Government urged to raise minimum age of sale of tobacco products to 21
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A new report from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland has called for the government to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.
The RCPI’s Policy Group on Tobacco has launched the Tobacco 21 report and said that current policies mean the government will miss its target to reduce smoking numbers by 5% by 2025.
Professor Des Cox, Chair of the RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco, has said that tobacco control is "stagnating" and there's actually an uptick in use among teenage boys.
"We are not going to achieve the nationwide target of reducing smoking to 5% by 2025 with the policies currently in place," Professor Cox said.
"Tobacco 21 is a simple and effective step on the road to tobacco endgame. It requires only simple amendments to existing legislation and already has strong public support.
"Most smokers start to smoke in their teenage years, but the age at which they are starting is rising over time. The earlier a young person starts smoking the more likely they are to become addicted and the harder it can be to quit."
Professor Cox, who is a consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine, said one of the issues is that teenagers can get cigarettes without much effort.
"Most teenagers report finding it easy to get cigarettes directly at the shop or through friends," Cox said.
He said that international modelling suggests that raising the minimum age of sale to 21 can reduce smoking rates by up to 25% among 15 to 17 year olds and by 15% among 18 to 20 year olds.
Nearly 4,500 people die in Ireland each year from the effects of smoking with thousands more suffering from related diseases, including heart and lung disease and cancers.