76% of the population favour a gradual ban on the sale and supply of tobacco

By Leanne Dempsey Policy News   |   6th Dec 2023

More than three quarters of people in Ireland support a total phasing out of tobacco sales – which would prevent those born after a certain year from ever being able to buy cigarettes legally, new research shows today.

And even more want a reduction in the number of locations where tobacco is sold – and less nicotine in it to make cigarettes less addictive.

“If 12 people died on our roads every single day, there would be a national outcry, yet smoking causes a dozen preventable deaths a day, or 4,500 every year,” said Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy with the Irish Heart Foundation, which commissioned the research.

“As a nation, we have lost our way on tobacco control and have been too slow to react to the explosion in vaping.

Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy, Irish Heart Foundation

“Our teenage smoking rate has increased for the first time in a generation and we will miss the Tobacco Free Ireland target of a 5% smoking rate by 2025 by a margin of around half a million smokers.

The announcement in the last few days of a wide-ranging public consultation on crucial issues such as vape flavours and plain packaging, along with increasing the age of sale of tobacco products provides a roadmap for the State to take back control of the battle to protect children from tobacco and e-cigarette addiction.

“But there is no time to lose. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet and the increase in e-cigarette use among 15-24 year-olds of almost two-thirds just in the last year means we are facing a further surge in youth tobacco use given the proven gateway effect between vaping and smoking.

The poll data is being presented at a conference organised by the charity and ASH Ireland, Council of the Irish Heart Foundation, in Dublin yesterday, December 6th, to explore a tobacco ‘endgame’ for Ireland and the regulation of e-cigarettes to protect young people.

Richard Edwards, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago in New Zealand and Dennis van Driel from the Dutch Heart Foundation also addressed the conference.

The Ipsos B&A survey of 1,012 adults aged18+ last month shows 76% of the population favour a gradual ban on the sale and supply of tobacco, with 22% disagreeing. Crucially, 76% of 18-24 year-olds also support the move. Such a measure, similar to plans being proposed in the UK, would raise the legal age of smoking every year by a year so that, eventually, no-one can legally buy tobacco.

In addition, 78% want to see a reduction in the number of locations where tobacco can be purchased and 87% favour a reduction in the nicotine content in tobacco to make cigarettes less addictive.

Meanwhile, other newly published Ipsos B&A data shows that 57% back a ban on vape flavours with 35% against; and 66% support plain packaging with 25% against. In addition, 73% support the Tobacco 21 policy with 26% against.

“These statistics show the public is way ahead of policymakers on measures to protect young people from nicotine addiction and is ready for laws that will put an end to smoking in this country. It’s time for Government to heed public sentiment and set out a timetable to make this happen,” said Dr Emmet O’Brien, Chairman of the ASH Ireland, Council of the Irish Heart Foundation.

Members of Wexford Comhairle na nÓg also attended the conference in Buswells Hotel to give the youth perspective on vaping.


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