Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Cigarette machines to be banned

Edwin Poots

Tobacco vending machines will be banned in Northern Ireland from March 1.

Many smokers aged under 16 use them to access cigarettes, Health Minister Edwin Poots said.

DUP MLA Jim Wells said he looked forward to the day when cigarettes were sold in plain brown packaging featuring a picture of a diseased lung. He added that there may be a thousand machines in Northern Ireland but there was a market for them secondhand in areas such as South Asia.

"It is sad that we would be exporting these to other countries where more young children can access cigarettes," he said.

"The industry had lots of opportunity and warning that this was coming. They have had time to adjust and to move to an export-led market rather than selling within the British Isles and therefore they have no excuse of being caught unawares.

"I do not believe that the small cost involved here could possibly be equated to the cost to the health service of allowing more young people to become addicted to tobacco and to develop long-term chronic conditions which could cost the health service a fortune to treat."

According to the Ulster Cancer Foundation, smoking is the largest preventable cause of ill health and premature death in Northern Ireland, causing lung cancer, heart disease, bronchitis, asthma and many other diseases. It causes around 2,700 deaths per year.

Half of all smokers die from their habit and about one third of cancer deaths in Northern Ireland could be prevented if people never started smoking or successfully quit. Around 21% of 16-19-year-olds in Northern Ireland already smoke.

For people who start smoking in their teens and do not stop, there is a 50% chance it will kill them.

The Department of Health has taken a series of measures to discourage tobacco sales in Northern Ireland.

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