Responding to legal threats from the tobacco industry

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

I call on the Leader to ask the Minister for Health, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice and Equality to consider some radical approaches to dealing with the tobacco industry in light of the disclosure that Japan Tobacco International intends mounting a serious, and I believe ultimately futile, legal challenge. It is worth looking into the context of this to consider what remedies are available to the State. Throughout the entirety of the Northern Irish tragedy there were 3,000 deaths, an average of 100 per year. That is 100 per year too many and 3,000 too many in total, but every year on the island of Ireland approximately 6,000 people die from lung cancer, or 60 times as many people as died violent deaths in the pointless Northern Irish conflict.

In response to that conflict our State was prepared to take quite radical legal measures in defence of our citizens, our gardaí, our prison officers, one of our Senators and others who were murdered. This involved proscribing certain organisations as illegal. If Japan Tobacco International persists in its course of trying to undermine the democratic rights of our Republic to protect its citizens from the effects of its product, would the Minister consider proscribing Japan Tobacco International and invoking the same draconian powers which were used during the Troubles to limit their rights and make it illegal to be a representative member or employee of the organisation in Ireland? This is what we did for other groups who were responsible for far fewer deaths.

Would the Government consider the possibility of having a referendum to make the following amendment to the Constitution: “No provision of this Constitution protects the right to sell tobacco products.”? It is a nice, simple constitutional amendment and we would be the first country in the world to do it. It would not ban tobacco but would mean that our legally elected legislature would be entitled to enact whatever laws it saw fit to protect our citizens from this incredibly evil industry. The tobacco industry would then exist at the pleasure of the representatives of our State and could not hide behind any arcane constitutional arguments. We do not respect a constitutional right to murder or manslaughter so why should we respect a constitutional right to sell cancer-causing addictive substances, especially to youngsters in this country?

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