Vapes would be subjected to higher taxes to discourage their use among young people under proposals being pushed within Government by Fianna Fáil.
The Irish Times understands that plans to increase taxes on vapes could be flagged as early as next week’s budget as part of the Government efforts to reduce their use among young people.
While vapes are subject to VAT there is currently no excise duty levied on them – unlike the situation with cigarettes and tobacco products.
The programme for government commits to bringing in “a targeted taxation regime to specifically discourage ‘vaping’ and e-cigarettes”.
The renewed Fianna Fáil push to bring this about comes amid plans to ban the sale of vapes to under-18s and a view that both measures would work “hand-in-hand”.
It is yet to be determined whether excise or another mechanism would be used to introduce higher taxes for vapes. Any such changes will require legislation.
The plans may be signposted as early as the budget, though it could be later, and it will take some time to develop and introduce the legislation necessary.
Earlier this year, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said Ireland had taken “great strides” in reducing tobacco use including among young people since the smoking ban he introduced two decades ago.
However, he also said: “In many ways, I see vaping as the revenge of the tobacco industry in terms of getting people hooked on nicotine again.”
Meanwhile, paediatricians have joined calls for a ban on disposable vapes and say the legal age for buying tobacco and vapes should be raised to 21.
A ban on the use of flavours in vapes, apart from tobacco flavour, as well as stronger advertising and marketing restrictions have also been called for by the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland’s faculty of paediatrics.
In a position paper, the faculty says the use of vapes by children and young people poses serious health risks to them. Disposable vapes are the most frequently used vaping devices among young people.
Vaping is harmful and has significant long-term health risks for children and young people, whose brains and bodies are still developing, according to Prof Des Cox, a representative of the faculty and a consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine.
“Exposure of children and adolescents to nicotine can lead to long-term negative impacts on brain development, as well as addiction. Aerosols in most vapes contain toxic substances, associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and lung disorders,” he says. “Nicotine, which is highly addictive, is the major psychoactive component of vaping solution.”
“The potential negative health impacts of vapes include chest symptoms such as cough, wheezing, asthma exacerbations, but there is also a significant risk of dependence and neurotoxic effects on the not fully matured brain. Doctors need to be equipped to speak to their patients about these ill effects and provide clear guidance.”
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly recently signalled his intention to introduce legislation to ban vapes. Prof Cox has also met Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure Ossian Smyth seeking a ban on vapes on environmental grounds.
According to the paper, digital marketing campaigns are disproportionately targeting young people.
“Clever campaigns on TikTok and Instagram, and the array of flavours and colours, are making disposable vapes more desirable to young people. It reminds me of the unregulated tobacco campaigns of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s,” Prof Cox says.
“We must adopt stronger legislation on the advertising and marketing of vapes and ban the use of flavours, other than tobacco flavour.”
“The argument is sometimes made that some people quit smoking using disposable vapes but vapes are not licensed stop-smoking medicines in Ireland and health claims that vapes are effective smoking cessation aids are not supported by scientific evidence.”
Mr Donnelly is moving to ban vaping by under-18s, and said earlier this month that he intended to introduce further legislation to ban single-use e-cigarettes.
More than 240,000 Irish people vape, with 13 per cent of ex-smokers using e-cigarettes, according to the 2019 Healthy Ireland Survey.
Disposable vapes are difficult to recycle because they contain a battery which needs to be removed and recycled separately. A public consultation on the issue concluded last month.