Ireland Set to Become First EU Country to Raise Minimum Age for Tobacco Sales to 21

Ireland raises minimum tobacco sales age 21

Ireland has taken a monumental step towards protecting public health by becoming the first European Union country to raise the minimum legal age for tobacco sales from 18 to 21. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly announced the government’s approval of the Public Health (Tobacco) (Amendment) Bill 2024, which will now proceed to enactment.

Government Aims to Accelerate Decline in Adult Smoking Prevalence

The Irish government has introduced this measure as part of a comprehensive strategy to accelerate the decline in adult smoking prevalence, which has remained stagnant at 18% for several years. The legislation also seeks to reduce smoking prevalence among children to zero, safeguarding the health of future generations.

Minister Donnelly emphasized the urgency of this initiative, stating, “Tobacco smoking continues to kill 4,500 of our people every year and remains the biggest single cause of disability and death combined in our country. My goal with this measure is to assist our young people to avoid a lifetime of addiction and illness from tobacco smoking.”

Legislation Protects Youth and Advances Tobacco-Free Vision

The new legislation aims to protect not only the targeted age group of 18 to 21-year-olds but also those under 18, as they will be less likely to associate with older individuals who can legally purchase cigarettes. Minister Donnelly expressed pride in Ireland’s ongoing leadership in the battle against tobacco, declaring, “Countries around the world are looking at endgame measures for smoking. We are no longer regulating it; we are seeking to eliminate it from our lives and the lives of our children.”

Government Implements Lead-In Time for Smooth Transition

To ensure a seamless transition, the government will implement a lead-in time, allowing individuals already entitled to purchase tobacco products (those over 18 but under 21) to remain unaffected by the change.

Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Colm Burke, commended the government’s approval of the measure, emphasizing the devastating impact of combustible tobacco smoking. “This new measure will help the next generation to avoid the many burdens associated with smoking and support them to live longer, healthier lives,” he said.


Although Ireland is set to become the first EU country to raise the minimum age for tobacco sales to 21, Latvia has already passed legislation to increase the minimum age to 20 by 2025. It is crucial to note that the proposed Irish legislation will not affect the minimum legal age for the sale of nicotine-inhaling products or vapes, which was recently raised to 18 in December. Currently, there are no plans to extend this ban to the age of 21.

As Ireland takes decisive action towards becoming a tobacco-free nation, the government’s dedication to protecting public health and preventing youth addiction to tobacco products sets a powerful example for other countries to emulate.

Source: Government approves legislation to increase the minimum legal age of sale of tobacco products to 21

Matthew Ma