Over one fifth of Irish people still smoking

Twenty two per cent of the Irish population are current smokers, with 18 per cent smoking daily and four per cent smoking occasionally, Minister of State at the Department of Health Catherine Byrne said at the publication of the 2017 Annual Report on the Tobacco Free Ireland Action Plan.

She said these figures underscored the need to implement all the recommendations in Tobacco Free Ireland.”

Tobacco Free Ireland was launched under the Healthy Ireland framework in 2013 and sets a target for Ireland to be tobacco free (that is, with a smoking prevalence rate of less than 5%) by the year 2025.

A high level action plan for Tobacco Free Ireland was published in March 2015 and one of these actions committed the Department of Health to publish an annual report on the implementation of the plan.

Commenting on the Report, Health Minister Harris, Simon said, “I am delighted to see the progress that has been made to date in the implementation of the recommendations in Tobacco Free Ireland. That the World Health Organisation (WHO) awarded the Department of Health a prestigious World No Tobacco Day Award for its achievements in the area of tobacco control in 2017 is testament to the work being carried out. Most people who smoke wish they had never started smoking and want to stop, for themselves and for their families. That is why we must continue to prioritise and enhance the supports and encouragement people need to quit smoking once and for all or to never take up the habit in the first place.”

The 2017 Annual Report outlines a number of key achievements in 2017, including:

  • The recognition by the WHO of the Department of Health’s outstanding contribution to tobacco control in its World No Tobacco Day Awards.
  • The completion of legislation to provide for standardised packaging of tobacco products.
  • The transposition of European Commission Implementing Acts arising from the Tobacco Products Directive, continued engagement with the HSE and the European Commission in relation to the implementation of the Directive, participation in the development of European Commission Implementing Acts on traceability and security feature systems for tobacco products.
  • The continuation of an annual Healthy Ireland Survey and the Health Behaviour in School Children Study which will give up-to-date reliable data on the prevalence of smoking throughout the whole population,
  • The publication of HIQA Health Technology Assessment of smoking cessation,
  • The development by the HSE of the new QUIT campaign and the enhancement of supports for smokers who wish to stop smoking, and
  • The increase in the price of tobacco products in Budget 2018.

Minister Byrne said, “All of these achievements will help us in our goal of making Ireland tobacco free by 2025 and I commend the work of the Department, the Health Service Executive and the NGO community for their work in this regard.

“Smoking is the greatest single cause of preventable illness and premature death in Ireland, killing almost 6,000 people a year. On a positive note we have seen a significant and continued reduction in smoking prevalence in children which tells us that we are on the right track in how we are tackling that part of the problem.”