Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland, killing approximately 5,500 people annually and exacerbating health inequalities. Half of all smokers are killed as a direct result of their smoking habit and half of them die prematurely. On average, smokers lose 10 healthy quality years of life.
In an attempt to lower the death rate from smoking and protect the health of the nation the government has introduced laws to control the sale of tobacco products - cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco etc and their use in the workplace.
In conjunction with the National Tobacco Control Office, the Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) of the HSE enforce most of the tobacco control legislation in Ireland. These laws include the restriction of advertising and marketing of tobacco products, restrictions on the point of sale and the prohibition of the smoking of tobacco products in certain places.
WORKPLACE SMOKING BAN
Most people are familiar with the workplace smoking ban which relates to all enclosed / indoor workplaces including restaurants and licensed premises with limited exceptions such as prisons, nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, hotel bedrooms and private dwellings. A ‘No Smoking’ sign must be displayed clearly in the workplace and the name of the proprietor and the name of person to whom complaints can be made, must also be included.
A high level of compliance from the date of its introduction has been a feature of this piece of tobacco legislation. Exemptions for smoking shelters in pubs and other hospitality venues, however, pose ongoing challenges for the Environmental Health Service in determining compliance within these premises.
It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18 years, even if they are for someone else. Both the seller and the owner or manager of the shop can be prosecuted for selling to someone under 18 years of age.
Environmental Health Officers carry out checks, known as test purchases, to make sure retail outlets such as shops and pubs are not selling tobacco products to children.
POINT OF SALE RESTRICTIONS
The advertising and marketing of tobacco is strictly regulated as is sponsorship by tobacco companies. The National Tobacco Control Office in association with EHOs closely monitor the Tobacco industry’s compliance with legal requirements in this regard.
Tobacco legislation requires that cigarettes should be sold in packs containing no less than 20 cigarettes. It is an offence also to sell confectionaries (sweets, chocolate etc.) aimed at the children’s market, that have been manufactured in such a way as to resemble a tobacco product.
Cigarettes sold in Ireland including those imported from abroad must have the health warnings and information on nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide levels in both the Irish and English languages. Graphic health warnings will be required on the back of the pack from 1 February, 2013.
New legal requirements in retail premises since 1 July 2009 include;
- No advertising or display of tobacco products is permitted in a retail premises that sells tobacco products;
- Retailers must ensure that their tobacco products are stored out of view, within a closed container or dispenser only accessible by the retailer and retail staff;
- The retailer may use a pictorial list (in accordance with Regulations) to inform a member of the public aged 18 years and older who intends to purchase a tobacco product as to the products that are available;
- Retailers must display a sign at their premises informing the public that tobacco products may be sold at those premises to those over 18 years of age;
- Self-service vending machines are prohibited except in licensed premises and registered clubs and must be operated in accordance with Regulations;
- All retailers of tobacco products must register with the HSE. Applications are currently processed by the National Tobacco Control Office. A fee of €50 must accompany each application. Details on registration are available at www.tobaccoregister.ie
These requirements do not apply to wholesale premises where advertising is directed solely at persons who carry on, in whole or in part, the business of selling or distributing tobacco products.
Furthermore, the law is different in relation to displays of tobacco products at airport duty free shops and specialist tobacco shops are exempted from the closed container provision. This latter exemption is granted following a successful application in writing to the Minister for Health and Children.
Self Service Vending Machines
Specific regulations relate to self service vending machines which are only permitted in registered clubs or licensed premises;
(a) They must be located adjacent or in close proximity to that part of the licensed premises or the premises of the registered club which is generally attended by a member of staff,
(b) within the line of sight of a member of staff at all times, and
(c) activated by means of a disc or card obtained from a member of staff or by a device controlled by such staff.
All of the above legal requirements are routinely checked and enforced by EHOs.
If you have a complaint about people smoking in a work-place, underage sales of cigarettes or any breach of tobacco legislation, first bring the matter to the attention of the person in charge. If your complaint is not dealt with satisfactorily contact your local Environmental Health Service or lo-call the National Tobacco Control Office on 1890 333100.
All complaints are dealt with in the strictest confidence.
The Environmental Health Service has produced two leaflets on Tobacco Control, one for the general public and one for Tobacco Retailers. To read or download these leaflets please click on the links below:
For further information on Tobacco Control log on to http://www.hse.ie/eng/about/Who/TobaccoControl/, www.ntco.ie or www.ash.ie
A wide range of supports is available to help people to quit smoking:
- Contact a smoking cessation officer through your local Health Promotion Department
- Call the National Smokers’ QUITline 1850 201 203
- Visit www.QUIT.ie
- Join www.facebook.com/HSEquit
- Talk to your GP, Pharmacist, Dentist or any healthcare professional