More than three quarters of people in Ireland support a total phasing out of tobacco sales – preventing those born after a certain year from ever being able to legally buy cigarettes, new research shows.
And even more want both a reduction in the number of locations where tobacco is sold and less nicotine in it to make cigarettes less addictive.
“If 12 people died on our roads every single day, there would be a national outcry, yet smoking causes a dozen preventable deaths a day, or 4,500 every year,” said Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy with the Irish Heart Foundation, which commissioned the research.
“As a nation, we have lost our way on tobacco control and have been too slow to react to the explosion in vaping.
“Our teenage smoking rate has increased for the first time in a generation and we will miss the Tobacco Free Ireland target of a 5% smoking rate by 2025 by a margin of around half a million smokers.”
Mr Macey said the recent announcement of a wide-ranging public consultation on vape flavours and plain packaging and increasing the age of sale of tobacco products, provides a roadmap for the State to regain control in the battle to protect children from tobacco and e-cigarette addiction.
The Ipsos data was presented at a conference in Dublin today, organised by the charity and ASH Ireland, Council of the Irish Heart Foundation, to explore a tobacco ‘endgame’ for Ireland and regulation of e-cigarettes.
The survey of 1,012 adults last month shows 76% of the population favour a gradual ban on the sale and supply of tobacco, with 22% disagreeing. Crucially, 76% of 18-24 year-olds support the move.
Such a measure would raise the legal age of smoking every year by a year so that, eventually, no-one can legally buy tobacco.
A total of 78% want a reduction in the number of locations where tobacco can be purchased and 87% favour reduced nicotine content in tobacco.
Separate research by the Irish Heart Foundation found 57% back a ban on vape flavours (35% against) and 66% support plain packaging (25% against).
In addition, 73% support the Tobacco 21 policy with 26% against.
“Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet and the increase in e-cigarette use among 15-24 year-olds of almost two-thirds in the last year means we are facing a further surge in youth tobacco use, given the proven gateway effect between vaping and smoking,” said Mr Macey.
Dr Emmet O’Brien, Chairman of ASH Ireland, said the research shows the public is way ahead of policymakers on measures to protect young people from nicotine addiction and is ready for laws that will put an end to smoking.
“It’s time for Government to heed public sentiment and set out a timetable to make this happen,” he said.
The conference was addressed via video link by Richard Edwards, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago in New Zealand and Dennis van Driel from the Dutch Heart Foundation.
Members of Wexford Comhairle na nÓg also attended to give the youth perspective on vaping.