Raising Age Limit to 21: Ireland's Fight Against Smoking
In a bid to reduce Ireland's smoking rate, Fine Gael health spokesperson Colm Burke has called for the age limit to purchase tobacco products to be raised to 21. Burke believes that this decisive action is necessary for Ireland to achieve its public health target of a less than 5 per cent smoking rate by 2025, a goal he considers at risk without effective measures.
Burke cited past successful smoking control methods in Ireland such as the 2004 ban on workplace smoking and standardised packaging introduced in 2014. However, he expressed concern about the diminishing momentum behind anti-smoking campaigns in recent years, especially with the rising popularity of vaping as a smoking gateway.
Asserting the need for government intervention, Burke said, "The most effective measure would be to raise the age for the purchase of tobacco products from 18 to 21. Evidence from the United States indicates a drop in smoking rates of 20 per cent and higher in the under 25 age group when the age limit is raised to 21 years."
Burke suggested that this could be accomplished through a government amendment to the Public Health [Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products] Bill currently in the legislative process. Alternatively, a distinct legislative piece could amend the existing tobacco control legislation – the Public Health [Tobacco] Act 2002.
Backing his proposition, Burke referenced a 2022 report by the Royal College of Physicians that supports the age limit increase. This report highlights smoking as a factor in 4,500 deaths each year, placing a massive cost burden on the health system. Furthermore, it indicates that abstaining from smoking contributes to better health as people age, promoting longevity.
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