Government approves legislation to increase the minimum legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21

The new law has been designed to reduce smoking prevalence among children to zero

Minister Stephen Donnelly says smoking causes 4,500 deaths a year

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly has announced that the government has approved legislation to increase the minimum legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21. The Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2024 will now be brought forward for enactment.

The measure is being introduced in order to accelerate the decline in adult smoking prevalence, which has plateaued at 18% for several years. It is also among a series of measures designed to reduce smoking prevalence among children to zero.

According to Minister Donnelly: “As a society, it’s time that we moved forward on this issue. Tobacco smoking continues to kill 4,500 of our people every year and remains the biggest single cause of disability and death combined in our country.

“My goal with this measure is to assist our young people to avoid a lifetime of addiction and illness from tobacco smoking. The modelling shows us that this measure will not only protect the targeted age group and but will also protect those under 18 as they will be less likely to be in social groups with 21 year olds who can legally purchase cigarettes.

“Countries around the world are looking at endgame measures for smoking. We are no longer regulating it; we are seeking to eliminate it from our lives and the lives of our children. I’m very proud that Ireland is continuing its tradition of leading the way on this issue, and today’s measure is another important step on our journey towards a tobacco-free Ireland.”

The Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Colm Burke  said: “I welcome Government approval of this very important public health measure. The damage caused by combustible tobacco smoking is catastrophic, causing many illnesses and leading to shorter life expectancy, so we must take decisive action to ensure that we can protect our young people.

“This new measure will help the next generation to avoid the many burdens associated with smoking and support them to live longer, healthier lives.  I look forward to working with the Minister for Health to bring this law into operation as soon as possible.”

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