Move to treat vaping products as ‘guilty until proven innocent’ commended

Chemistry professor says ban on vaping products for under-18s will yield health benefits in years to come

The move to ban the use of vaping products by under-18s is a common sense approach, and will yield health benefits in the years to come, an expert on air quality has said.

John Sodeau, professor emeritus of chemistry at University College Cork, said the decision by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton was a brave one which deserved to be commended.

“Three questions are often posed about e-cigarettes: What are the possible health problems associated with them, especially for young people? Is vaping safer than smoking? Will using them help my addiction to burning tobacco products in my mouth?” said Prof Sodeau.

The Government had, he said, made a great step forward by not providing answers to the above questions but by moving toward laws based on the premise that “e-cigarettes are guilty until proven innocent”.


“Think of it as like sneezing in the faces of the people around you. Is there any way that we would research the associated health dangers of doing that? No, because we know the outcomes from common sense and experience,” he said.

“Banning all advertising would help immeasurably. As will fines and prison sentences. So many congratulations to the Department of Health for its bravery,” said Prof Sodeau, adding that he believed e-cigarettes should not be banned but should only be available by prescription.

Mr Donnelly and Ms Naughton received Cabinet approval on Tuesday to publish the Public Health (Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill which includes wide-ranging measures to tackle smoking and vaping among adults and those aged under 18. The measures, which are ready for enactment, are designed to prevent children from beginning to smoke or vape to protect their health, Mr Donnelly said, noting that smoking levels remain unacceptably high in Ireland.

Census 2022 found that 13 per cent of the population smoke either daily or occasionally. Almost one million people said they had given up smoking, while 3.1 million said they never smoked. That leaves nearly 450,000 people who smoke daily and a further 226,500 who smoke occasionally.

“Tobacco smoking continues to kill 4,500 people in Ireland every year and remains the biggest single cause of disability and death combined in our country,” Mr Donnelly said. “In the past we have been recognised as global leaders in tobacco control, but our smoking rate remain unacceptably high.”

He said the “popularity of vaping” had risen, especially among young people, and that research “tells us that vaping among adolescents increases the likelihood that they will later smoke”.

“Our Bill is designed to intervene at each phase of the process through which these products are sold,” he said.

Mr Donnelly said the Bill will also prohibit the sale of tobacco products and nicotine inhaling products at events for children and through self-service machines. It will also introduce further restrictions on the advertising of such products.

Ms Naughton said the Bill marked a “significant step on our journey to a tobacco-free Ireland”, with its focus on the protection of children by ensuring that they do not begin to smoke or vape.

Prof Sodeau, an expert in aerobiology (the study of airborne microorganisms especially as agents of infection), said adopting a Napoleonic law rather than a common law approach, where vaping is assumed to be harmful until proven otherwise, was the correct way to tackle the problem

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times