People will no longer be able to smoke in public parks or on beaches under plans the government is considering.
Locations are the next frontier for a smoking ban, with the possible introduction of regulations that will prevent people from lighting up.
Tobacco control officials aim to expand a zero-tolerance approach to more sites, 18 years after Ireland became the first country in the world to ban smoking in the workplace.
In its latest report, the Tobacco Free Ireland section of the Department of Health said it planned to promote a smoking ban in certain parks and beaches, “in conjunction with local authorities through voluntary measures or the introduction of regulations”.
A survey conducted last year found that smoking rates rose from 17% in 2019 to 18% last year. Prevalence is highest among 45 to 54 year olds – 24% of whom smoke.
About half of smokers reported changes in their smoking behavior during Covid-19 restrictions, with 28% reporting smoking more cigarettes than before the pandemic.
The latest update shows that 60% of clubs involved in the GAA’s Healthy Clubs initiative – which aims to provide health centers within communities – had a smoke-free and vaping-free policy.
It also found that a number of initiatives introducing smoke-free environments in areas frequented by children have been put in place by local authorities.
In 2020 in Limerick, 42 outdoor locations where children and young people are likely to be displayed ‘Not around us’ signage. These include school gates, community playgrounds and recreation facilities.
In Offaly, all municipal play areas are smoke-free zones and there are plans to extend these to parks and amenity areas.
Last year, 56 complaints were filed with environmental health officers for tobacco control violations and six convictions were obtained for people lighting up where they shouldn’t, as well as for selling cigarettes to children.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, who launched the report with Deputy Minister Frank Feighan, said: ‘Quitting smoking remains one of the best decisions a person can make for their health and the HSE Quit service is available for anyone who needs help taking that first step. .”
He said the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhalants) Bill “will bring us closer to the goal of a tobacco-free Ireland and I am committed to its introduction.
“The bill will prohibit the sale of tobacco products in places or events intended for children and will prohibit the sale of tobacco products from self-service vending machines and temporary premises. We will also prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18.
“It is important that we use all tools – legislative, educational and enforcement – to protect people from the harms of tobacco.”