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?”