Doctors in Northern Ireland have welcomed the launch of the executive's consultation into raising the age for the purchase of tobacco products.
Health minister Michael McGimpsey has invited views on whether the current age limit of 16 should be maintained or increased to 17 or 18 years of age.
The rest of the UK has already raised the age at which tobacco can be purchased to 18 years.
Mr McGimpsey said: "Smoking is the single greatest preventable cause of premature death and avoidable illness in Northern Ireland - claiming some 2,300 lives here each year.
"Evidence shows that, in Northern Ireland, 79 per cent of adult smokers took up the habit in their teens and that 11 per cent of children aged 11 to 15 years are regular smokers."
Dr Colin Hamilton, chairman of the BMA's public health committee in Northern Ireland, said that he is "pleased" about the consultation.
"BMA(NI) will be responding to this consultation and will be recommending that legislation be introduced to raise the minimum age of sale to 18," he revealed.
"We are also calling for legislation to ban the sale of packs of ten cigarettes and that a positive licensing scheme, already in place in shops that wish to sell alcohol, be introduced," Dr Hamilton added.
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