9,165 Irish citizens’ signatures needed for a Tobacco-Free Europe

By June Shannon Policy News   |   26th Jan 2023

The Irish Heart Foundation is proud to support the aim of achieving the first European Tobacco-Free Generation by 2030.

Europe is set to follow New Zealand’s lead by establishing the first European Tobacco-Free Generation by 2030 and needs one million signatures. Irish citizens can help.

Under the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) if Tobacco-Free Europe (TFE), is supported by 1 million citizens across at least 7 EU countries, the European Commission must respond and take action to achieve a tobacco-free generation by 2030 and a tobacco-free environment. The threshold number of signatures for Ireland is 9,165.

The goal of Tobacco-Free Europe (TFE) is the progressive abolition of the sale of tobacco and nicotine products, starting with citizens born on or after January 1, 2010, to achieve the first European tobacco-free generation. This would result in fewer deaths and disabilities from cancer, heart attack, stroke, and multiple respiratory and other diseases.

This ambitious EU-wide project, initiated by the Spanish NGO Nofumadores and the European Network for Smoking and Tobacco Prevention (ENSP), is being coordinated by organisations from 15 EU countries. The Irish coordinating member is the TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland (TFRI).

TFE will support and reinforce Ireland’s commitments to a Tobacco Free Ireland and follow the lead of New Zealand which has recently banned the sale of tobacco to the next generation.

" We hope this petition sends a strong message to politicians that it’s time they catch up on tobacco control with the people they represent.”

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

Dr Joan Hanafin, Director of Social Research, TFRI said, “Smoking is not only the prime cause of lung cancer but also a known risk factor for many other cancers, including stomach, cervical, and colon cancer. This initiative will protect our young people from cancer in the future.”

Individuals and organizations from Ireland, as well as Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Slovenia, Spain, France, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Sweden, have come together as coordinators to call the attention of our politicians to how harmful tobacco and nicotine products are, and the absolute need to put the health of European citizens and our environment before the interests of the tobacco industry.

Organisations supporting the initiative will start gathering signatures on January 26th, 2023, and will have until January 16th, 2024, to reach the 1 million threshold. The TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland (TFRI) is coordinating the Irish limb of TFE with the Irish Heart Foundation, ASH Ireland, the Irish Thoracic Society, and the Irish Cancer Society.

This action, as a Citizens’ Initiative, is dependent on the goodwill and action of all EU citizens but as Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy and Patient Support, the Irish Heart Foundation said, “In Ireland, the public is way ahead of policymakers in demanding action that will end the scourge of smoking. There is overwhelming support here for measures such as increasing the legal age of the sale of tobacco to 21, banning smoking in public places, and beginning the process of phasing out tobacco sales completely. We hope this petition sends a strong message to politicians that it’s time they catch up on tobacco control with the people they represent.”

" This initiative will protect our young people from cancer in the future.”

Dr Joan Hanafin, Director of Social Research, TFRI

The organisations and individuals supporting this initiative admit that they are undertaking a giant task, but they are adamant about this being the right thing to do. The success of the tobacco industry depends on recruiting teenagers to become users of a highly addictive and harmful substance that will kill 1 out of 2 smokers and that kills 8.5 million people worldwide every single year, 600,000 in the EU, and 6,000 in Ireland.

The objective of TFE is to save the next generation from the pandemic created by the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry needs children and teenagers to become addicted to tobacco products so that they can replace the millions of customers who die prematurely because of tobacco use. They are needed by the tobacco industry to continue to generate their profits, ignoring the perpetuation of the cycle of addiction, disease, and death of citizens.

As well as supporting the progressive ban on tobacco products, the European Commission and the EU member states will need to accompany this measure with a significant restriction of places where current tobacco users can smoke, vape, or use any heated tobacco device. It will also be necessary, as has been done in Australia, to drastically reduce the number of places where tobacco can be sold.

Therefore, to avoid manipulation by the tobacco industry, which tries to recruit young people into nicotine addiction, this citizens’ initiative also demands that the European Commission eliminates tobacco advertising and its presence in audio-visual productions and on social media, especially addressing covert advertising through influencers and product placement.

" This initiative will secure the human right of our citizens to be free to breathe clean air,"

Prof Luke Clancy, TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland

This initiative will not only benefit the health of European citizens, but it will also protect and improve the health of the planet. The organizers of the initiative have also considered that cigarettes and e-cigarettes are not sustainable in a world of global warming. They cause significant harm to the environment.

Cigarette butts are the most frequently littered item, with estimates that 4.5 trillion butts are discarded each year worldwide, ending up on beaches and in waterways. Tobacco filters, made of cellulose acetate, are the number one ocean plastic, more numerous than plastic bottles, plastic bags, or plastic straws. These filters end up dissipating into microplastics and entering the food chain. So far, the EU has taken steps to curb the production of plastic straws but has not yet banned the manufacture of cigarette filters which serve no good purpose.

Prof Luke Clancy, TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland welcomed the opportunity to join EU colleagues in coordinating this initiative which he said, “will secure the human right of our citizens to be free to breathe clean air, help fulfill our duty to protect the environment, and protect our children’s future health and wellbeing.”

For those reasons, the initiative also requests that Europe creates a network of beaches and riverbanks free of tobacco, cigarette butts, and electronic cigarette waste, and pledges to do the same with National Parks, in order to reduce pollution and curb the risk of fires, which has increased with climate change.

To be eligible to sign the TFE initiative, a person must be a European Union citizen and old enough to vote in European Parliament elections. TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland (TFRI) together with the Irish Thoracic Society (ITS), the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF), and ASH Ireland highlight the importance of all Irish citizens over 18 years old subscribing to the initiative by simply signing here.

Sign the petition


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