Fine Gael health spokesperson Colm Burke has called for the change to help Ireland meet the public health target of less than 5 per cent smoking rate by 2025.

He said Ireland has been at the “forefront in the control of tobacco products”, citing the 2004 ban on smoking in the workplace.

“The standardised packaging introduced in 2018 further strengthened the anti-smoking message. The various control measures and strong public health campaigns successfully reduced smoking rates. Unfortunately, in recent years we have taken our foot off the pedal and momentum behind anti-smoking campaigns has eased.”

Without “effective action,” he claimed, the goal of a smoking rate of less than 5% will not be reached.

According to Mr. Burke, the popularity of vaping is growing as a gateway to cigarette smoking.

He added: “The Government now needs to take effective action to restore momentum behind its anti-smoking policy. The most effective measure would be to raise the age for the purchase of tobacco products from 18 to 21. This would send a very clear public health message.”

“Strong international evidence shows that raising the age to 21 will significantly reduce smoking rates among the under 25s.”

“Evidence from the United States indicates a drop in smoking rates of 20 percent and higher in the under 25 age group when the age limit is raised to 21 years.”