Reports that the HSE is to consider a complete ban on the sale of tobacco and a sharp reduction in the number of outlets allowed to sell such products have been condemned by smokers' rights campaigners.
It comes following reports this week that strategies are being explored by the HSE to help eradicate cigarette smoking in Ireland.
The Irish Times reports that making tobacco companies pay for health costs taken on by the State through caring for people who are sick or dying from nicotine addiction is another option being explored by the HSE.
Other measures to be considered include reducing the nicotine content of tobacco products, banning filters and adding health warnings to individual cigarettes.
Spokesman for the smokers' group Forest Ireland, John Mallon, said that any form of prohibition would “drive consumers underground and into the arms of criminal gangs”.
“Ireland already has a huge problem with illicit trade. This would make it far worse,” he said.
Mr Mallon said that the Government “has no right to intervene to this extent”.
“Tobacco is a legal product and many adults enjoy smoking.
Future generations of adults should have an equal right to choose to smoke, just as many adults will choose to drink alcohol, and that choice must be respected.
"Governments have a duty to inform consumers about the health risks of smoking or drinking but beyond that it's a matter for the individual.
"Any attempt to impose further restrictions on tobacco will be fiercely resisted,” he said.
Surveys are to be conducted early next year to explore levels of public support for banning or severely limiting the sale of tobacco products, including the proposed limiting of tobacco sales to a substantially reduced number of licensed retailers, or to pharmacies only.
The results will feed into a report for the Tobacco-Free Ireland Strategic Programme Plan 2022.