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The Irish Don’t See

Ireland’s approach to tobacco control and harm reduction has ensured it lags far behind the United Kingdom

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Irish media coverage this week mirrored the nation’s stance on tobacco harm reduction. It is a failing approach that has resulted in missed opportunities, stagnating graphs and lives remaining at risk. The Irish government has failed to see the benefits offered by vaping and Irish citizens are paying the price.

“Irish smoking rates falling fastest in EU”, proudly claimed a survey in 2015. It was another contribution to the smoke and mirrors campaign that obfuscated the reality of the situation, due in part to misattributing a 2007 figure and claiming it as being from 2012.

The study claimed smoking in Ireland fell from 29% in 2012 to 21% in 2015. This is totally wrong. According to the Irish government’s own literature, the figure in 2012 was 22% (Page 24), and represented “a decline in prevalence of 1.7% since June 2010.”

According to some sources, by last year (2017), latest research “records 23% of people as being ‘current smokers.” Rather than being the best at combatting tobacco-related harm, the Irish government is totally failing to make any positive impact whatsoever on smoking rates.

It has thrust all of its efforts into banning tobacco advertising, plain packaging, and demonising a vaping technological revolution that has been embraced in the United Kingdom.

Last year, Health Minister Simon Harris said: “I know that many, many people wish they had never started smoking and want to stop, for themselves and for their families. That is why we must continue to prioritise and enhance the supports and encouragement people need to quit smoking once and for all.”

So the country introduced a fine of €100 fine for people who smoke in a car that is also carrying a child.

Meanwhile, figures demonstrated that the UK had the second lowest figures for smoking across Europe, a drop that most attribute to the boom in vaping including Labour Party MP Sir Kevin Barron.

The Irish Health Service Executive says: “While e-cigarettes are a new and potentially helpful addition to the many proven QUIT supports and products available - the Health Service can only endorse products that are proven to be safe, and proven to be effective; e-cigarettes have not yet achieved either test.”

This refusal to see the benefits of vaping, and the impact it has had on UK smoking rates, was open for viewing in this week’s media coverage of the poor lung research. To whit, The Irish Times even stooped so low as to quote Martin McKee and call him a “leading public health expert”. We have many ways of describing McKee and that would not be one of them. Crank, delusional, or ideologue would be more appropriate. Illustrating our point, he said: “England is a complete outlier in its approach to electronic cigarettes. There is no really good evidence that they are effective as quitting aids, and more and more evidence that they act as a gateway to smoking for young people. The long-term effects are completely unknown but there is enough evidence to be concerned.”

Irish Vape Vendors Association has commented: “It's terribly disappointing to see Irish smokers would be urged to keep trying other methods which don't work terribly well. Rather than, as our neighbours in England do, encourage them switch to vaping. Which serves the public health agenda better?”

For as long as Ireland resists adopting the UK’s approach to harm reduction it will languish in the doldrums of reducing tobacco-related harm. Contrast Ireland’s approach with tomorrow’s massive announcement from the UK government.

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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