THE Government needs to slap large tax hikes on cigarettes over the next five Budgets if Ireland is to become "tobacco free" by 2025.
The key recommendation is contained in the Tobacco Free Ireland policy document, which sets out a radical series of measures including banning smoking in cars and beaches as well as imposing a levy on the cigarette companies.
"I would love to see a situation where we give a clear indication that there is going to be substantial rises in the cost of tobacco every single year for the remainder of this Government," said Health Minister James Reilly at the launch of the document.
"People need to know this is just going to get more and more expensive, because they are cost-sensitive."
However, a spokesman for the Department of Health refused to say how much of a hike it is asking the Minister for Finance to add to cigarettes and other tobacco products in this month's Budget. He also declined to say what the pre-Budget demand was during the last two years.
In Budget 2012 there was an increase of 25c on a pack of 20, which was followed by 10c last year.
The Irish Cancer Society, which wants a 60c hike, warned that without "new money" the plan to make Ireland tobacco-free will be weakened.
A tobacco-free Ireland would see the prevalence of smoking among the population reduced to 5pc.
Currently 29pc of adults smoke, including 31pc of men and 27pc of women.
Dr Reilly also insisted he is determined to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.
"The big thing here is to bring in the standardised packaging," Dr Reilly said.
"They will continue to develop new methodologies of trying to make their product attractive to children and we will continue to bring in new laws to cut them off each time.
"We all know that immediately the day after the Budget comes out, accountants around Ireland put their heads together to find the best way to deal with the tax implications. That's what will happen here."
Meanwhile, a majority of students in UCD have voted in favour of making the campus smoke-free.
The proposal will now go to the college's health committee.