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Dublin: 6°C Wednesday 20 January 2021

Fall in numbers of children and pregnant women smoking in Ireland

The report pointed to a prevalence in smoking both among children and pregnant women in the more disadvantaged areas.

SMOKING RATES AMONG children and pregnant women are down in the last decade, both north and south of the border, according to a report published today.

While the report, by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) and the TobaccoFree Research Institute Ireland (TFRI)  hailed the importance of this decline, it pointed to the particular risk of tobacco-related harms for disadvantaged children.

Smoking during pregnancy has declined by around one third over the last ten years in both parts of Ireland.

Overall smoking prevalence was lowest among older women and highest among those aged 15 to 19.


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Smoking in pregnancy has been linked to adverse effects on babies such as low birthweight. GP attendances for chest and ear infections among infants were also higher among mothers who smoked after in the first nine months of their child’s life.

Children smoking

In the Republic, the proportion of 10 to 17-year-olds reporting that they had ever smoked fell from 36 per cent to 27 per cent between 2006 and 2010 and in Northern Ireland, the proportion of 11 to 16-year-olds reporting that they had ever smoked decreased from 24 per cent to 19 per cent between 2007 and 2010.


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While Dr Helen McEvoy said there are signs of improvement, she added:

Children are still trying their first cigarette at a very young age and their stage of development makes them uniquely susceptible to tobacco marketing and branding.

She also said disadvantaged children are more likely to live in households with smoking adults and are at greater risk of exposure to second-hand smoke.

This is true in terms of their likelihood of exposure in the womb as well as to second-hand smoke in the home and ultimately to their own risk of taking up smoking at a young age.

Low income families

In the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland, mothers were three times more likely to smoke during pregnancy than in the least deprived areas. Nine-year-old children in the Republic of Ireland living in the lowest income families were also twice as likely to be exposed to second hand smoke in the home as children in the highest income families, the report found.

Professor Luke Clancy of TFRI said parental smoking behaviours are “so significant” in the health and development of children in Ireland.

The report highlights efforts to restrict access and appeal of tobacco products and points to the importance of child and family policy service, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas.

  • Read the full report here.

Read: James Reilly vs tobacco industry: Stop making smoking look attractive to girls>

Read: Government to consider free nicotine patches for pregnant women>

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