Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness and premature death in Northern Ireland, killing around 2,200 people each year. It is also one of the primary causes of health inequalities, with smoking prevalence rates higher among people living in areas of social and economic deprivation.

Illnesses caused by smoking

Illnesses for which smoking is a major risk factor include cancer, coronary heart disease, strokes and other diseases of the respiratory and circulatory systems.

The harm caused by tobacco smoke also extends to non-smokers through exposure to second hand smoke, with children and unborn babies being particularly vulnerable.

Ten year tobacco control strategy for Northern Ireland

In February 2012, DoH published the '10 Year Tobacco Control Strategy for Northern Ireland' the overall aim of which is to create a tobacco free society. While the strategy targets the entire population, it focuses on three priority groups:

  • children and young people
  • pregnant women, and their partners, who smoke
  • disadvantaged people who smoke

The strategy has three key objectives:

  • fewer people smoking
  • more smokers quitting
  • protection for all from second hand smoke

A comprehensive action plan has been developed by the Tobacco Strategy Implementation Steering Group (TSISG) in order to deliver on all elements of the strategy. The duration of the strategy has been extended to allow for a review and decisions on future strategic direction.

Smoke free legislation in Northern Ireland

Legislation banning smoking in workplaces and indoor public places was introduced in Northern Ireland in April 2007 and has proved to be one of the most popular public health initiatives in recent years. The primary aim of the legislation is to protect employees and the general public from harmful exposure to second hand smoke. Children and young people are particularly vulnerable, and regulations to extend the smoke-free provisions to private vehicles carrying children were introduced from 1 February 2022. Further information can be found at nidirect. A number of reviews have been carried out, at different intervals, to evaluate the impact of the legislation.



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