Smoking is the single leading cause of preventable disease and premature death in Northern Ireland, killing around 2,300 people each year. It is also one of the primary causes of health inequalities, with smoking prevalence higher among people living in areas of social and economic deprivation.

Diseases caused by smoking

Diseases 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 smoking also extends to non-smokers through exposure to secondhand 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 smoke
  • more smokers quitting
  • protection for all against second-hand smoke

A comprehensive action plan has been developed by the Tobacco Strategy Implementation Steering Group (TSISG) to comply with all elements of the strategy.

Non-smoking legislation in Northern Ireland

Legislation banning smoking in workplaces and indoor public places was introduced in Northern Ireland in April 2007 and has proven to be one of the most popular public health initiatives in recent years. The primary purpose of the legislation is to protect employees and the general public from harmful exposure to secondhand smoke. A number of reviews were conducted, at various intervals, to evaluate the impact of the legislation.