Government under pressure to introduce plain cigarette packaging as new UK rules come into force

Call comes as plain packaging becomes mandatory in UK

Campaigners have called on Ireland to follow the UK’s lead as new British rules designed to cut the number of smokers come into force.

From today, cigarettes in the UK are to be sold in standardised green packaging with explicit images.

Pictures showing the harmful effects of smoking must cover 65% of the front and back of every packet of cigarettes, with extra warnings on the top of the pack, under the directive.

Packs containing 10 cigarettes have also been banned under the ruling because the boxes are too small to contain suitable health warnings.

And now Minister for Health Simon Harris has come under pressure to prioritise legislation on the issue.

Donal Buggy of the Irish Cancer Society said it was disappointed that prolonged government negotiations had delayed a bill to introduce plain packaging.

The legislation had proposed small changes in text and markings on the new plain packaging of tobacco products and was initiated in the last Dáil, but did not make it past second stage.

Mr Buggy said: “We have already missed the opportunity to be the first country in Europe, along with the UK, to introduce plain packaging. Action is needed to make sure that the new government’s commitment to a tobacco-free society by 2025 is not put at risk.”

He told Newstalk Breakfast that Irish Cancer Society wants to see law changes being put in place "as soon as possible".

The call comes as research by the cancer charity shows that 78% of people support the introduction of the standardised packaging of tobacco products.