Tobacco 21 measures with Cabinet for approval

By Leanne Dempsey Tobacco / Vaping   |   13th May 2024

The Irish Heart Foundation today, May 13, welcomed moves to raise the legal age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 as a ‘ground-breaking measure’ to save the next generation from the scourge of smoking.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will seek Cabinet approval for the Tobacco 21 measures this week – making Ireland the first country in the EU to ban tobacco sales to under-21s.

“This measure will provide vital protection to our young people,” said Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy and Patient Support with the national charity.

“It is ground-breaking, one of the most important public health measures in years."

Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy and Patient Support, Irish Heart Foundation

“Smoking is still resulting in 4,500 deaths every year in Ireland – equivalent to a passenger jet crash every month and the Minister’s action will help save many in future generations from that trauma.”

The Tobacco 21 Alliance, a coalition of which the Irish Heart Foundation is a founder member, has been lobbying to raise the age from 18 since 2021 and also includes Foróige, the RCPI, the HSE, Irish Cancer Prevention Network and Limerick Comhairle na nÓg.

The Alliance hopes the new legislation will fuel a 30% drop in youth smoking – replicating statistics seen in the United States after the 21 age limit was introduced there.

Mr Macey said research has consistently showed substantial public support for Tobacco 21 here – including among young people and current smokers.

HSE data in 2022 showed 71% support for increasing the legal age from 18 to 21, 72% of 15-17-year-olds support it while 66% of 18-24 year-olds also back it.

Smoking rates for all age groups in Ireland have continued to fall year-on-year and currently stand at 16.1%.

“This move, 20 years after the world-first workplace smoking ban, will bring that figure down further and will make Ireland a leader again when it comes to the control of tobacco,”

Chris Macey

“We now need, as is being proposed by our neighbours in the UK, to ban the sale of tobacco to anyone born after a certain age and continue the war on vaping.

“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.”

The full membership of the Tobacco 21 Alliance includes the Irish Heart Foundation, Foróige, the RCPI, ASH Ireland, Council of the Irish Heart Foundation, Limerick Comhairle na nÓg, the HSE, the Irish Thoracic Society, the Asthma Society of Ireland, COPD Ireland, the Environmental Health Association of Ireland, the Marie Keating Foundation, the 221+ patient group, the Association of Public Health Medicine Registrars Ireland and the Irish Cancer Prevention Network.


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