The Junior Health Minister Finian McGrath says he stands by his comments on smoking, but will support Government policy on it.
Mr McGrath was commenting after he was quoted yesterday saying he would like to see more smoking facilities in bars and restaurants.
“We are not all super humans we all have frailties and we have to accept that’s life and that’s part of life,” he said.
It is the Government’s policy to make Ireland smoke-free by 2025, and Minister McGrath says he will support that.
He said: "I said those comments over the last number of years and I said them in a recent interview which has thousands of words on health and disability.
"There was a couple of questions about designated smoking areas, and yes I did say it. I have my own personal views and I stand by my personal views.
"But as a member of Cabinet, of course I support the policy in relation to smoking and health generally in this country."
The newly appointed super junior minister with responsibility for disability admitted that he smokes up to 20 cigarettes a day and constantly makes an effort to cut down.
“But I can’t say that I will be giving them up because I am now in a new position as a cabinet minister,” he said,
“A lot of them [smokers] are genuinely trying, like myself, we wake up every day trying to cut down, trying to get off them, but it is an addiction.
“So what I am saying is [instead of] beating those people up and kind of bullying them, we need to bring people along with proper public health policies out there to help us with our addiction and that’s the progressive way forward.
“I try to give them up every single day, what I don’t do is go around talking about it or pontificating about it, but what I do is I make an effort every day like many many smokers.”
Addressing previous comments, he told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show: “I defend the right of any minister or any citizen to have their own private and personal views and I think it’s important that we have that situation and in the past I did say that there were examples in other countries like Germany and Portugal where they had a more lenient regime in relation to smoking."
The Irish Cancer Society has described his remarks as "unhelpful and irresponsible" and said that "any roll back of the smoking ban would be a retrograde step".
They said: "The Irish state has led the way in tobacco control measures, showing courage in tackling smoking rates and the tobacco industry.
"In the 12 years since the introduction of the smoking ban, rates of smoking have dropped from 30% to less than 20%. This is not a coincidence."
The society quoted a recent Department of Health report showing that in 2015, 81,430 days in hospital beds were given over to cancers caused by smoking, while 6,350 inpatient admissions were patients with cancers caused by smoking.
They also produced the costs to society per year brought on by smoking: