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'We're on to you': Harris says flavoured e-cigarettes target children and he wants them banned

Some vaping packaging is trying to make it attractive to children, according to the health minister.

Harris is to bring a raft of new advertising restrictions into effect next year.
Harris is to bring a raft of new advertising restrictions into effect next year.
Image: Shutterstock/Aleksey Kurguzov

THE SALE OF certain flavoured e-cigarettes such as candy floss and bubblegum could be banned next year. 

Health Minister Simon Harris today announced that the government will next year ban the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18s and introduce a raft of advertising restrictions similar to those introduced in relation to alcohol this year.

In addition, the minister said he is looking at addressing issues in relation to the sale of certain flavoured e-cigarettes, which he states are deliberately targeting children.

The minister today launched research carried out by IPSOS MRBI among third and fourth year students n relation to e-cigarette flavours and packaging research.

Of the mini-focus group of 16 students, the majority said they do not believe that sweet e-cigarette flavours were designed for adults only.

Instead, they said such flavours are strongly associated with snacks, treats and sweets that appeal to young people.

Speaking this afternoon, Harris said sweet flavours such as candy floss and bubblegum are aimed at adults rather than children. 

“I’m about to call a stop to this,” he said. 

“What I’m committing to doing today is that in the legislation, we will bring in similar advertising restrictions as to what we did in  Public Health Alcohol Act where we banned advertising near schools, creches, playgrounds, and public transport.

“And I’m also committed to, but have yet to find the legal way forward on this, to looking at the whole issue of flavours,” he said.

He acknowledged that such a move is challenging. 

“The challenge I have is how you actually legally in a piece of legislation ban flavors, you ban bubblegum and some company calls it something else next week or slightly tweaks the ingredient so I’m working my way through this,” he said. 

The minister said he did not believe the industry when it states that candy floss and bubblegum flavoured products are aimed at getting the “60-year-old man who smokes 20 a day” off tobacco.

“Not to be stereotypical. But if it was, why would you be promoting strawberry milkshake if you’re trying to target a 60-year-old smoking 20 a day? These are aimed at our kids. Bubble gum, milkshake, candy, it is all the language to try and make it attractive to children. The packaging is trying to make it attractive to children. The advertising that involves cartoon characters is to try and make this appealing to children.

“So industry we’re on to you. We know what you’re up to. And we’re going to work together in 2020. And to make sure we shut down this dangerous, dangerous situation.”

The minister added that in other jurisdictions when legislation threatened to outlaw some flavoured e-cigarettes, industry preemptively acted and remove the flavours from the market. Harris urged vaping companies to do so in Ireland. 

Tim Collins, CEO of the Irish Heart Foundation, said the fact that the only purpose of flavours like strawberry milkshake, cherry crush, chocolate mint and caramel “is to lure a whole new generation of children into nicotine addiction has been endorsed resoundingly by the teenagers who took part in this research”.

Averil Power, CEO of the Irish Cancer Society, said:

“It is crystal clear that long-term smokers represent just a small part of the target market of the big e-cigarette brands. The bigger objective – and the bigger profits – lie in causing children and young people who have never smoked to become addicted to nicotine.”

Vape Business Ireland (VBI) states that it does not support a ban on flavours “as flavours play an important role for adult smokers looking for a less harmful alternative product”. 

Our colleagues at Noteworthy.ie have published a proposal to investigate who is behind the phenomenal growth of the vaping industry in Ireland. Click here if you wish to support their work.

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