All tobacco product sales should be banned to people under 21, Oireachtas hears

Flavours should be banned and same advertising restrictions put on vapes as tobacco – RCPI

Ireland should consider increasing the age limit on buying tobacco and nicotine inhaled products to 21, according to Prof Des Cox, chair of the RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco.

Flavoured vapes should be banned and the advertising restrictions on tobacco should also be applied to vaping products, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland has said.

Mr Cox was discussing the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill at the Oireachtas Health Committee.

“Adolescents are more likely to initiate nicotine inhaled products use through flavoured products relative to other age groups. While adults may also enjoy flavours, the risks of nicotine inhaled products initiation in adolescents and young adults outweigh the benefits of ex-smokers using flavoured products,” Prof Cox said.

Finland’s 2016 ban on flavours did not result in less smokers using nicotine inhaled products as a quit smoking tool, he said.

He did not recommend vaping as a smoking cessation tool, adding that “nobody knows” how harmful these products are, and nicotine addiction also remains.

“Studies also show that nicotine inhaled products are a gateway to tobacco smoking. Adolescents who ever used nicotine inhaled products are between three and five times more likely to start smoking compared with adolescents who have never used nicotine inhaled products.”

However, Vape Business Ireland (VBI) said that 200,000 people across Ireland vape, and banning flavoured products may lead to people returning to cigarettes.

John Dunne of VBI said his organisation supports a legal ban on under 18s buying vaping products. However, he did not support a blanket ban on flavours and advertising, or plain packaging.

He said e-cigarettes were the best smoking cessation device, and Ireland should look to Public Health England who recommend vaping as a safer alternative to smoking.

Age verification

Eoin O’Boyle, who runs OB Vape in Drogheda Co Meath, said vaping businesses belonging to VBI ask for ID to buy products and will not sell to under 18s. He supported a system of age verification for online purchases.

Flavours are also important in helping people quit, he said.

“I find when smokers initially switch to vaping, they will typically use tobacco flavour. However, as their taste buds recover and as they move away from smoking completely, they often do not want to continue using tobacco flavour and tend to seek alternative options such as fruit or mint.

“This need for flavoured options also helps to explain why flavoured Nicorette lozenges are so popular.”

TD David Cullinane questioned VBI why British American Tobacco, known as PJ Carroll in Ireland, are members of VBI.

Deputy Cullinane also said that John Player Blue tobacco, IQOS, which make heated tobacco products and is owned by Philip Morris International cigarette company, were former members of VBI, which Mr Dunne accepted.

He also said vaping businesses have “vested interests” as without nicotine addiction, they would not make a profit.

Many TDs and senators expressed concerns about young people who never smoked taking up vaping, but Mr Dunne said the Healthy Ireland Survey 2021 showed that less than one percent of ‘never smokers’ vape.

However, Prof Cox said this survey was not specifically designed to pick up on vaping, and other studies show that the amount of young people experimenting with vapes is increasing.