The Office of Tobacco Control is to step up spot checks on retailers after a survey found that over 90% of children who admitted smoking said they were not asked for identification when buying cigarettes.

The survey showed that almost one in six children between 12 and 17 smoke.

Tonight the retailers’ organisation, the CSNA, said that in the absence of a national identity card retailers and staff were being forced to make judgments based upon opinion, supposition and conjecture.

The group said that without an identity card, it was inevitable that some people under the age of 18 would obtain cigarettes.

Launching today's report, Minister for Health Mary Harney noted cigarette addiction begins when people are children and teenagers.

While most got their first cigarette from a friend or brother or sister, 15% of child smokers sourced cigarettes from parents or guardians.

This survey also showed that most child smokers said they would be unlikely to continue smoking if cigarette prices were doubled.

Every year more than 6,000 people die in Ireland as a result of smoking.