Smoking causes 100 deaths and more than 1,000 hospital admissions in the State each week, research from the Health Service Executive (HSE) states.
The research, published to coincide with World No Tobacco Day, shows that there has been a continuing decrease in the prevalence of smoking, down 20 per cent since 2005. However, the habit remains the leading preventable risk factor causing ill-health, disability and premature mortality.
"Put simply, tobacco control is the single greatest opportunity to protect and improve the public's health," according to the State of Tobacco Control in Ireland – 2018 report.
Despite the reduction in smoking, one in four men and one in five women still smoke. Smoking is now most common among young adults with 32 per cent of those aged 25-34 years smoking.
However, the research indicates people are starting to smoke later, with the number of under 17-olds who say they have ever tried a cigarette down from 28 per cent in 2010 to 16 per cent.
Smoking is highest among poorest and most marginalised groups, with smoking among those aged 15 and older at 16 per cent in the highest socio-economic groups, but as high as 33 per cent among unemployed and unskilled workers.
Dr Paul Kavanagh, consultant in public health medicine and research leader of the HSE Tobacco Free Ireland Programme, said a "social gradient" in smoking was clear.
“Smokers from more affluent groups and with higher levels of education are the most likely to quit. We need to understand that differences in smoking behaviour are the leading cause of inequalities in health across society. It has been estimated, for example, that half of the difference in mortality between the highest and lowest social strata is due to differences in smoking behaviour”.
Consumption of “roll-your-own” products was becoming more common, particularly among your people who smoke, the report found.
The proportion of people who smoke rolling their own cigarettes using loose tobacco has increased from 3 per cent in 2003 to 29 per cent in 2016. At the same time the proportion of people who smoke using manufactured cigarettes has decreased.
“While smoking prevalence has also decreased in the same period, this pattern suggests that some people who smoke are shifting from consumption of manufactured tobacco products to roll-your-own,” the report found.
Loose tobacco use was highest among those aged less than 25 years, male, and from lower socio-economic groups.
The Tobacco Free Ireland programme aims to reduce smoking prevalence to less than 5 per cent by 2025.