The sale of cigarette 10-packs in Ireland will be banned from next May, the country's Department of Health has announced.

The ban, designed to deter young people from smoking, had been slated for last autumn - but was delayed because too many 1o-packs were still in the supply chain.

An Office of Tobacco Control survey indicated that 16% of Irish youngsters aged 12-17 smoked, spending up to €40 a week on cigarettes.

Almost 80% bought cigarettes in 10-packs. Most said they would "probably quit" if prices were doubled. Ninety-two per cent of the youngsters said they were never asked for proof of age.

Separate figures show a 5.3% increase in the numbers smoking in Ireland, despite the pub and workplace ban introduced more than two years ago. The increase is mainly attributed to an influx of eastern Europeans.