Number Of Smokers In Ireland Continues To Fall

The number of smokers in Ireland has fallen from 23% in 2015 to 17% in 2019, according to the latest Healthy Ireland Survey.

Published by the Minister of State for Health Promotion Catherine Byrne and funded by the Department of Health and conducted by Ipsos MRBI.

The latest figures show that there are now an estimated 165,000 fewer smokers than there were five years ago. Plain packaging with health warnings, introduced under a new law in 2018, was cited by 25% of smokers as a good motivation to quit. In the last 12 months 40% of smokers have made an attempt to quit, with health concerns being the prime motivator for people wanting to quit.

Welcoming the report, Minister for Health Simon Harris said: "I welcome the findings of this year's Healthy Ireland Survey, and in particular the continued drop in the smoking rate. This shows that our multi-pronged approach, with legislation, support for smoking cessation, and policies to denormalise smoking in our society, is bearing fruit and we are heading in the right direction to being a Tobacco Free Ireland.

"Our aim is to achieve similar positive trends in the future with the other risk factors which impact on people's health and contribute to chronic disease, such as obesity, alcohol, physical inactivity and nutrition, through continued partnership working across Government and wider society on the Healthy Ireland agenda.

"The findings from the 2019 Survey report will help us monitor how well our policies are working, as well as identifying ways we can better support people to be healthy."

Speaking at the launch, Minister Byrne added: "Given the risks associated with smoking, these figures give us confidence that we are on the right track in terms of the health promotion and legislative measures we're putting in place. I am concerned that the smoking rates are highest in our young adults aged 25-34 and are also much higher in people who are unemployed or living in more deprived areas. I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that there are a range of supports available from the HSE QUIT service for anyone who wants support to quit smoking."

While overweight and obesity in men has dropped slightly since 2017 (from 70% to 66%), overall figures show that 60% of those surveyed were found to be overweight or obese, with just 37% of adults having a normal weight.

Minister Byrne continued: "The levels of overweight and obesity in our population remains a great cause for concern. While levels appear to be stabilising, there is no room for complacency. In recent years Government has introduced evidence-based policies and a range of initiatives and actions to tackle both obesity and physical inactivity, and implementation of these remains a priority. This year's survey shows a small increase in the number of people meeting the guidelines on physical activity, which is encouraging."

This year's survey includes new areas of study including sleep and sun protection. Sleep is an important element of a healthy lifestyle and survey participants reported getting, on average, 7.1 hours sleep on an average weeknight.

The new data on sun protection shows that 92% of participants report using some form of protection when exposed to the sun for more than 30 minutes, with sunscreen and sunglasses being the most commonly used forms of protection. Ireland's first Skin Cancer Prevention Plan was launched earlier this year, and this baseline data from today's survey will help monitor progress of that plan.


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