Harris has no ‘interest’ in meeting vaping firms ahead of ban

Minister claims some companies use vaping to hook teens and as a gateway to tobacco

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he will not meet representatives of the vaping industry, whom he accused of trying to "hook" young people on addictive behaviour.

Mr Harris intends to bring draft legislation to Cabinet shortly to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s.

He has also commissioned research from the Health Research Board on the international research evidence on vaping, and may take further action after he receives this study next March.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Mr Harris said he had “no interest” in meeting anyone involved in vaping and said some companies were using e-cigarettes as a gateway to tobacco.

The Minister was speaking before a stakeholder event at his department on Brexit planning, at which further assurances were given that there would be no shortages of medicine or medical devices even in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

Successive governments had made massive progress in restricting the use of tobacco, and “we need to build on that”, Mr Harris said.

Yet in petrol stations, the blank space that used to exist after advertising of cigarettes was banned was now filled with advertisements for e-cigarettes.

It was clear large companies – which have bought or built up vaping companies – were diversifying “to get around the war on tobacco”, he said.

Criticising TDs

Speaking at the Oireachtas health committee on Wednesday, the Minister also criticised some of his colleagues in Leinster House. “I think it is appalling the amount of members of the Oireachtas that are bringing around vaping companies in here and asking me to meet them,” he said.

“I’ll never meet them, I’ll never meet them, so people can stop asking me to meet them,” he added.

While accepting there might be evidence vaping may help in smoking cessation, he said this was very different from companies targeting teenagers with “these nice, colourful things” that have tempting flavours.

According to the register of lobbying maintained by the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Irish Vape Vendors Association and Vape Business Ireland have lobbied Oireachtas members extensively over the past three years. Most of the lobbying took the form of emails or letters sent to TDs, or meeting requests.