Fine Gael Spokesperson on Health, Deputy Colm Burke, referenced an announcement from the US Government who are seeking a cap on the level of nicotine in cigarettes and other finished tobacco products, with formal legislative proposals expected in 2023.
Deputy Burke said, “The upcoming Tobacco Products Directive Review at a European level presents the perfect opportunity for the EU to align itself with the US and bring forward proposals to reduce nicotine to minimum levels.
“If the US and the EU work cohesively on this, we can restore the downward trend in tobacco consumption. It is known that reducing nicotine levels is extremely effective in breaking addiction to smoking.
“The Government and health authorities have a target of reducing smoking to five percent of the population by 2025. There is no possibility of this target being reached and no possibility of EU target on smoking reduction being reached unless dramatic new action is taken.”
According to EU statistics, 18.4% of people aged 15 years and over are daily smokers, ranging from a high of 28.75% in Bulgaria, to a low of 6.4% in Sweden. In Ireland, adult smoking rates have reduced rapidly in the early years of the present century. However, in recent years the downward trend in smoking has stalled and the most recent figures show a slight increase in smoking rates which now stand at around 18%.
Deputy Burke continued, “It is crucial that we monitor this trend. It is essential to note that surveys also show a slight upward trend in teenage smoking, especially among boys.
“To combat this, raising the legal age for purchase of cigarettes to 21 has been suggested and is strongly supported in a new report, Tobacco 21, from the Tobacco Policy Group of the RCPI. Cigarettes companies have also responded to the reduction in cigarettes by introducing many novel smoking products to the market and are making major inroads among young people.
“Nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, and it is a very powerful drug. When the smoking habit is formed, most smokers find it extremely hard to break free from the addiction to nicotine. Nicotine is also associated with a range of cardiovascular difficulties, increased blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries.
“There must be a clear focus on nicotine levels in all cigarette products and Ireland must follow America’s lead,” concluded Deputy Burke.