THE DEPARTMENT OF Health intends to introduce legislation to regulate electronic cigarettes in Ireland, but will stop short of banning them from enclosed public spaces such as pubs, restaurants and offices.
The new development, first reported by RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, was confirmed in a statement sent to TheJournal.ie by a department spokesperson:
Although e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they do contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance which is the driver for cigarette smoking.
Hence, there are legitimate concerns about the public health benefits of allowing such products to exist without regulation…
Currently the evidence base does not support prohibiting vaping in public places although individual organisations/companies are free to introduce an e-cigs free policy.
The spokesperson added that the government has approved the drafting of legislation to introduce a licensing system for the products, and outlaw the sale of e-cigarettes to those under the age of 18.
Work on the legislation is ongoing in the Department.
Governments throughout the EU, including Ireland, are also required to implement the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) of 2014, by next May.
This will see a number of new measures introduced in Ireland, including:
- Safety regulations on e-cigarette equipment and liquids
- Strict rules on advertising e-cigarettes and liquids
- Ingredient listings and warnings that nicotine is an addictive substance
- E-liquid bottles at a maximum of 10 ml
- E-liquids with a maximum nicotine content of 20 mg per ml
A recent, milestone report by Public Health England, an official UK government health watchdog, found that:
- Vaping is 95% less harmful than conventional tobacco use
- There is no evidence vaping is a “gateway” to smoking
- There is no evidence of harm to bystanders from second-hand vapour
- Health services should “welcome and support” vaping as one path to quitting smoking
Responding to the Department of Health’s announcement on e-cigarette regulation, the Irish Vape Vendors Association’s (IVVA) Gillian Golden told TheJournal.ie:
The IVVA would welcome sensible, evidence-based and proportional regulations for these products, such as childproof caps on liquids, not advertising to minors and ensuring the safety of ingredients.
However, disproportionate and arbitrary measures including the limiting of e-liquid bottles to 10 ml in size, a cap on nicotine concentration levels, total bans on advertising and an overly burdensome notification process, all have the unintended consequence of making e-cigarettes more expensive and less attractive to smokers, and will negatively impact on the small businesses in the sector.
If we really want to see the public health gains that these alternative and safer products can deliver, they must be regulated proportionately, in relation to the incumbent and far more harmful tobacco cigarette.
The newly-announced Department of Health plan also seems likely to set up a clash between the government on the one hand, and proposals already drawn up in the Seanad.
Independent Senators John Crown, Averil Power and Fianna Fáil’s Mark Daly earlier this year launched the Public Health (Regulation of Electronic Cigarettes and Protection of Children) Bill.
That legislation would, by contrast to the government plan, ban vaping in enclosed public spaces, essentially adding e-cigarettes to the existing smoking ban.
It would also forbid e-cigarette producers from claiming the product is “not injurious to health,” mandate child-proof e-liquid bottles, and even calls for plain packaging for e-cigarettes, in line with Ireland’s recently-introduced law on tobacco products.
TheJournal.ie requested a comment from all three co-sponsors of the bill, and received this statement from Daly:
The Government needs to regulate the tobacco industry, and that includes e-cigarettes.
…We cannot allow the tobacco industry to continue to operate without clear regulation and I hope the Government will pursue our aims in this bill, to make the industry safer for all involved.