Minister of State with special responsibility for disability Finian McGrath has said he totally supports the health strategy to make Ireland tobacco free by 2025 but he also defends the right for any citizen to have their own private and personal use.
The Irish Cancer Society said his remarks were unhelpful and irresponsible at a time when Ireland is aiming to be tobacco free by 2025.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Mr McGrath said other countries such as Germany and Portugal have a more lenient view towards smoking.
Media reports at the weekend said Mr McGrath felt there should be designated smoking areas in pubs and restaurants.
Mr McGrath said that around 20% of the population, including himself, are addicted to smoking and we need to "bring people along" and assist them in relation to their addiction.
This, he said, would be the progressive way forward because "moral indignation is not helpful to smokers."
Mr McGrath said he would like to work with Minister for Health Simon Harris on creative new health policies to help people quit smoking and he believes he has something to offer because of his addiction.
The Dublin Bay North TD said he tries to give up smoking every day but he cannot say he will be giving them up because he is now a Cabinet minister.
He said he smoked between 15 and 20 cigarettes a day but on good days he would reduce that amount to seven.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said Mr McGrath needs to "get with it" now that he holds a Cabinet position, saying it was important a person in his position embraces the importance of a tobacco-free society.
Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Martin, who was minister for health when the smoking ban was introduced, said the time of designated smoking rooms and areas is over.
Mr Martin said the vast majority of smokers approve of these measures because it assists them in eliminating their smoking habits.
Water charges issue exaggerated
When asked about his recent decision to pay his water charges, having been a supporter of the anti-water charge movement while an opposition TD, Mr McGrath said the issue was grossly exaggerated and he did not look for legal advice from the Attorney General Márie Whelan.
He said he looked for Constitutional advice from Ms Whelan.
Mr McGrath said he was happy to compromise and "take the hit" in the "interest of the cohesion of the Cabinet" and pay his water charges in order to put the issue behind him.
He said he wanted to deal with the issues he was elected on and move on from questions about water and smoking and do his best.
In relation to a promise for a new cystic fibrosis unit for Beaumont Hospital, Mr McGrath said it is due to be constructed over the next 12 to 18 months.
He said it is not a local issue and will serve the people of north Dublin as well as Meath, Louth and other areas.
The Minister of State said "we need to improve the CF services across the country as a national plan".
However, he said he would not make any apologies for doing the best for his own constituency.