About smoking and tobacco in Ireland

What percentage of people smoke in Ireland?

The latest data from the Healthy Ireland Survey 2018 indicates that 20% of the population are current smokers and of those, 17% smoke daily and 3% smoke occasionally.

For a detailed report on this click:

Click to access Healthy-Ireland-Survey-2018.pdf


How many people die from tobacco related disease every year in Ireland?

Over 5,900 people die annually from the effects of smoking. This is a national scandal.


How much does the Irish government spend every year on tobacco-related disease?

In Ireland, the estimated annual cost of smoking to the State is over €1.6 billion.


What are the main diseases linked to tobacco use?

Cardiovascular disease, to include stroke and heart problems; a range of cancers such as lung, throat, mouth and respiratory diseases such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Tobacco kills 50% of its users – this fact is no longer disputed.


What other issues emerge for smokers other than the risk of major diseases?

Smokers will be less fit as their lungs suffer damage. They will have drier skin and be more prone to wrinkles; their hair will be of a poorer quality; their fingers will be stained and many smokers experience a persistent cough.


Is second-hand smoke harmful?

The WHO has decreed that second-hand smoke is a class A carcinogen (cancer causing). Research also shows that smoking has an impact on the foetus in pregnancy, and second-hand smoke is particularly harmful to children.


Does the Tobacco Industry target young people?

Yes. It has been established, especially from documentation which has emerged in the course of litigation in the United States that the Tobacco Industry targets young people. Project 16 in Canada is one example http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/9/2/136.full.  We must also remember that in order to maintain profits, which is the main priority of the Tobacco Industry, each smoker that dies must be replaced. Recruiting young people as smokers is a key element of their marketing process.


Does the Tobacco Industry use the internet to target people?

Yes, it is well established that the internet is being used to present tobacco in a more favourable light and also to bridge the gap which has now emerged with the ban on tobacco advertising in media outlets in most jurisdictions.


How many harmful products are contained in cigarettes?

A cigarette contains 4,000 different chemicals such as nicotine, ammonia, arsenic, butane, formaldehyde, radon etc.


Is nicotine addictive?

Yes. Nicotine is highly addictive. Some experts would describe it as more addictive than heroin. In leaked documents in the U.S. in 1979, British American Tobacco in a memo said, “we also think that consideration should be given to the hypotheses that high profits additionally associated with the Tobacco Industry are directly related to the fact that the customer is dependent on the product”. However, smokers should remember that many smokers quit every year, most having tried to quit on a number of previous occasions.


Does the Tobacco Industry manipulate the addictive qualities in cigarettes?

Yes. It has been established in the United States that levels of nicotine have increased on certain brands and this of course has the sole purpose of ensuring and increasing the level of addiction. The Tobacco Industry also uses flavourings and additives in the manufacture of tobacco in their efforts to make this killer product more attractive.


Roughly what percentage of smokers will die because they smoke?

50% of smokers will die because they smoke.


Can smoking prevalence in Ireland be further reduced?

Most definitely. As has been shown in other jurisdictions, particularly in Norway, New Zealand and several areas in the United States. To reduce smoking prevalence it will be important to maintain high prices, to continuously advise on the harmful effects of tobacco, to make legislative changes which continue to de-normalise smoking, to assist smokers to quit, and to win the battle against the Tobacco Industry in the targeting of young people. This will take a concerted effort by government, health authorities and those directly involved in the NGO sector, such as ASH Ireland.


How can we stop young people from commencing the smoking habit?

As we know that young people are targeted by the Tobacco Industry it is imperative that young people are assisted in resisting the perceived attraction of smoking. This requires a multiplicity of efforts from parents, teachers, sports coaches and indeed the government who have the capacity to de-normalise smoking with effective legislative measures. Recent measures such as banning the advertising of tobacco in the media and especially the banning of tobacco advertising and promotion in retail outlets will assist young people in deciding not to commence the smoking habit. The introduction of plain packaging and graphic warnings on tobacco products will also assist in reducing the impact of the massive marketing spend by the Tobacco Industry annually. This massive marketing spend has just one purpose, to attract non-smokers into a smoking culture, irrespective of the massive health consequences that will inevitably follow. It has been established in 2006 that the five leading Tobacco Industries in the U.S. spent $12.45 Billion on marketing alone.


Is ASH Ireland doing anything about the cost differential between Ireland and the UK on nicotine replacement products?

ASH Ireland is very concerned about this price differential. We have contacted pharmacies, the pharmaceutical sector, the Department of Health and the Irish Medicines Board about this. At present we are trying to have VAT removed from nicotine replacement patches so as to reduce the cost to the consumer. This is an on-going project which ASH Ireland is determined to achieve some level of success.