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

All tobacco products including vaping products should be banned for sale to people under the age of 21, the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (RCPI) will argue at an Oireachtas Committee on Tuesday.

The all-party committee on Health is discussing the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill 2019 and will hear submissions from the RCPI, industry group Vape Business Ireland, as well as Healthy Ireland.

In its opening statement, the RCPI will argue that vaping be subject to similar stringent restrictions as smoking products. It will set out a case for increasing the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products (including vaping products) from 18 to 21.

It will also call for a ban on different flavours being offered by vaping products, other than the flavour of tobacco. The RCPI representative, Prof Des Cox, a consultant in respiratory medicine at Children’s Health Ireland, Crumlin, has said in a written submission that adolescents were more likely than other age groups to start using nicotine-inhaled products which have flavours.

The RCPI will also say that it supports prohibiting the sale of nicotine-inhaling (vaping) products from vending machines, moveable premises, or at places where children are present, as well as placing the same restrictions on advertising as applies to cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Dr Cox will tell the committee that studies have shown that vaping products are no more effective in helping people quit smoking than approved nicotine replacement therapies (NRT).

The RCPI will say that studies also show that vaping 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.”

Counter argument

However, in a markedly contrasting submission, the group representing the industry in Ireland will contend that vaping is not a gateway to smoking and that youth uptake of e-cigarettes and similar products is “quite low”.

In his opening submission, John Dunne of Vape Business Ireland is expected to argue that compared to other NRT products – such as nicotine gum, patches, and inhalers – vaping products led to “almost four times as many successful quit attempts.”

“While 10 percent of those who successfully quit used NRT, 38 per cent used vaping,” Mr Dunne has said in a written submission to the committee.

However, he will also say that his organisation supports a minimum age of 18 for buying vaping products.

”While the evidence does not point to a huge youth vaping problem in Ireland, we need to urgently ban underage sales, whilst ensuring adult smokers have an alternative that works.

“The fact is that the data indicates that youth uptake for use remains low … This is not a gateway into smoking – it is the most effective tool for helping smokers quit for good,” the written submission has argued.

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