The age limit for the purchase of tobacco products should be raised to 21, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Fine Gael Health Spokesperson Colm Burke said Ireland needs to meet its target of less than 5% smoking rate by 2025.
“In the past Ireland was to the forefront in the control of tobacco products,” he said.
“The 2004 ban on smoking in the workplace was ground-breaking and was followed by many other countries across the world.
“Unfortunately, in recent years we have taken our foot of the pedal and momentum behind anti-smoking campaigns has eased.”
Deputy Burke said current smoking rates are roughly 14%, and the Government, HSE and public health organisations must take strong measures.
“There is strong international evidence that raising the age to 21 will significantly reduce smoking rates among the under 25s,” he said.
“Evidence from the United States indicates a drop in smoking rates of 20% and higher in the under 25 age group when the age limit is raised to 21 years.
“Smoking is also a huge financial burden on individuals and families. Research indicates that smokers on average smoke 13/14 cigarettes a day.
“The average smoker spends more that €3,000 a year on cigarettes.”
'Take a leadership position'
Deputy Burke called for an amendment to the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill which is currently making its way through the legislative process.
“Raising the age limit for the purchase of tobacco products to 21 would send a very clear public health message on smoking and would bring many long-term health benefits,” he said.
“The Government needs to once again take a leadership position on smoking and its negative health impacts and negative economic impact.”