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Legal age to buy tobacco products increases to 18

Monday, 30 June 2008

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has announced that the age of sale of tobacco products will rise from 16 to 18 from 1 September 2008.

The Minister has taken the step in an attempt to reduce the level of smoking prevalence amongst children and young people in Northern Ireland, having received 90% support for the measure during public consultation.

Making the announcement, following the approval of the Assembly today, Michael McGimpsey said: “It is clear that we must do all we can to deter our children and young people from taking up the smoking habit. Research has shown us that 79% of adult smokers in Northern Ireland took up the habit in teens and 11% of children between 11 and 15 here are regular smokers. These are startling statistics when we know the severe damage smoking can do to our health.

“Smoking kills and I want that message to be heard loud and clear by our children and young people. They have their whole lives ahead of them and their years could be cut short if a smoking habit takes hold at a young age.

“That is why I am increasing the age at which you can buy tobacco products from 16 to 18 from 1 September 2008.”

The minister also outlined other measures he is taking to deter young people from taking up the habit.

He continued, “I understand that raising the age of sale will not, in itself, solve the problems of children’s smoking. It is one step along the way. Education programmes and promotional campaigns, highlighting the dangers of smoking, will of course continue. Our smoke-free legislation will also mean that children will now grow up in a society, free of being bombarded with people smoking around them in enclosed public places, making it less likely for them to take up the habit.

“I have also recently extended a Department of Health (London) consultation to Northern Ireland to seek views of the future of tobacco controls that are likely to impact on children’s smoking, including advertising at point of sale and access to tobacco vending machines. I would encourage interested parties throughout Northern Ireland to make their views known through this consultation.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Northern Ireland Five Year Tobacco Action Plan was launched in 2003 and, although aimed at the population as a whole, identified three key target groups as requiring particular action. These are: children and young people, disadvantaged adults who smoke, and pregnant women who smoke.
  2. A consultation on raising the age of sale was undertaken from 29 October 2007 to 18 January 2008 and elicited 90% support for raising the age of sale to 18.
  3. The age of sale was raised to 18 in England, Wales and Scotland with effect from 1 October 2007 and in the Republic of Ireland in 2004. The power to change the age of sale in Northern Ireland is contained within the Smoking (NI) Order 2006, the main provisions of which came into operation on 30 April 2007.
  4. The Department of Health led consultation on future tobacco controls such as advertising at point of sale and access to vending machines is available on the Department of Health website at and will run until 8 September 2008.
  5. Press enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0575. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.