Over the course of the two days of our Ard Fheis, the number of people who will have died in Europe from tobacco-related diseases would have filled this auditorium almost four times.

A staggering 7000 people die in Ireland every year and 700,000 across Europe.

The statistics, although shocking, cannot convey the pain suffered by those affected.

It is absolutely essential we take robust and responsible measures to stop our children from taking up this habit – what age were the smokers among you when you started – 13 or younger for most. 

Tobacco companies have been using the packet as their last marketing vehicle to recruit a new generation of young smokers.

Measures such as plain packaging, picture and text warnings on the packet and a ban on flavourings – such as Chocolate, Strawberry etc are akin to a victory in the fight against Big Tobacco.             

So no one in this room should listen to the falsehoods and scaremongering perpetuated by these companies regarding such measures.

They are all too willing to put the health of our children before the profits they make from these products.

Tobacco is the only product on the market that kills half of its users.

News released to mark World Cancer Day this week showed that worldwide, deaths from cancer, – and lung cancer being the most common – are due to rise significantly in the coming years.

We cannot simply treat our way out of this crisis – we must look to how we can prevent some of these cancers.

No doubt, many of us, if not the majority, will have a loved one or friend who has died or who is suffered terribly from a tobacco-related disease.

It is essential that we wake up to the costs tobacco is causing for our society – human, social and economic costs are alarming and there is no doubt that we have a responsibility to take serious measures to protect our children from starting this deadly habit.