He was speaking after the Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the heads of bill to be drawn up, making it mandatory for tobacco to be sold in standardised packaging with stark health warnings.
The move is needed to reduce smoking, which takes 5,200 lives every year, he added.
He predicted that the tobacco industry would fight the measure "tooth and nail" and use the old argument that it would lead to more smuggling of tobacco products.
But counterfeit cigarettes account for only 1pc of the market and he did not accept the packaging changes would cause more smuggling. The proposals have yet to go before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children to allow all sides to make their case.
Around 22pc of adults smoke but the target is to have less than 5pc lighting up by 2025, effectively making Ireland "tobacco free". "Most young people start smoking because they think it is cool. The aim is to denormalise it," he added.
The Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Bill 2013 will completely outlaw forms of branding such as trademarks and logos on cigarette packs and on roll-your-own packs.
"The Government is determined to implement this legislation, in particular for the sake of the children and young people of Ireland," he said.
"Cigarette packs have been described as the last billboard for the tobacco industry; this legislation will force the industry to show with greater clarity the potentially devastating effects of smoking on health.
"The tobacco companies use packets of various shapes and colours to attract young people to take up the killer habit."
Officials believe there is strong evidence that standardised packaging will increase the effectiveness of health warnings, reduce false health beliefs about cigarettes, and reduce brand appeal.
He said that "protecting our children and young people from starting to smoke is a key goal for me, as Minister for Health"
"There is a wealth of international evidence on the effects of tobacco packaging in general and on perceptions and reactions to standardised packaging which support the introduction of this measure".
Meanwhile, the Irish anti-smoking organisation ASH will continue to lobby for smoke-free environments here despite the demise of its Australian counterpart.
ASH Australia said it will cease operations effective from December 31 due to declining smoking rates there.
However, a spokesman for ASH said the Irish anti-smoking lobby still had its work cut out for it as it pushes for smoking bans in public areas, including playgrounds, college campuses and sports stadiums.
The Irish NGO, headed by respiratory consultant Dr Ross Morgan, is not affiliated with ASH Australia, although both bodies share information.
ASH Australia, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that its work was effectively done.
"Today, smoking rates in Australian adults and children are at their lowest levels ever, in large part because of the combined efforts of ASH, cancer councils, the Heart Foundation and others.
"ASH's invaluable work in advocating for policy reform in tobacco control will continue through Australia's well-connected network of agencies dedicated to driving rates down."