Ireland to raise smoking age to 21 under Government plan

Ireland will raise the minimum age for the purchase of cigarettes to 21, according to plans approved by Cabinet.

It would make Ireland the first country in the EU to take the measure.

It comes 20 years after Ireland became the first country in the world to ban smoking in workplaces, including pubs and restaurants.

Currently, 18% of the population over the age of 15 are smokers.

The new proposal is designed to reduce Ireland’s adult smoking rate to less than 5%

The Government said evidence shows that people are at high risk of becoming smokers between the ages of 18 and 21.

It added that raising the minimum purchasing age will make it harder for young people to access tobacco products through direct and proxy buys as well as social sources.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said it was a “tough” measure, adding: “The health impacts of tobacco smoking are immense and require tough responses.”

Health officials said smoking causes 13% of all cancers and contributes to many preventable illnesses including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, eye diseases, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

It is also responsible for 5% of hospital inpatient admissions, while the financial loss caused by smoking is estimated at 10.6 billion euro annually.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Breda Smyth said: “Our smoking rates are still unacceptably high, so I am delighted that we are progressing a strong population protection measure that will help bring us closer to the goal of a tobacco-free Ireland.”

The Bill will provide that the prohibition on tobacco product sales will not apply to those who are currently between the ages of 18 and 20.

The proposed legislation will not impact the minimum legal age of sale of nicotine-inhaling products or vapes.

Since December, the sale of vapes to under 18s has been banned. There is currently no proposal to extend this ban to the age of 21.

The Government said preliminary legal advice suggests Ireland cannot pursue a “smokefree-generation” policy as has been suggested in other jurisdictions because of the EU’s single market rules and Tobacco Products Directive.

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