Colm Burke TD.

Burke: More must be done

E-cigarette products, including vapes, should be subject to strict advertising and sales restrictions such as those placed on tobacco products.

Those were the words of Cork North Central Deputy Colm Burke, Fine Gael Health Spokesperson, yesterday. He said while much is still unknown about the dangers of vaping, research indicates links to chronic lung disease and asthma.

He explained: “E-cigarettes are also highly addictive, with nicotine being the primary agent in many products. Vaping is gaining popularity across the country, with packaging and flavours appealing to young people in particular.”

“For the first time in 25 years, after falling from 41 per cent to 13 per cent, the smoking rate amongst our 15-16 year olds is now increasing. 39 per cent of this age group have used e-cigarettes, while over 15 per cent are regular users. Vaping products are often marketed as a way for smokers to quit tobacco. Across shops and websites, they are sold as a ‘cleaner alternative’ to smoking, with the switch from cigarettes to vapes promoted as a ‘healthy decision’,” he added.

He continued: “However, if a product is to be promoted for a medical purpose, such as stopping smoking, it should be authorised by the Health Products and Regulatory Authority (HPRA). There are currently no e-cigarettes on the market in Ireland authorised by the HPRA.

“Since the introduction of the smoking ban in 2004, Ireland has been a world leader in the fight against the damage caused by tobacco products. However, the same cannot be said for our current approach to e-cigarettes, with Ireland falling well behind the mark compared to our EU counterparts.”

Deputy Burke said while the Government has taken steps to address the potential dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes with the introduction of new legislation, which includes banning the purchasing of e-cigarettes by under 18s, more must be done.

“We must look at the advertising of e-cigarettes and vapes from the same angle through which we have viewed the marketing of cigarettes and tobacco products over the past number of years. Tighter restrictions on advertising and packaging are now needed. In particular, a ban on advertising, including on billboards and on public transport, as well as the introduction of plain packaging is urgently needed to protect public health, and crucially the wellbeing of our young people,” concluded Deputy Burke.