From pub bans to taxes: Ireland’s powerful stance on smoking

Remember when the legal age to buy cigarettes in Ireland was just 16?! If you're over 25, you may remember when smoking in school toilets at secondary school was the norm.

It seems ludicrous now, but until March 2002, a 16-year-old could buy tobacco products easily. These days, things have changed for the better!

Ireland has always led the way in anti-smoking policies, becoming the first country to make smoking in the workplace illegal, in 2004.

Subsequently, Irish pubs became smoke-free, as smokers were banished to designated smoking areas. Although there were complaints at the time, the legislation worked, and our pubs are now much more pleasant places.

Packets of 10 cigarettes were abolished in 2009, to discourage young people from buying the smaller, cheaper packets.

Tax on cigarettes has steadily increased also, leading to a higher retail price.

The average price of 20 cigarettes is now €11 – more expensive than ever.

With a packet costing more than one hour's minimum wage, it's not an affordable habit for most young people – or anyone on a low income!

There are better ways to spend your money than watching it go up in smoke…literally!

Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy from the Irish Cancer Society, says: "We do know increasing the price of cigarettes through taxation works, it's been proven globally."

"But we still need a combination of measures to tackle smoking, including education and limiting availability."

He explains that taxing cigarettes is not an easy target for revenue: "The Department of Health produced a report in 2013 that proves tobacco is costing us more than what revenue can collect."

When James Reilly became Minister for Health, he aimed to make Ireland smoke-free by 2025. This will be "really challenging", according to Donal Buggy.

He explains that preventing young people from taking up smoking is crucial: "85 percent of smokers start before the age of 18. If we can significantly reduce the number of smokers under 18, it would be an improvement."

"There has already been a 10 percent reduction in school-age children, which is great."

A plan for plain packaging on tobacco products is expected to be enforced by May of this year, devoid of imagery and marketing apart from the brand name

And those gruesome photos of tumours on the packet? They're yet another public measure to deter people from taking up the disgusting habit. 

TV ads and even shop displays advertising tobacco products are now illegal. In 2014, a bill was passed to ban smoking in a private car where children are present.

Quitting the deadly habit requires tremendous willpower and determination. The HSE offers a free service, QUIT.ie, to provide help and support to those who want to quit smoking for good. They also run campaigns to deter would-be smokers from starting.

Quit.ie says smoking places an enormous strain our health services, with over 5,000 Irish people dying annually from the effects of smoking.

We can't ignore the sober reality- one in two Irish smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease. 

Those who are attempting to stop smoking are more successful when they have a plan and support in place. For more information, check out QUIT.ie.

Smokers with a medical card can avail of free nicotine replacement aids to help them quit.

We're lucky to live in a country which puts health first, and the smoking ban definitely did that!

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