Senator demands tougher regulation on e-cig industry

Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill 2019 being drafted.

A local Senator has called for greater regulation around e-cigarette industry, arguing a “balance” is needed between weaning long-term adult addicts off smoking, against the risk that non-smokers, particularly children, might start vaping.

“We must try to strike a balance between the potential benefits of e-cigarettes for adult smokers trying to quit and the risks that more non-smokers, particularly children and especially young children, will start vaping,” stated Senator Diarmuid Wilson yesterday.

The Cavan Fianna Fail representative shared the opinion in his opening address to Minister of State for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan, in the Seanad.

Sharing time with Fine Gael Oireachtas colleague Senator Micheál Carrigy, Sen Wilson said that Vape shops were “springing up” in towns and villages across the country, located in “prime locations with very expensive rents. They seem to be open on a daily basis. I have never come across a shop that just sells cigarettes because it would not be financially viable to do so. Something needs to be done on the regulation of these shops.”

Back in March the Committee on Health resumed a discussion around the General Scheme of the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill 2019.

Sen Carrigy earlier stated that people can buy disposable vapes for as little as €5, giving up to 10 to 20 mg of nicotine, or buy vapes with up to 50 mg, the equivalent of 50 cigarettes.

He called for a sales licensing system e-cigarette similar to tobacco products, a ban on sales of e-cigarettes to minors, as well as a number of other measures, to include a ban on the use of vaping in sports grounds and more investment in education.

Sen Wilson agreed, adding to the list a ban on cigarette flavours, which are believed to appeal largely to children and young adults.

While e-cigarettes currently face fewer restrictions than the sale of tobacco cigarettes, as they are considered consumer products, the EU tobacco products directive does regulate some aspects of e-cigarettes, including: minimum standards of safety and quality; notification of ingredients; packaging and labelling, including health warnings; and a ban on advertising in print, broadcast, online and other electronic media, although outdoor advertising is allowed on buses and billboards.

Responding, Deputy Feighan assured that the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill 2019, which deals with such matters, is a “legislative priority” for this Government.

He said that nicotine inhaling products, such as electronic or e-cigarettes, are “relatively new” and the science concerning their public health effects is “continuously evolving”.

“Analysis in this regard is made more difficult by the rapid and continuing evolution of the products themselves. For example, an e-cigarette from ten years ago is nothing like the products currently on the market. Important questions exist around the use of these products and there is no scientific consensus on their harms or benefits,” added Deputy Feighan, noting the likelihood of smoking initiation varied across studies- the conclusion being there was a “higher likelihood” among adolescents who started out using e-cigarettes.

“The Bill is currently being drafted by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and the intention is that it will proceed to enactment as soon as possible. The draft law will require submission at EU level to assess its alignment with Single Market principles and, subject to this process, it will be brought before the Oireachtas as soon as possible.”