Health minister launches proposal to raise smoking age to 21


The Minister for Health is due to bring new legislation to the Dáil today, in the hopes of raising the legal smoking age to 21.

This afternoon (July 4), Minister Stephen Donnelly will launch the passage of the Public Health (Tobacco) Amendment Bill 2024 through the Oireachtas at its second stage in Dáil Éireann.

If approved in full, the bill will see an increase in the minimum age of purchase of tobacco products to 21. If it is passed, Ireland will be the first country in Europe to introduce this law, with approximately 4,500 deaths in Ireland every year being caused by smoking and/or exposure to second-hand smoke.

It is hoped that the bill will pass through the Oireachtas sometime this autumn, before it would fully be brought into law on February 1, 2028. 

The near three year gap has been suggested so that a certain group who is already able to buy tobacco products – young adults who are over 18 but under the age of 21 – will not be affected by the change.

Speaking about the legislation, Minister Donnelly stated that he was "delighted" to be bringing the bill forward, in the hopes that it can “protect the health of our population".

“These products are addictive and lethal, killing two out of every three users, reducing life expectancy by an average of 10 years and causing an enormous range of preventable illness and disability,” he explained.

“Ireland has long been a world leader in tackling smoking, beginning with the workplace smoking ban in 2004 and continuing with a range of measures including restrictions around the sale, advertising and packaging of smoking products to make them less attractive and less available to young people,” he continued.

“We know from evidence internationally that raising the minimum age of sale of tobacco products to 21 is likely to deter teenagers from initiating smoking, and is likely to lead to a 12% absolute reduction in smoking prevalence,” he added.