IPH welcomes progressive measures on tobacco control in Ireland and Northern Ireland

The Institute of Public Health (IPH) has welcomed moves to further tighten access to tobacco products in Ireland and Northern Ireland under progressive measures being considered by the Irish government and the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

Legislative proposals to curb access to tobacco products in both jurisdictions has the potential to bring greater alignment on tobacco control across the island of Ireland, the Institute said.

This week the Irish government approved legislative proposals to increase the age of sale of tobacco to 21, making it the first country in the EU to introduce this measure. The Tobacco 21 proposal in Ireland builds on the country’s strong legacy in tobacco control, having been the first country in the world to ban smoking in workplaces in 2004. 

The move comes as the Northern Ireland Assembly is set to deliberate on the UK Tobacco and Vapes Bill, which seeks to create a smoke-free generation by banning the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 1 January 2009. 

The separate legislative proposals, the Institute said, represent significant progress on tobacco control policy in both jurisdictions and will help to protect children and young people and future generations from tobacco harms.

“These legislative proposals represent a significant step forward. Smoking is linked to more than 7,000 preventable deaths across the island of Ireland every year and these measures will go some way to reducing tobacco harms in Ireland and Northern Ireland into the future,” Suzanne Costello, IPH Chief Executive said. 

“The Tobacco 21 and smoke-free generation measures are progressive and have a shared ambition, to prevent children and young people, and future generations, from starting to smoke.”

In Northern Ireland, a Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) for the UK Tobacco and Vapes Bill is expected to be put to members of the Northern Ireland Assembly for approval. The LCM, which will seek consent to introduce the smoke-free generation provisions and powers to regulate vaping, noted evidence submitted by IPH that e-cigarettes act as a gateway to tobacco smoking amongst young people. 

The Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Health has also been considering the legislative proposals and heard evidence from the Institute in April. 

IPH has also developed a policy briefing on the UK Tobacco and Vapes Bill which profiles tobacco use and tobacco-related harm in Northern Ireland and considers the legislative interface between Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK, and cross-border issues.

In relation to Tobacco 21 proposals in Ireland, IPH analysed national and international evidence for a Tobacco 21 report published by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland’s Policy Group on Tobacco in 2022. IPH Director of Policy Dr Helen McAvoy sits on the RCPI Tobacco Policy Group.

For further details on IPH’s latest work in this area see our recent Spotlight on Tobacco Control, which provides links to policy briefings, reports, consultation responses, and other relevant resources. 

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths and preventable cancers across the island of Ireland, contributing to around 5,000 deaths in Ireland and 2,300 deaths in Northern Ireland every year.

Tobacco use is associated with a wide range of health problems, including lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, and many other conditions. 

It not only harms the health of people who smoke, but also has significant negative effects on the health of non-users through exposure to second-hand smoke. There are also significant economic costs associated with tobacco use, including healthcare costs, lost productivity, and reduced quality of life. 

Further information on IPH’s work on tobacco control is available at www.publichealth.ie/tobacco.


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