Electronic cigarettes would be banned from bars, restaurants and workplaces and made illegal for under-18s, under proposed new laws in Ireland.
Like any other tobacco product, they would also be subject to bans on advertising and sponsorship, under the plan.
Two Senators, cancer specialist Professor John Crown and Averil Power, have introduced a bill in the Oireachtas to tighten regulations on e-cigarettes.
“I always recommend that people should stop smoking, but where that has been impossible, I think it can be better to use e-cigarettes,” said Prof Crown, a consultant oncologist.
“However, there are certain risks specific to e-cigarettes that don’t emerge for traditional cigarettes.”
The Independent senator said the e-cigarettes which have wicks that over-heat the fluid can produce dangerous levels of volatile chemicals.
“Poor construction can lead to the inhalation of nickle and lead alloy particles,” he added.
“Meanwhile, the material that the wick is constructed from may open users up to health problems like silicosis.”
Under the proposed legislation, which would have to pass a number of stages before being enacted, Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) would be charged with monitoring emerging scientific evidence on e-cigarettes and tweak the law accordingly.
Last year, the HSE banned the use of the increasingly popular devices in all hospitals and health care centres, saying they had no evidence on their long-term safety.
Joe Dunne, managing director of VIP Ireland, who make and sell e-cigarettes, has said that his company has nothing to fear from regulation.
“We support regulation and we always have,” he said.
“We think it is something that should be brought in, and it should be done on a licensed system more than tobacco regulation or more than medicine regulation.
“We think e-cigs should have its own category, and it should be licensed, but only the companies who get their products properly tested and get this licence to day that they have been tested and certified, they should be the only products that should be allowed to be sold.”
Last August, the World Health Organisation (WHO) called for a ban on their use indoors and their sale to children.
While experts are split about the usefulness of e-cigarettes as an aid to stop smoking, WHO said there was no firm evidence to support such claims.
Ms Power, a Fianna Fáil senator, said e-cigarettes may not be as harmful as tobacco and might help people to quit smoking, but warned there were a number of concerns about them.
“Users need to be aware that they contain harmful toxins that are damaging to their health,” she said.
“Bystanders, particularly children, deserve to be protected from the passive inhalation of e-cigarette vapour.”