Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has urged the public to quit smoking as he welcomes Tobacco Free Ireland's Annual Report for 2019.
The national tobacco control policy sets Ireland's target to be tobacco free by 2025 with less than 5% of people smoking.
Launched in 2015 by the Department of Health, some of the plan's target's reached last year include:
- A government-approved drafting of a Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill to advance Tobacco Free Ireland guidance.
- Smoking status included in the 2021 national census as a question as reccomended by the Census Advisory Group.
- A ban on smoking at all buildings in the Sport Ireland Campus.
The inclusion of the smoking status question on the census means that, for the first time, detailed information on smoking status at a national level will be available to inform current and future tobacco control policy.
Speaking about the launch of the tobacco report, Minister Donnelly said Ireland is making great progress towards its targets and encourage more people to quit smoking if they have been thinking about it.
“Tobacco Free Ireland sets a target for Ireland to have a smoking prevalence rate of less than 5% by 2025. We are making great progress toward that target, but I ask anyone that is thinking about quitting to act now," said Mr Donnelly.
The Wicklow TD said the risk posed by the coronavirus to smokers also proves the benefits of giving up especially in the pandemic.
"There is evidence that smokers are at a higher risk of complications with Covid-19 infection and are more likely to have a more severe outcome from the disease compared with non-smokers so there has never been a better time to take that first step to a smoke-free life. The HSE QUIT service is there to help,” said Mr Donnelly.
Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan said the upcoming legislation recommended by the report for tobacco will improve the lives of children in the future.
“One of the best things we can do for the health of our children is to let them grow up in a smoke-free world. Our Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill will ban the sale of tobacco products at places or events that are intended for children. We are also banning the sale of e-cigarettes to children.
"The recent Health Research Board evidence review on e-cigarettes found an association between e-cigarette use and later smoking in adolescents.
"I am determined to do what I can to ensure that our children don’t start smoking and can live their lives free of this addictive and lethal product," said Mr Feighan.
The Minister said local action can play a huge role in achieving national targets as evident in policies recently introduced in Limerick as well as at public places like Sport Ireland's campus.
“Successes such as the ‘Not Around Us’ campaign in Limerick in promoting tobacco free environments and the introduction of a smoke free campus by Sport Ireland show how local actions can play a large part in making Ireland tobacco free.
"These community-based projects also play an important role in supporting people to quit smoking and are to be commended for their contribution to the continued decrease in smoking rates,” said Mr Feighan.