Ireland must raise the smoking age to 21 if we are to continue cutting down on the number of young people picking up the habit, according to health experts.
A new report from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) claims raising the minimum legal age for buying tobacco could reduce smoking among young people by up to one-quarter.
The authors warn that smoking is on the rise among teenage boys and, after “decades of progress,” tobacco reduction is now stagnating in Ireland.
The report notes that raising the age to 21 could lead to people picking up the habit later and as a result, reduce the number of people who smoke.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dr Garrett McGovern, Medical Director at the Priority Medical Clinic in Dundrum said he fully supports the call.
“I think we’re all in agreement on this one,” he said.
He said California and Hawaii raised the tobacco purchase age in recent years and saw a significant reduction in the number of cigarette packs sold each month.
According to the British Medical Journal, monthly sales of cigarette packs fell by between 13.1% - 18.2% after the age was raised.
He said Ireland should do everything it can to cut out smoking as soon as possible.
“Obviously, smokers will talk about civil liberties and stuff like that but I think generally speaking we are trying to move towards a tobacco-free Ireland,” he said.
“I mean we had all sorts of ambitious plans to do it by 2025 but I think the latest is 2037.
“I have to say we do need to get there. It is a fairly devastating habit in terms of the death toll and the health implications.”
Dr McGovern also called for new age limits on the sale of nicotine-based vape products in Ireland.
He noted that the idea that vaping is a gateway to smoking “probably isn’t really supported by evidence” – but said introducing an age limit could protect young people from picking up vaping as a habit.
The RCPI said increasing the age limit for smoking is “fundamental” to achieving Tobacco Free Ireland targets – including the aim of reducing smokers to 5% by 2025.
It said international modelling suggests that the age increase could reduce smoking rates by up to 25% among 15-17-year- olds and by up to 15% among 18-20-year-olds.
It also noted that a recent survey from the Irish Heart Foundation found that 71% of people over the age of 15 are in favour of increasing the smoking age.
It said 59% of current smokers and 64% of those who use tobacco products support the change.
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