Since the workplace smoking ban in 2004, Ireland has led European countries in adopting anti-tobacco legislation.
The efforts of successive governments mean that the adult smoking rate in Ireland has fallen to 20%. But smoking remains a killer.
Despite the reduction in smoking rates, smoking remains the chief preventable cause of death and chronic disability in Ireland and so reducing smoking rates in Ireland and supporting people to stop smoking must be a key focus of health policy.
A core area of our work is the promotion of smoke-free environments for children, students and adults across Ireland. Outdoor smoke-free spaces reduces the dangers of second hand smoke, benefits the environment and denormalises smoking in our society.
In April 2019, the Irish Heart Foundation conducted a survey of third-level educational institutions in Ireland (universities, colleges, institutes of technologies) on the implementation of a smoke-free campus. A summary of the findings can be found here.
From extensive research and studies, the Irish Heart Foundation believes that a three-pronged approach is required in Ireland to tackle the deaths and diseases caused by smoking:
1. Price increases for tobacco products,
2. Comprehensive smoking cessation programmes and
3. Stronger smuggling controls.
These actions will only have the desired effect if introduced simultaneously.
A commitment to annual tax increases is crucial to achieve a tobacco free Ireland by 2025
The Irish Heart Foundation is calling on the Minister of Finance to commit to annual tax increases that will raise the price of a packet of cigarettes to at least €20 by 2025 so that Ireland can meet the Government’s flagship health objective of a Tobacco Free Ireland – fewer than 5% of people smoking by 2025. Evidence shows that tax increases are the most effective way of reducing smoking rates and deterring young people from ever starting’.
If the Government is serious about reaching its target of having a smoking prevalence rate of less than 5% by 2025 then higher levels of funding for smoking cessation services is vital. More funding for services is required to 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 services. We are calling for this funding to be increased to €50 million a year. The full range of measures sought by the Irish Heart Foundation is available to read here in our Joint Pre Budget Submission 2020
Fewer children will take up smoking as a result of the new law introducing plain or standardised packaging of tobacco products in Ireland. The law will protect children’s health by inserting large graphic warnings of the fatal consequences of smoking on cigarette packs and making it illegal for tobacco companies to use colour, text and packet size to market cigarettes.
On 10 March 2015, President Michael D Higgins signed into law the legislation introducing plain packaging on cigarette packs. The law states that all tobacco manufactured after 20 May 2016 must be in standardised packaging. It allows for a one year ‘washout’ period of old packaging and it will be an offence to sell branded tobacco from 20 May 2017.
You can read more about how standardised packaging works here.
The Irish Heart Foundation continuously monitors international research on smoking-related issues to identify new and better ways to reduce smoking rates. As part of this work, the Irish Heart Foundation partnered with the Irish Cancer Society to carry out an extensive review of emerging research regarding e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTP). Having considered the available evidence and the views of the major international bodies such as the World Health Organisation in relation to these products, we must urge caution in relation to e-cigarettes and HTP.
Although it is generally accepted that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco, there is insufficient research to date on their long-term impact on users. Several studies have also highlighted that they are less effective than other smoking cessation tools at helping people quit for good. The Irish Heart Foundation is also deeply concerned about how a whole new generation of children are at risk of becoming addicted to nicotine due to cynical marketing tactics directed at them by e-cigarette brands.