There are about 134,000 electronic cigarette users in Ireland, according to research commissioned by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) and released in a position paper this week.
According to the paper, research about the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes is not yet available. The ICS “cannot recommend the use of e-cigarettes without guarantees on their long-term safety”.
The ICS called on the
Department of Health
to regulate the devices as medicinal products in the absence of proof they are safe or effective.
E-cigarettes are not regulated in Ireland, but the Department of Health is in a public consultation process on the sale of tobacco products and non-medicinal nicotine delivery systems, including e-cigarettes.
An ICS spokesman said the society wanted e-cigarettes to be considered purely as quitting aids, but that “to do that, they need to be regulated and marketed” as such.
The current position of Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) Ireland is that e-cigarettes “may become another addictive product with few benefits and little impact on smoking cessation possibilities”.
Ash chairman Dr Ross Morgan, who is also a consultant in respiratory medicine, said "the Ash line would be that they are in an unregulated space, that there isn't good evidence they work as a cessation product".
But, he said, “there is little that’s worse for you than smoking a cigarette”.
“As a physician looking after patients with lung cancer and other lung diseases, whatever helps people to stop smoking is a good thing. If e-cigarettes help, great. But I usually say try to get off those as well.”
Dr Morgan said the jury was still out in the case of e-cigarettes. “The thing we know with absolute certainty is that this week 100 people will die of smoking-related diseases in Ireland. And we have to help them quit.”