - would you Adam and Eve it - in relation to exactly the same policy!
The impact assessment was given an “amber” rating by an independent committee last year, meaning that it needed more work. The Regulatory Policy Committee, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, found that the assessment was fit for purpose but requested that it “provide more analysis to support the claim that the proposal will have an overall neutral effect on business”.
In a separate report last March, the committee also raised specific concerns about the flaws in the department’s assessments on proposed tobacco regulations. It said that they “tended to provide a full analysis of benefits but failed to estimate the full economic costs to producers and retailers”.What a stunning coincidence, huh? On both sides of the Irish Sea, it's evident that governments (or their civil service) simply don't want to mention the bad stuff in relation to plain packaging.
Why? Wasn't the evidence in favour rigged enough to see off the piffling effect on businesses that the tobacco control industry has consistently claimed?
Obviously not. For the simple reason that the so-called evidence for plain packaging is so incredibly weak that an honest admission of the effect on business would likely torpedo the whole thing ... so it's probably best to just hide the costs altogether until everyone forgets about them, eh?
This is why the UK government has desperately shied away from properly analysing the true impact of such a silly idea - remember that the Chantler review was specifically instructed to avoid such concerns - and why the Dáil seem to be following the same steps as Westminster to talk up benefits which no-one has been able to yet identify in Australia, while simultaneously ignoring the real, guaranteed problems plain packaging will cause.
Looks like I was correct to say in February that Ireland's plain packaging campaign appears to be following the same corrupt path as ours. Step by identically dishonest step.