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Government to raise the age of sale of tobacco to 21

24 May 2024


Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, and the Minister for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy Colm Burke TD, have announced that the Cabinet has approved a proposal for legislation that will increase the age of sale of tobacco to 21.

Ireland will be the first country in the EU to introduce this measure, continuing our tradition of leadership in tackling smoking rates which began with the ban on indoor smoking in 2004.

The proposal is designed to accelerate the goal of reducing Ireland’s adult smoking rate to less than 5% of the population, in line with Government policy. Currently, 18% of the population over the age of 15 are smokers. Preliminary legal advice suggests Ireland cannot pursue a ‘smokefree generation’ policy as has been suggested in other jurisdictions due to the EU’s Single Market rules and Tobacco Products Directive. 

Smoking and exposure to second hand smoke kills an estimated 4,500 people per year in Ireland, and it causes an enormous range of preventable illnesses including types of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases. 

The effects of smoking on your mouth include:

  • Increased risk of periodontal disease.
  • Affects the sense of taste and smell.
  • Bad breath.
  • Tooth discolouration.
  • An increased build up of dental plaque, and delayed healing following tooth extraction, periodontal treatment or oral surgery.

Evidence shows that people are at high risk of becoming smokers between the ages of 18 and 21. Raising the minimum purchasing age will make it harder for young people to access tobacco products through direct and proxy buys as well as social sources and is likely to lead to a reduction in the numbers taking up smoking.