Dr Reilly said he lost his brother, a doctor and smoker, to lung cancer and his father, another smoker, suffered a stroke and was prematurely blind for the last 14 years of his life.
Ireland will become the second country in the world, after Australia, to remove branding from tobacco product packaging.
The cabinet signed off on Dr Reilly’s proposal today and it is expected legislation will be in place by early next year.
All forms of branding, including trademarks, logos, colours and graphics, will be removed from cigarette packets, while brand name will be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands and the packs would all be in one plain neutral colour. Health warnings will be given more prominence.
The Department of Health said there is strong evidence that standardised packaging will increase the effectiveness of health warnings; reduce false health beliefs about cigarettes and reduce brand appeal particularly among youth and young adults.
Dr Reilly was critical of the recent meeting involving the Taoiseach, Minister for Finance and Minister for Justice with the tobacco industry, but he expressed satisfaction with the substance of the meeting.
“The minutes of the meeting will show very clearly that all that was discussed was smuggling and nothing else,” he said.
“The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have duties broader than mine in relation to health. I can tell you this much – the fact that the cabinet has passed a motion to pursue a law to bring this bill in is sign enough for me that I have got huge support from the Taoiseach and the Government.
“For me as a professional, this (smoking) is something that is intolerable. We have to protect our children from it. As adults we make our own decisions, but when you are an adult and you are addicted it is very hard to give them up.”
Dr Reilly said the measure has been so successful in Australia that tobacco companies have had to release statements saying that their cigarettes had not changed in taste as many of its customers were complaining about the taste.
A fierce critic of the tobacco industry, Dr Reilly said the industry needed to replace those who have died from tobacco-related illnesses, one-in-two who smoke, with young people who start smoking.
Dr Reilly said he was certain that the tobacco industry would seek to challenge the plain packaging in the courts.
However, he said such a move would be a measure of their desperation and also of the effectiveness of the measure.
The Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee said the initiative was a huge boost to the illegal tobacco industry, claiming the proposed legislation would make all packs look the same allowing counterfeiters to produce all brands of illegal cigarettes with greater ease.
Dr Reilly countered by stating there was “no research, none” to back up assertions by the tobacco industry that plain packaging would lead to increases in smuggling.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. What would you call a product that kills one in two users? Purveyors of death – I really do feel very strongly about this. I don’t know any smoker who wants their child to smoke. How can we support this industry?”
yesterday at 3:36 pm
We don’t know if Minister for Health James Reilly is claustrophobic but he was certainly tested on that score today.
As you can see, thanks to this tweet by journalist Sara Burke (@sburx), his predicament drew quite a crowd.
Various reports suggests that Reilly was trapped for between 10 and 20 minutes before emerging to officially launch the facility.
Rumours of sabotage from disgruntled public service workers are only the tip of the Twitter joke iceberg on this one.
New figures showing that more than 75,000 hospital appointments have been cancelled over the past three years reveal the pressure on the health service from cutbacks and growing patient numbers.
The Health Service Executive says the cancellations are mainly due to closure of wards for cost-containment measures and a lack of capacity caused by emergency admissions.
At least 25,317 day-case and 50,433 inpatient appointments were cancelled in 2010, 2011 and the first 10 months of this year, the figures supplied by the HSE show. The total is, in fact, higher, since about 13 of the 40 hospitals do not supply figures regularly to the HSE.
Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the figures reflected a system struggling with the demand-led emergency workload after staff budget cutbacks. “They simply fly in the face of Minister for Health James Reilly’s so-called reform agenda,” he said.
The Irish Patients’ Association expressed concern that the health of some could deteriorate before new appointments were fixed.
“The cancellation of appointments, especially at short notice, can cause huge disruption for patients,” spokesman Stephen McMahon said.
“In some cases, people will have had to make arrangements for the care of a family member and travel long distances to fulfil the appointment.”
He said that, separate from any cancellations, over 350,000 patients were on waiting lists for a first hospital appointment. The data for this year shows 6,311 day-case and 12,772 inpatient appointments were cancelled to the end of October. The figures also reveal huge variations in cancellations in different hospitals.
St James’s Hospital in Dublin accounts for almost one-third of the total, with 21,782 cancelled day-case and inpatient cancellations over the three-year period. The vast majority were for inpatients .
Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, which treats sick children, accounted for 18,780 cancellations. In contrast, only 140 cancellations are recorded for Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.
Dr Reilly is due to unveil his plans shortly for a radical reorganisation of the health service through the grouping of hospitals in different regions.
However, critics claim the process will see smaller hospitals downgraded by grouping them with larger hospitals.
Publication of Dr Reilly’s proposals has been delayed until after Christmas.
Crucial information including repeated requests for a termination were not recorded in Savita Halappanavar’s medical records, her husband’s solicitor claimed yesterday.
Gerard O’Donnell, representing Praveen Halappanavar, said the notes covering her care on Monday, October 22nd, when it is alleged she made her first request for a termination, were “particularly scant”.
“It’s almost as if a whole day is missing from the notes,” he said last night. He said while there were records kept of her having cups of tea or of her husband asking for extra blankets for her, there was none on the requested termination.
Ms Halappanavar died at the hospital on October 28th, having presented with severe backpain a week earlier. She had been 17-weeks pregnant and had been found to be miscarrying. Mr Halappanavar says she asked repeatedly, between Monday 21st and Wednesday 23rd, that the pregnancy be terminated. This was refused, he says, as a foetal heartbeat was present and he claims they were told: “This is a Catholic country.”
She contracted E-coli and septicaemia and died four days after the foetus.
“There is no reference in the notes to the fact a termination was requested,” said Mr O’Donnell. “It is extremely fortunate that there were other people in the room when one of the requests was made, on the Tuesday morning, to witness the request and the reference to Ireland being a Catholic country.”
Mr Halappanavar has said the first request was made on Monday 22nd and that the consultant said she would have to check if this was permissible.
Mr Halappanavar has told The Irish Times the consultant returned on Tuesday morning.
He said she told them a termination was not possible as long as the foetal heartbeat remained, and made the “Catholic country” reference.
Also in the room, he has said, were a family friend, two junior doctors and a midwife.
Mr O’Donnell said he wrote to Galway University Hospital on November 2nd asking for copies of Ms Halappanavar’s medical notes and received them on November 16th.
Minister for Health James Reilly was asked about the claims of gaps in the health records in Sligo last night. He said: “Obviously this is of concern and this is a substantive matter for the investigation”.
HSE director general designate Tony O’Brien said information that Mr Halappanavar had that would “speak to any inconsistencies between what’s in the record and his personal knowledge would be of great value to the review team”.
A HSE spokeswoman said: “The investigation team has commenced its work and, as such, it would not be appropriate at this juncture to attempt to address matters which come within its remit. The investigation now under way will be important in terms of determining the completeness of information regarding the care provided to Ms Halappanavar.”
Meanwhile, advocacy group Patient Focus said its representative on the HSE inquiry team would walk away from any investigation which was not about getting to the bottom of what happened.