Health Minister, Dr James Reilly, has said he wants Ireland to be tobacco free by 2025.
Launching a new tobacco policy, Tobacco Free Ireland, the Minister acknowledged that achieving this in 12 years 'is an extraordinary challenge'.
However, he insisted that ‘if we work together to de-normalise smoking for young people, we can do it'.
The policy document provides for the introducuton of a ban on smoking in cars with children, an annual increase on tobacco excise duty for five years, and other measures.
"And do it we must because for every two young people who become addicted to tobacco, one of them will die as a consequence. Around 5,200 Irish people die each year from diseases caused by smoking. These are all preventable, avoidable deaths," he commented.
Minister Reilly described this as a ‘battle that must be won' and noted that if cigarette companies did not recruit new smokers, ‘they would disappear within a generation'.
"For the industry to simply maintain the size of its customer base in Ireland, it is estimated that 50 Irish children have to start smoking every single day. We know that half of them will ultimately die from their addiction," he pointed out.
According to the Department of Health, the main aim of the new policy, which contains over 60 recommendations, is to de-normalise smoking in Irish society. It contains measures aimed at, among other things, protecting children from the harms of tobacco, assisting people who want to quit the habit and regulating and legislating for tobacco products and activities.
Minister Reilly emphasised the importance of recent initiatives such as the decision by many city and county council playgrounds to become smoke free (see more on this here).
He also said he was ‘delighted' to hear that both Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin are considering plans to make their entire campuses smoke free.
"I would encourage other third level colleges to follow their lead. By working together we can achieve our aim of being tobacco free by 2025," he added.Develop and introduce legislation to prohibit smoking within the campuses of primary schools, secondary schools and child care facilities.
Among the actions in the 'Tobacco-Free Ireland' report are:
* Annual excise duty increases on tobacco products should be applied over a continuous five year period.
* Develop and introduce legislation prohibiting smoking in cars where children are present.
* Promote tobacco free campuses for all schools, third-level institutions, healthcare, governmental and sporting facilities.
* Prohibit the sale of tobacco at events/locations primarily intended for those persons under 18 years.
* Ban all self-service tobacco vending machines.
* Monitor the effectiveness of the current smoke-free legislation, including the review of existing exemptions and the monitoring of compliance with these provisions.
* Develop legislation for the introduction of standardised/plain packaging for tobacco products.
* Advocate for the removal of VAT from nicotine replacement therapy.
The new policy can be viewed here
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