Oireachtas committee warns against banning e-cigarettes 

Oireachtas committee warns against banning e-cigarettes 

Siobhain Brophy from the Tobacco & Alcohol Control Unit, said 38% of people who try to quit smoking use e-cigarettes, so removing them from sale could have negative consequences. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Removing e-cigarettes from sale could have negative consequences for people trying to quit smoking, the Oireachtas Health Committee has heard.

More than one-third of smokers who try to quit using cigarettes opt for e-cigarettes, according to a member of the Department of Health's Tobacco & Alcohol Control unit.

The comment was made as part of a discussion on the new Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill, which proposes new retail licensing laws.

The legislation will prohibit the sale of tobacco products from temporary premises, and it will also ban the sale of tobacco or nicotine inhaling products by people under 18. There will also be a ban on the sale of tobacco products at events or locations intended for children.

In addition, shops selling tobacco products and e-cigarettes will have to register annually, whereas presently they are only required to register once, making it difficult to keep tabs on the number of shops selling such products.

Claire Gordan, from the Tobacco & Alcohol Control Unit, bluntly described the risks from smoking tobacco.

This is a normal consumer product, and that is what is so odd about tobacco cigarettes. Because of historical reasons, there is a product for sale beside the chewing gum, beside the newspapers that will literally kill two out of three people who use it.” 

She presented data showing one out of three young people develop a habit after only three or four cigarettes. Figures also showed 5% of school-aged children are current smokers.

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke asked if the legislation needed to include a ban on sales of cartons containing more than 20 cigarettes.

However, Ms Gordan said to date evidence showed the ability to purchase cigarettes in lower numbers is where the risk lies, as that is cheaper. She agreed the pandemic showed the real level of cigarette purchases here, as people were unable to buy while abroad.

Ms Gordan told Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan the idea people can lose weight by smoking has been shown to be false. She agreed some films feature smoking, but said any discussion around banning products could be seen as censorship.

A number of TDs, including Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould, said they were former smokers. Mr Gould asked if e-cigarettes should be prescription-only, and raised concerns around children using flavoured e-cigarettes.

Siobhain Brophy, also with the Tobacco & Alcohol Control Unit, said 38% of people who try to quit smoking use e-cigarettes, so removing them from sale could have negative consequences.

The committee heard international opinions differ, with e-cigarettes banned in Brazil, India and Australia but soon to be available on prescription in the UK.

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