State needs more action for a tobacco free Ireland

By Jordan Kavanagh Policy News   |   15th Aug 2019

This years’ budget is crucial to achieve a tobacco free Ireland by 2025

The Irish Heart Foundation has called on the Government to reduce smoking rates by committing to tax hikes that will increase the price of a packet of cigarettes to at least €20 by 2025.

In its pre-budget submission 2020 the Irish Heart Foundation has also called for quadrupling the funding for Quit services to €50 million a year.

"The number of current smokers in Ireland has fallen by 80,000 in the last three years, which represents good progress, but to achieve a tobacco-free Ireland we need further reductions of around 100,000 smokers each year for the next six years."

Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy, , Irish Heart Foundation

Currently 20% of people over the age of 16, some 800,000 people, are still classed as current smokers and more needs to be done to meet the Government’s flagship health objective of a Tobacco Free Ireland – fewer than 5% of people smoking by 2025.

Speaking today, Irish Heart Foundation Head of Advocacy, Chris Macey, said:

“Evidence shows that tax increases are the most effective way of reducing smoking rates. A dual approach that combines this with improved support for the vast majority of smokers who want to quit is vital if the Government is serious about hitting this target.”

A packet of 20 cigarettes currently costs €13. A pro rata increase of just under €1.17 per pack would be required for each of the next six Budgets for the price to reach €20, ignoring any additional increases imposed by the tobacco industry.

The Irish Heart Foundation is also proposing increasing funding to services which help smokers quit, including medications, smoking cessation services, the national Quitline and mass media campaigns.

The State currently spends just €11.8 million a year on cessation. The Irish Heart Foundation is calling for this to be increased to €50 million a year.

“Nowhere near enough is being done to support the 80% of smokers who want to quit. The amount spent on cessation services is less than 1% of the almost €1,400 million they handed over in tobacco tax during the course of 2017. It isn’t fair to place a large additional tax burden on people because of their addiction to nicotine and then fail to invest properly in helping them overcome it when many are desperate to quit.”

Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy, Irish Heart Foundation

In addition to the potential to reduce the toll of 16 deaths every day from tobacco-related illness in Ireland, the Irish Heart Foundation is arguing that there is a strong economic case for greater investment in quit services, particularly by reducing the rate of 31,500 smokers who are admitted to hospital each year with tobacco-related illness.

 

“It makes absolutely no sense that rather than helping smokers to quit, it’s only after they have a stroke, a heart attack, develop cancer or another serious illness that the State becomes involved in assisting them.”

Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy, Irish Heart Foundation

“There is conclusive evidence that ad campaigns and support services, such as cessation clinics, quitlines and medications can significantly increase a smoker’s motivation to quit and then their chances of kicking the habit for good.

“With our hospitals in crisis and tobacco-related illness also accounting for over 116,000 hospital outpatient appointments, 38,000 emergency department attendances and 19,000 hospital day case appointments the case for investment in these services could hardly be clearer.

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