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14th May 2024

Government approves plans to raise the age of sale of tobacco to 21 in Ireland

Sophie Collins


Ireland is set to become the first country in the European Union to raise the age of sale of tobacco to 21

In a groundbreaking move, Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, alongside Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing, and the National Drugs Strategy Colm Burke, announced the approval of a proposal by the Cabinet to raise the age of sale of tobacco to 21. 

Ireland is set to become the first country in the European Union to enact this legislation, showing its commitment to leading the charge in combatting smoking rates.

The proposed legislation aims to expedite Ireland’s objective of reducing the adult smoking rate to below 5% of the population, aligning with government policy. 

At the moment, 18% of individuals over the age of 15 in Ireland are smokers. 

Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke claim approximately 4,500 lives annually in Ireland, contributing to a spectrum of preventable illnesses, including various cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory illnesses. 

Evidence indicates that the age range between 18 and 21 is a critical period where people are most likely to starting smoking. 

Elevating the minimum purchasing age is anticipated to create hurdles for young people trying to access tobacco products, thereby potentially curbing the uptake of smoking.

Minister Donnelly expressed determination in advancing legislation to shield children and young adults from the perils of tobacco consumption, with an ultimate aim of preserving lives. 

He said: “This is a tough new measure, but the health impacts of tobacco smoking are immense and require tough responses.” 

Emphasising the long-term benefits, he added: “I am confident this measure will help young people avoid a lifetime of addiction and illness from tobacco smoking.”

Minister Burke echoed these sentiments, and highlighted the need to safeguard public health through proactive measures. 

“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,” he stated.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Breda Smyth highlighted the toll of smoking on health, citing its role in numerous cancers and other debilitating conditions. 

She welcomed the move as a crucial step towards achieving a tobacco-free Ireland and emphasised the urgent need to address high smoking rates.

Minister Ossian Smyth commended the government’s proactive stance in spearheading efforts to deter young people from tobacco use. 

As Ireland forges ahead with this landmark legislation, it shows a resolute commitment to prioritising public health and steering the nation towards a future free from the grip of tobacco addiction.