Marcella Corcoran Kennedy welcomed the downward trends in youth smoking but warned "we must not be complacent"
A new report has found that two-thirds of Irish 15-16 year olds have never smoked.
The Department of Health has today published the findings of last year's European Schools Project on Alcohol & other Drugs (ESPAD) in Ireland.
The findings show that 13% of 15-16 year olds said they had smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days - compared to 21% in the 2011 report.
6% of the students surveyed said they smoked daily.
In terms of alcohol consumption, 36% of the teenagers surveyed said they had drunk alcohol in the last 30 days. That compares to 50% in 2011.
However, almost 74% of students had consumed alcohol in their lifetime, while 33% had been drunk at least once.
10.4% reported having being drunk more than five times in their lifetimes.
The survey results also showed 81% of students had never tried cannabis, with 6.3% having only tried it once or twice.
The results show there was also a "sizeable minority" - 3.9% - of students who had smoked cannabis 40 times or more.
Conor Cullen, Head of Communications and Advocacy with Alcohol Action Ireland, said: “The ESPAD survey released today shows some positive trends when it comes to alcohol consumption among Irish children, particularly declines in heavy episodic drinking and drunkenness from the 2011 survey, which are very welcome.
“While it is encouraging that Ireland is below the European average in a number of important ESPAD categories, it is also notable that exceptions to this include the number of boys and girls who were drunk in the previous 30 days and the average alcohol intake on the last day of drinking."
He adds that "this reflects the trend of heavy episodic drinking, or drinking to the point of drunkenness, which is commonplace throughout all age groups and responsible for a large burden of alcohol harm in Ireland".
Minister of State for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, meanwhile, welcomed the 'significant downward trend' in the number of young people beginning to smoke.
“It is hard to believe that in 1995 41% of 15 to 16 year olds were considered smokers and we can be proud of the advances we have made in preventing our young people from starting to smoke," she said.
"We must not be complacent, however, and we must continue our work in order to achieve a Tobacco Free Ireland."
While she welcomed the decline in alcohol consumption, she also stated "it is very worrying that the majority of these students started drinking before the age of sixteen and that minors continue to have such easy access to alcohol. I am also deeply concerned that the pattern of binge drinking is still very widespread."