Government approves plans to increase smoking age to 21 in Ireland

Government approves plans to increase smoking age to 21 in Ireland

THE Irish government has approved plans to raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes to 21.

Ireland’s Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Public Health, Colm Burke today confirmed that the Cabinet has “approved a proposal for legislation that will increase the age of sale of tobacco to 21”.

If the legislation is passed it will make Ireland the first country in the EU to introduce the new measure.

"This is a tough new measure, but the health impacts of tobacco smoking are immense and require tough responses,” Minister Donnelly said today.

“I am determined to progress legislation that will protect children and young people from this lethal product and ultimately save lives,” he added.

"I am confident this measure will help young people avoid a lifetime of addiction and illness from tobacco smoking.”

Mr Donnelly went on to explain that analysis from the US Institute of Medicine shows that increasing the age of sale of tobacco to 21 will “act to limit the social sources of cigarettes for our children and young people under 18 as they will be less likely to be in social groups with persons who can legally purchase cigarettes".

The new proposal is designed to accelerate achievement of the government’s goal to reduce the adult smoking rate to less than five per cent of the population.

Currently, 18 per cent of the population over the age of 15 in Ireland are smokers.

“Preliminary legal advice suggests Ireland cannot pursue a ‘smokefree generation’ policy as has been suggested in other jurisdictions due to the EU’s Single Market rules and Tobacco Products Directive,” Mr Donnelly’s department explained before confirming  that smoking and exposure to second hand smoke kills an estimated 4,500 people per year in Ireland.

It also causes a range of preventable illnesses, including types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases.

Evidence shows that people are at high risk of becoming smokers between the ages of 18 and 21, so the Irish government believes raising the minimum purchasing age is likely to lead to a reduction in the numbers taking up smoking.

"Tobacco smoking remains the biggest risk factor driving disability and death combined in our country and the life expectancy of a smoker is on average 10 years shorter than that of a person who has never smoked” Minister Burke said.

"As Minister with responsibility for Public Health, I am committed to progressing initiatives that protect our population.

“Raising the minimum age of sale of tobacco is a significant action that will help create a tobacco-free generation and reduce the health harms associated with this behaviour.

"I look forward to working alongside the Minister for Health to introduce this life-saving measure."

Ireland aims to become the first country in the EU to raise the minimum age of sale of tobacco products to 21.

Latvia has already enacted law which will raise the minimum age of sale to 20 in 2025.

Ireland's proposed legislation will not impact the legal age of sale of nicotine inhaling products or vapes.

Since December, the sale of vapes to under 18s has been banned in Ireland.