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Ireland Set to Become the First Country in the EU to Ban Smoking Among Under-21s

By Hannah Rhodes 17th May 2024 2 Mins


The Irish government is set to increase the legal age for purchasing tobacco and tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly gained approval from the Cabinet this week in favour of this significant change.

This move aims to reduce smoking rates among young people, which have plateaued in recent years despite a general decline in smoking.

By raising the legal age to 21, the government hopes to make it harder for teenagers to access cigarettes and vapes, thereby further decreasing smoking rates among the younger population.

Additionally, there are plans to address issues related to disposable vapes, flavoured vape products, and the bright colours of vape packaging as well as ban products purchased from vending machines.

Minister Donnelly first announced this initiative in March.

He said:

“This is a tough new measure, but the health impacts of tobacco smoking are immense and require tough responses…

“I am determined to progress legislation that will protect children and young people from this lethal product and ultimately save lives.

“This measure targets those aged 15 to 17, who currently find it relatively easy to buy cigarettes. Raising the age to 21 will make it much more difficult.

“Our smoking rates are still unacceptably high, so I am delighted that we are progressing a strong population protection measure that will help bring us closer to the goal of a tobacco-free Ireland.”

Stephen Donnelly, Minsiter of Health

According to the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland Policy Group (RCPI), smoking causes approximately 4,500 deaths annually in Ireland, making it the leading cause of early death.

Chief Medical Officer Prof Breda Smyth added:

“It’s also responsible for five percent of hospital inpatient admissions, while the financial loss caused by smoking is estimated at €10.6 billion annually.”

Professor Brenda Smyth

The Irish Heart Foundation has also praised the proposed age increase, calling it a ‘ground-breaking’ step to protect future generations from the harms of smoking.

HSE data from 2022 indicated that 71 percent of the public supports raising the legal smoking age to 21. Smoking rates in Ireland have been steadily declining across all age groups and currently stand at 16.1 percent.

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About this author

Hannah Rhodes

Hannah is a journalist with a filmmaking and marketing background, which has paved the way for creating engaging, meaningful stories regardless of the topic. Despite not having smoked or vaped herself, Hannah firmly believes in the power vaping holds as a harm reduction tool as she grew up in a smoking household, resulting in a need to help those in similar positions in any way she can – be that through her writing for Vapouround’s various magazines or online audiences; or by connecting with locals on our bus tours. She prides herself on her ability to form and maintain close relationships with those both inside and outside the industry and believes that kindness is key in all walks of life.