Taoiseach backs plans to increase legal smoking age in Republic of Ireland to 21

Smoking levels among adults in Ireland are reported to have plateaued at around 18%

The study found a decline in cigarette consumption paused between late 2019 and 2023
Smoking is still estimated to cause around 6,000 deaths a year in the Republic. (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Taoiseach Simon Harris has backed proposals to raise the legal smoking age in the Republic from 18 to 21.

On Monday, Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly was seeking approval from the Cabinet to support new legislation.

The report that although smoking levels have dropped in the Republic, it has plateaued with around 18% of adults smoking and still causes around 6,000 annual deaths.

Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk, Mr Harris commented: “I think the minister for health is quite right now to look at all of the various options that are available to him.”

If passed, the rule would not apply to those currently aged between 18 to 21.

“We’re not talking about making something illegal that is legal today,” he said.

“So in other words, if you’re 18, 19, 20, and you’re smoking today, we wish you weren’t from a public health point of view, but we’re not intending to make that illegal.

“We’re talking about people when they reach the age of 18,” adding the policy had been been introduced in other countries such as the US and Canada.

Mr Donnelly has already introduced legislation banning the sale of vapes to those under 18, with a ban on the sale of tobacco and vapes from vending machines to be enacted shortly.

The proposals are less strict than those planned by the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, which would gradually increase the legal age for cigarette sales meaning anyone born in or after 2009 will never be able to legally buy tobacco.