The Irish Cancer Society (ICS) has warned that an explosion in the number of new vaping products and attractive flavours could lead to a new generation of smokers, in the absence of advertising restrictions.
Figures from the Department of Health show the number of new electronic cigarette and refill container products on the market have tripled in the past year — up from 1,538 in 2018 to 5,362 this year. Health Minister Simon Harris said the massive increase showed e-vaping businesses “are adapting and evolving as we erect legislative barriers”.
The department is currently working on legislation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18 and Mr Harris said they are also examining restrictions on advertising. Mr Harris said the increase in products showed vaping companies were increasing their business here.
“My fear is they are targeting their business towards children,” he said.
ICS chief executive Averil Power said their main concern was “how aggressively these products are being marketed at children”. This included one company using cartoon-type characters in bus shelter advertising.
There is no way that’s directed at the 60-year-old long term smoker who’s thinking of quitting, any more than berry flavours are directed at adults
Ms Power said the society was calling for the same advertising restrictions to apply to e-cigarettes as applied to conventional tobacco products, as well as the banning of flavours “because they are particularly attractive to children”.
Vape Business Ireland, which represents the vaping industry here, has said it does not support a ban on flavours as they “play an important role for adult smokers looking for a less harmful alternative product”. Ms Power said she was aware anecdotally of primary school children engaging in vaping.
She said vaping companies, often backed by Big Tobacco, were focused on a new business model “to recruit children to replace the adults dying as a result of smoking their products”.
“They are just finding a different way of getting people hooked on nicotine and making them lifelong customers,” she said.
VBI has said it “fully supports legislative measures to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18”.
Earlier this month, electronic vaping giant Juul Labs announced further expansion in the Irish market which will see its products sold on the high street in Costcutter, Quik Pick and Carry Out stores. It also has retail partnerships with Circle K, Applegreen, and Hale Vaping.