The Irish Cancer Society says it cannot recommend electronic cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco until they are regulated in Ireland.
The ICS has welcomed moves in Britain to class e-cigarettes as ‘medicines’ under proposals to tighten up the regulation of nicotine products.
Manufacturers will have to face tough tests before they can sell their e-cigarettes as ‘licensed products’ in Britain.
The move will also mean e-cigarettes can be prescribed by doctors in to help smokers cut down or quit.
An e-cigarette is an electronic inhaler that vaporises a liquid nicotine into an aerosol mist, simulating the act of tobacco smoking
However, an ICS spokeswoman said the body could not recommend e-cigarettes in the absence of appropriate regulation and evidence.
“Until the safety and efficacy of these products are established and we can be assured that they do not pose a hazard to a person’s health and well-being, we are unable to recommend them,” said the spokeswoman.
E-cigarettes are widely available in Ireland but there are no regulations setting down the provisions for their sale or advertising.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland advised pharmacies two years ago that, in the absence of regulation, e-cigarettes should not be offered for sale in pharmacies. E-cigarettes are being offered for sale in Ireland in a wide variety of shops and online, and a number of people have claimed to have quit smoking since using them.
In December, the European Commission proposed an EU tobacco products directive, the aim of which is to reduce the numbers smoking.
The proposal, currently being considered by member states, recommends that nicotine containing products below a certain nicotine threshold, such as e-cigarettes, are allowed on the market but must feature health warnings.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said the proposal was being discussed in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers and the commission was hoping it would be adopted next year.
He said the Irish presidency was using its time as chair of the council of the EU to vigorously pursue measure to reduce the prevalence of smoking, particularly among young people.
The Irish Medicines Board taking part in the European discussions said e-cigarettes were not regulated under medicines or medical devices legislation unless they make medicinal claims.
Currently products that are presented for use in or to assist in smoking cessation, such as patches and gum, are regarded to be medicines and must be authorised by the IMB before being sold in Ireland.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved