More restrictions needed on sale of vapes and e-cigarettes, Oireachtas committee told

Products marketed towards teenagers, Irish Cancer Society and Irish Heart Foundation say

The Irish Heart Foundation has  said that while vaping is less harmful than smoking, its long-term effects were still unlcear.  Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The Irish Heart Foundation has said that while vaping is less harmful than smoking, its long-term effects were still unlcear. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

 

Nicotine delivery devices such as vapes and e-cigarettes need to face similar sale and advertising restrictions as tobacco products, an Oireachtas Committee has heard.

E-cigarettes are increasingly being marketed towards teenagers, and their colourful packaging and fruity flavours are contributing to the rise in young people vaping, the Oireachtas Health Committee was told.

Chris Macey from the Irish Heart Foundation said that while vaping is less harmful than smoking, its long-term effects were still unlcear.

The number of young people smoking and vaping is also rising, he added.

“After falling from 41 per cent to 13 per cent, the smoking rate among 15-16 year-olds here is now increasing for the first time in a quarter of a century.

“Additionally, 39 per cent of this age group have used e-cigarettes and 15.5 per cent are regular users.”

Mr Macey added that the Health Research Board has concluded that adolescents who vape are up to five times more likely to take up smoking.

Ads for vapes can appear on billboards, in shops and on social media, and they do not face the same level of advertising restrictions as cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The Irish Heart Foundation has called on the age limit for purchasing tobacco and e-cigarettes to increase to 21, along with a ban on all e-cigarette flavours bar tobacco, a ban on all vaping advertising and the introduction of plain packaging.

Averil Power, chief executive of the Irish Cancer Society, said is true that some smokers prefer vaping to the use of licensed nicotine replacement gums and other products. However, as the Health Research Board has pointed out, e-cigarettes are no more effective than approved and regulated nicotine replacement therapies to help people stop smoking,” she said.

“The World Health Organisation has stated that electronic nicotine delivery systems cannot be recommended as cessation aids at the population level and warned they could hinder cessation in some individuals by prolonging or increasing addiction to nicotine.”

Cheaper

The committee was also told that the Government needs to do more to cover the cost of other smoking cessation tools, as vaping is cheaper.

The State takes in roughly €1 billion per year in tobacco-related tax, but just one per cent of this is spent on helping people quit smoking, Mr Macey said.

Paul Gordon from the Irish Cancer Society claimed that “big tobacco” is using vapes as a “trojan horse” and does not have any interest in ending nicotine addiction.

“Most of the large e-cigarette companies are either owned or part-owned by tobacco companies. In the US, with Juul for example... they were part-owned by Altria, Marlboro’s parent company.

“Here, we see Vype and VIP owned by PJ Carroll, who are a subsidiary of British American Tobacco. Logic are owned by Japan Tobacco International. They all have significant shares in those vaping companies.”

When asked about the Department of Health’s approach to vaping, both the Irish Heart Foundation and the Irish Cancer Society said the department is undecided about the pros and cons of vaping and viewed e-cigarettes as a potential cessation tool, a view they disagreed with.

Both organisations said they wanted the new Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill to include more restrictions on vape products.

In a statement, Simon Carroll, general manager of British American Tobacco Ireland, said: “The evidence shows that vaping is significantly less risky than smoking. Regulating vapour products in the same way as tobacco cigarettes will only serve to confuse smokers and deter them from switching. The fact is that vaping is a gateway out of smoking, not into it.”

In a statement, Japan Tobacco International said it is committed to marketing its products in a responsible manner.

“A cornerstone of this commitment is that minors should not vape and should not be able to obtain vaping products, and we act responsibly to ensure Logic advertising is directed at existing adult smokers and vapers. E-Vapour products sold in Ireland are subject to strict EU-wide regulations, which were introduced in 2016 and restrict certain types of advertising and marketing. We strictly adhere to them for our Logic brand.”