Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson met with Union representatives of workers from Gallagher’s Tobacco in Ballymena to listen to their concerns and to outline Sinn Féin’s health-centred approach to tobacco products.

Martina Anderson said:

“I had a very frank and open discussion around various aspects of the proposed EU Directive on Tobacco Product marketing.

“I explained my support for the call from the Smoke Free Partnership that standardised plain packaging for Tobacco products should be made mandatory.  Plain packaging means that all cigarette packs would look the same, packaged in a standard shape without any branding, design or logo. I also outlined Sinn Féin’s Health centred approach to the production and sale of Tobacco Products.

“Obviously the Union Representatives main focus was on safeguarding the jobs of their members in light of the implications that the proposed Directive would have for the Industry. While I empathise with the workers, Sinn Féin must first and foremost protect the health and lives of citizens.

“There are 2300 people who die prematurely from tobacco related disease in the North of Ireland each year. Each and every one of them is someone’s mother, father, son or daughter, brother or sister and the aim of the Tobacco Products Directive is to decrease the consumption of tobacco, particularly among young people by reducing its attractiveness.  Studies show that tobacco marketing strategy is directed mainly at recruiting new impressionable young people to use these products. It is responsible for introducing this deadly habit to our youth, 70% of whom begin smoking when they are only children.

“While I will do everything possible to protect the rights and entitlements of workers and encourage producers to diversify into new endeavours such as research and development of products that enhance the health and wellbeing of the population, I cannot ignore the devastating effect that Tobacco Products have on the Health of society”.