Ireland To Raise Minimum Smoking Age To 21

Ireland to Become the First Country in the EU to Raise the Minimum Smoking Age to 21.

The Cabinet approved the legislation for increasing the minimum age for sale of tobacco from 18 to 21, after Ireland’s Government first announced the plan in March 2024.

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

Currently, 18% of the population over the age of 15 are smokers, with evidence showing that people are at a high risk of becoming smokers between the ages of 18 and 21.

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18% of Ireland’s population over the age of 15 smoke tobacco cigarettes

Ireland’s Minister of Health

When first announcing this initiative, Ireland’s Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly said:

“This is a tough new measure, but the health impacts of tobacco smoking are immense and require tough responses. I am determined to progress legislation that will protect children and young people from this lethal product and ultimately save lives. This measure targets those aged 15 to 17, who currently find it relatively easy to buy cigarettes. Raising the age to 21 will make it much more difficult.

I am confident this measure will help young people avoid a lifetime of addiction and illness from tobacco smoking. Analysis from the U.S. Institute of Medicine shows that increasing the age of sale 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.”

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Minister Stephen Donnelly
Minister Stephen Donnelly

Minister Donnelly confirmed that the legislation will not apply to those who are currently between the ages of 18 and 21, retail workers aged 18-21 will not be prevented from selling tobacco products and that vaping devices are not included in this ban as it was not suggested to the department and that vapes are used as a smoking cessation tool.

In addition to raising the minimum age, Minister Donnelly has given the green light to remove cigarette vending machines from pubs, clubs and other venues in Ireland to further stop underage smoking. The ban is being imposed under the Public Health (Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Act 2023, which prevents the use of self-service sale of tobacco products and nicotine-inhaling products such as e-cigarettes.

“On World No Tobacco Day we are continuing to denormalise the sale of tobacco products to make it clear that a product that kills one out of two of its users is not like other consumer products.”

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 a goal of a tobacco-free Ireland,”

Professor Breda Smyth

Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs strategy, Colm Burke said:

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

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 health harms associated with this behaviour.”

Minister Colm Burke

The Irish Health Foundation commended the minimum age increase as a ‘ground-breaking’ step in protecting the next generation from the health harms caused by smoking.

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Chris Macey,
Irish Heart Foundaiton

Director of Advocacy and Patient Support, Chris Macey said:

“This measure will provide vital protection to our young people. Smoking is still resulting in 4,500 deaths every year in Ireland, and the Minister’s action will help save many in future generations from that trauma.

The argument about personal freedom does not apply to tobacco because its highly addictive nature removes personal choice and there’s no greater impact on your personal freedom than your premature death.”

Chris Macey

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