Northern Ireland Increases Legal Age To Buy Tobacco Products

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It is now illegal in Northern Ireland to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.

The change in the law came into effect today as part of the drive by Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to reduce the level of smoking amongst children and young people.

Stressing the importance of the change the minister said: “Tobacco is known to be the leading cause of preventable death in Northern Ireland. The cost to our society is huge and I believe raising the age of sale will help discourage children and young people from taking up this life threatening habit.

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“From today, it will be illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. As much as I think that this measure is needed, I truly hope that our young people will decide for themselves not to smoke. Tobacco is a highly addictive and destructive substance that not only reduces the quality of your life but shortens it too.”

The Minister concluded: “'My department funded the appointment of additional enforcement officers when our smoke-free legislation was introduced and this team will now provide support for enhanced monitoring of underage tobacco sales.

“Of course, I realise that raising the age of sale will not, of itself, solve the problem of children’s smoking. Surveys regularly show that the majority of adult smokers adopt the habit in their teens and obtain their cigarettes from a variety of sources. We will therefore continue to explore the scope for further action in this important area.”

The minister has also extended to Northern Ireland a Department of Health (London) consultation seeking views on the future of tobacco controls, including those likely to impact on children’s smoking such as advertising at point of sale and access to tobacco vending machines. The consultation ends on 8 September 2008.

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