IRELAND should raise the legal age of smoking to 21 in a collective bid to save lives, according to deputy Pat Deering.
This week’s call from the Fine Gael deputy comes following a similar move in the USA, where lawmakers have voted to implement the age increase to 21 next year.
Deputy Deering pointed out that nearly 6,000 people die each year in Ireland from smoking-related illnesses.
“That’s a huge amount of people when you think of it over the course of a decade; that’s the whole population of Co Carlow wiped out,” he stated.
Mr Deering insisted that Ireland must have a national conversation about the harmful effects of smoking.
“I believe that a lot of young people get hooked on smoking at a young age. You’d see the kids coming out of the secondary school and smoking; maybe there is more peer pressure at that age and maybe if they were older it might make them see the negative effects of smoking.”
Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of illness and death in Ireland, with more than 5,900 people estimated to die from smoking each year, according to the HSE.
“In the face of these startling figures, we must do everything we can to deter people from taking up this habit,” said deputy Deering.
The Rathvilly-based deputy pointed to the USA, where legislators have voted to raise the age at which a person can buy tobacco and related products to 21 from next year.
“This is something I believe we should introduce here. If we can deter people from getting hooked on cigarettes and other tobacco products, then this is a win-win scenario.”
Deputy Deering accepted concerns that an increase in age would lead to a rise in the number of young people buying cigarettes on the black market. However, he pointed to the price of cigarettes going up in recent budgets on a regular basis, yet people continue to smoke.
“I have raised this issue with my colleague the minister for health Simon Harris, who confirmed that his department is aware of steps taken by some US states in relation to this issue and continues to keep all such measures under consideration,” deputy Deering concluded.