Three-quarters of people support plan to phase-out tobacco sales in Ireland

5 December 2023

By Eilish O’Regan, Irish Independent

More than three quarters of people in Ireland support a total phasing out of tobacco sales, eventually outlawing them from shops, a new poll revealed today.

The dramatic move and timeline would mean that people born after a certain date would never be able to legally purchase cigarettes.

The Ipsos data on the proposed bold crackdown was presented at a conference in Dublin organised by ASH Ireland and the Irish Heart Foundation, to examine a tobacco “endgame” for Ireland as well as the regulation of e-cigarettes.

It found high level support for both a reduction in the number of locations where tobacco is sold as well as lower nicotine content to make cigarettes less addictive.

Smoking rates in Ireland remain at 18pc and have plateaued for a number of years despite hopes they would fall further.

Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy with the Irish Heart Foundation, which commissioned the research said: “If 12 people died on our roads every single day, there would be a national outcry, yet smoking causes a dozen preventable deaths a day, or 4,500 every year.

“As a nation, we have lost our way on tobacco control and have been too slow to react to the explosion in vaping.

“Our teenage smoking rate has increased for the first time in a generation and we will miss the Tobacco Free Ireland target of a 5pc smoking rate by 2025 by a margin of around half a million smokers.”

The survey of 1,012 adults last month shows 76pc of the population support a gradual outlawing of the sale and supply of tobacco, with 22pc disagreeing. Crucially, 76pc of 18-24 year-olds support the move.

Such a measure would raise the legal age of smoking every year by a year so that, eventually, no-one can legally buy tobacco.

A total of 78pc want a reduction in the number of locations where tobacco can be purchased and 87pc favour reduced nicotine content in tobacco to make cigarettes less addictive.

Separate research by the Irish Heart Foundation found 57pc row in behind a ban on vape flavours with 35pc against.

Some 66pc support plain packaging with 25pc against.

Also 73pc said they support the “Tobacco 21” policy, pushing up the age at which cigarettes can be purchase from 18 to 21. Some 26pc are opposed to it.

Mr Macey said: “Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet and the increase in e-cigarette use among 15-24 year-olds of almost two-thirds in the last year means we are facing a further surge in youth tobacco use, given the proven gateway effect between vaping and smoking.”

Dr Emmet O’Brien, Chairman of ASH Ireland, said the statistics show the public is way ahead of policymakers on measures to protect young people from nicotine addiction and is ready for laws that will put an end to smoking.

“It’s time for Government to heed public sentiment and set out a timetable to make this happen,” he said.

The conference was addressed by Richard Edwards, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago in New Zealand and Dennis van Driel from the Dutch Heart Foundation. Members of Wexford Comhairle na nÓg also attended to give the youth perspective on vaping.

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