In October 2013 the Minister for Health, Dr. James Reilly launched the policy “A Tobacco Free Ireland by 2025”. The aim of the policy is to reduce the percentage of the population smoking to less than 5 per cent. This note sets out the latest position.
According to OECD health data 27 percent of the Irish population aged 15 or over were daily smokers in 2002. In 2007 this figure had increased to 29 percent despite the smoking ban being introduced in March 2004. In OECD Health at a Glance 2013 Ireland is ranked as having the third highest proportion of smokers out of 34 OECD countries with Greece ranked first and Chile in second. Furthermore, Ireland is listed as having the highest proportion of female smokers in the OECD. However a closer look at the dataset calls for caution in comparing countries. The data refers to 2011 or the nearest year. However the figure for Ireland dates back to 2007 making it one of the oldest in the time series thereby making comparisons difficult. Table 1 shows the OECD data with countries ranked from highest to lowest in terms of the total percentage of the population who are smokers.
The National Tobacco Control Office has more recent data on the prevalence of smoking in Ireland. The data is collected from a telephone survey of 1,000 respondents which has been carried out on a monthly basis from July 2002 to date. While this survey is consistent with OECD data which shows the prevalence of smoking was high in 2007, it tells a more positive story of a rapidly declining trend in adult smoking from 2007 to 2012. The data is shown in Table 2. In December 2007 27.26 percent of respondents were smokers and this figure had declined to 21.71 percent in December 2012. Note however that despite the decline in smoking, the December 2012 figure still places Ireland above the OECD average of 21 percent. The percentage of female smokers declined from 25.27 percent in December 2007 to 20.87 percent in December 2012, still well above the OECD average of 16.6 percent. Male smoking declined from 29.29 percent in December 2007 to 22.58 percent in December 2012 which is below the OECD average of 25.9.