Legislation proposes raising tobacco buying age to 21

Further legislation aims to ban disposable vapes, address flavour concerns and regulate packaging colours for vaping products

Approximately 4,500 deaths annually in Ireland are attributed to smoking-related causes (Photo by Olenka Bohovyk via Pexels)

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will seek Cabinet approval this week for the bill, according to RTE. The legislation will not affect those aged between 18 and 21 who are currently legally allowed to purchase tobacco. There will be a transitional period where this cohort can still buy tobacco products. 

According to Tánaiste Micheál Martin, the proposed legislation aiming to raise the legal age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21, is a move considered “significant”. 

Additionally, the Tánaiste highlighted the need for further measures to address the use of vapes, expressing concerns about potential long-term health impacts, likening it to tactics used by the tobacco industry including flavourings, positioning and presentation of the product. There are plans for further legislation to ban disposable vapes and address the issues around vivid packaging colours and the flavours of vapes.

The ‘Tobacco 21’ report, by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Policy Group (RCPI), highlights that teenagers aged 15 to 17 show the highest rates of smoking experimentation. 

The report shows that approximately 4,500 deaths annually in Ireland are attributed to smoking-related causes, making it the leading cause of an early death. According to the RCPI,  raising the minimum legal age for tobacco sales could decrease the number of teenagers and young adults becoming addicted, potentially reducing smoking rates among young teens by 25%. 

When speaking to RTE, Vincent Jennings of the Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association, expressed concern that pressure from peers and efforts to further stigmatise tobacco could result in restrictions on individuals under 21 selling tobacco products. 

Jennings emphasised that this demographic, largely comprised of college students, relies on these jobs to support themselves. While not opposing the legislation, Jennings stressed the importance of ensuring that those aged 18 to 20 are still permitted to sell tobacco, similar to alcohol and other age-restricted items.

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