Legislation banning disposable vapes and all e-cigarettes flavours is urgently needed if a new generation of young people is to be dissuaded from smoking, a leading health organisation has warned.
The Irish Heart Foundation has called for the urgent introduction of additional legislation after proposals to ban the sale of vaping products to under 18s were approved by Cabinet on Tuesday.
The new measures, which are expected to become law in July, will also curb the advertising of e-cigarettes around schools, and ban their sale from vending machines.
However, the country’s national stroke and heart charity believes stronger legislation is still required.
Chris Macey, Director of Advocacy and Patient Support with the IHF, said “a full ban” on all e-cigarettes flavours and a “complete prohibition of all forms of advertising, including online influencers promoting vaping products” is needed.
Mr Macey also called for a ban on the sale of disposable vapes, the introduction of plain packaging for vaping and an increase in the legal age of using all tobacco and e-cigarette products from 18 to 21.
Irish research shows that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are up to five times more likely to start smoking compared to those who do not.
Data from Eurostat, the analysis wing of the European Commission, shows in Ireland that 13.8 per cent people describe themselves as daily smokers, breaking down into 15 per cent of men and 12.7 per cent of women.
The data shows that just over four per cent of Irish smokers say they light up more than 20 cigarettes a day, with more than five per cent of those being men and three per cent of women.
These figures equate to one in five Irish adults smoking daily which equates to approximately 714,000. The highest prevalence of smoking is among 25- to 34-year-olds.
“Ireland can reclaim its global leadership role in tobacco and nicotine policy by undertaking a dual strategy of implementing stronger regulatory policies on e-cigarettes to protect young people and commencing a broad consultation on New Zealand-style tobacco endgame measures,” Mr Macey noted.
“It is beyond time that we regain our ambition for bold, innovative actions.”
Nineteen years ago Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce the first national comprehensive legislation banning smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.
He warned that if the Government does not move ahead with a complete ban on tobacco products, “we risk losing an entirely new generation of young people to the addictive nature of nicotine and the extremely harmful nature of smoking.
“Despite all the strong rhetoric coming from the Government in committing to action on vaping, we have become increasingly complacent over the past several years.
“For the first time in a generation, teenage smoking rates are on the rise, a rise almost certainly fuelled by the gateway effect of vaping.”
Mr Macey said the ban on selling vaping products to teenagers was the perfect opportunity to begin a national conversation on an eventual “endgame” for tobacco in Ireland.
“But Ireland is behind its European neighbours in our efforts to protect children from vaping – and we are one of the last countries in the European Union to introduce a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s,” he said.