Reilly sets target of just 5pc still smoking by 2025
HEALTH Minister James Reilly aims to reduce the number of smokers to fewer than one in 20 people by 2025.
That would mean slashing current statistics which show almost one in three smokes.
Dr Reilly said he wants a tobacco-free Ireland in the next 12 years, and his plan has been approved by the Cabinet as the centrepiece of a new Government strategy to tackle tobacco use. It is due to be launched in September.
Dr Reilly, right, yesterday told the Oireachtas Health Committee that the tobacco industry is "gearing up big time" for what he described as a "battle".
And he vowed never to meet tobacco lobbyists, saying he has "strong professional and personal feelings about this particular industry".
Dr Reilly's father and brother, who were also doctors, died from smoking-related illnesses, and the Dublin North TD said the fight against tobacco companies is one the Government must not lose.
"It's the only product I know that is legally freely available that will kill you if you use it," Dr Reilly said. "It's a fight that we cannot turn away from and that we can't afford to lose. It's a battle that will continue until it's won – and it will be won."
The strategy document is called "Tobacco-Free Ireland", and aims to bring the proportion of the population who smoke down to 5pc from its current level of 29pc. The OECD average is 21pc.
Dr Reilly also met a number of campaign groups including the Irish Heart Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society, Barnardos and Cystic Fibrosis Ireland yesterday to discuss "the dreadful damage" of smoking.
He was also asked by Senator John Crown about progress on legislation to ban smoking in cars where children are passengers, a proposal Prof Crown introduced and the Government supported.
Dr Reilly said the proposal is one of his priorities, but added that the Government had many pieces of legislation to deal with.
He also said the country has officially begun the process of introducing plain cigarette packaging.
An extension of the smoking ban from the workplace to public areas such as parks and beaches is on the cards, but will be introduced only after the car ban is in place.
However, smokers' group Forest Eireann said: "It is totally unrealistic to think that Ireland will be tobacco-free in 12 years.
"Recent anti-tobacco measures such as the smoking ban, increased taxation and the display ban have done nothing to reduce smoking rates in Ireland."