Ireland’s Health Minister Doctor James Reilly has announced that Ireland will soon become the second country in the world to introduce plain cigarette packages.

Dr Reilly announced that the Irish Government approves his controversial new plans and as of early 2014 cigarettes in Ireland will be served in generic packaging. Despite some opposition Reilly says he’s confident that this move will save lives.

“Smoking places an enormous burden of illness and mortality on our society, with over 5,200 people dying every year from tobacco-related diseases," Reilly told the Irish Independent.

"One in two of all smokers will die from their addiction.

"To replace the smokers who quit, the tobacco industry needs to recruit 50 new smokers in Ireland every day just to maintain smoking rates at their current level.

"Given that 78% of smokers in a survey said they started smoking under the age of 18, it's clear that the tobacco industry focuses on children to replace those customers who die or quit."

After Australia, Ireland is only the second country in the world to bring in this legislation. Ireland was also the first country in the world to bring in a ban on smoking in places of work, including pubs and restaurants, in March 2004. Ireland was also the first EU country to ban tobacco advertising.

Retailers have criticized the move while the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation welcomed it.

Retailers Against Smuggling (RAS) say Reilly does not care about independent retailers and says this move is fuelling the illicit tobacco trade.

RAS spokesman Benny Gilsenan said, "Minister Reilly has ignored the fact that we have a huge cigarette smuggling problem in this country and that plain packaging will make life easier for smugglers to produce black-market cigarettes.

"If plain packaging is brought in, it will be yet another nail in the coffin for small retail businesses around the country."