Legal Age for Smoking Will Now Be 21 in Ireland

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    Ireland is going to become the first country in the European Union to raise the minimum legal age for tobacco from 18 to 21. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Public Health Minister Colm Burke confirmed that work on the legislative proposal started just over a year ago and that it has received Cabinet approval. It would be a further step to reduce smoking rates and safeguard young people.

    The Bill Presented and Approval from the Cabinet

    In a joint statement, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Colm Burke, the Public Health Minister, said the Cabinet had approved a legislative proposal that would raise the age for purchasing tobacco to 21 years. If Parliament agrees, Ireland would be the first country in the EU to take such a measure, which will in turn show its seriousness on public health.

    EU Compliancy and Policy Rationale

    Initial legal advice is that Ireland’s proposal complies with EU rules about single markets and the Tobacco Products Directive. Ireland, because of some EU constraints, will be unable to implement the said “tobacco-free generation” policy but insists that increasing the minimum age to 21 is a proactive step to curb smoking rates.

    Smoking Reduction Objective

    The new proposal targets 18% of those aged 15 years and above who are currently smokers in order to expedite the government ambition to reduce the level of adult smoking to below 5%. With the hope of reducing access to tobacco products by the youth, it is believed that Ireland will be able to deter uptake of smoking as well as a push towards the uptake of healthier lifestyle.

    E-cigarette market stability

    Also, the proposed law does not change the legal age for selling nicotine inhalation products or e-cigarettes, hence providing the e-cigarette market with a much-needed degree of stability. The bill addresses the problem of smoking by sustaining harm-reduction alternatives.

    Pioneering in EU

    The intention of Ireland in moving to increase the age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 is setting the pace in the EU. Other countries, including Latvia, have already taken this step, but the Irish position has placed it as one of the leading countries taking measures on tobacco control within Europe.