Ireland’s Health Minister has vowed to turn the country ‘tobacco free’ by 2025 as new figures reveal 22 per cent of people aged 15 and over smoke regularly.

The BBC website reports that Minister James Reilly says less than five per cent of the population will smoke under the new plan published on Friday.

The plan proposed by Minister Reilly makes 60 recommendations to significantly reduce smoking over the next 12 years.

The plan proposes that tobacco would still be available but at an increased cost according to the report.

Recommendations include the introduction of a ban on smoking in cars where children are present and new on-the-spot fines for breaches of smoking laws.

The Minister’s plan also calls for greater restrictions on the types of outlets from which tobacco products can be sold.

It proposes a ban on all self-service cigarette vending machines and greater regulation of tobacco retailers.

The proposal also contains several recommendations for what it called the ‘de-normalisation’ of tobacco use in Irish society.

Minister Reilly said: “Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland.

“Each year at least 5,200 people die from diseases caused by tobacco use. This represents almost one in five of all deaths.”

The new tobacco-free plan comes almost 10 years after Ireland became the first state to introduce a total ban on smoking in the workplace which also includes pubs and clubs.

The ban has been largely hailed as a success, with a 97% compliance rate.

A study of the effects of the ban estimated that up to 3,726 smoking-related deaths were prevented since 2004.

However a spokesman for smokers’ group Forest Éireann told Irish state broadcaster RTÉ it was ‘morally wrong to de-normalise smoking’.

He said: “This will result in stigmatising consumers of a legal product enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of adults throughout the country.

“Smokers contribute a huge amount of money to the government through tobacco taxation.

“De-normalising tobacco will drive more and more people to the black market and the fringes of society.”