Ireland’s approach to tobacco harm reduction and vaping has been getting worse for a while. Last year [link], Ireland’s Health Minister proposed to the Irish Cabinet that they should:
- Ban the sale of vape products to under-18s
- Ban on the sale of vape products from vending machines
- Ban on the sale of vape products at locations/events where children are present
- Introduce a licencing system costing vape shops an annual fee – no licence, no business
- Have separate licences for each individual vape shop in a chain, again payable annually
- Introduce fixed penalty notices for shops that break the rules
- A Name & Shame list for shops that break the rules
Anti-vape voices are in the ascendency in Ireland, and this is reflected by the latest report from The Health Research Board, of which the Examiner says: “found that e-cigarettes are associated with adolescents starting to smoke tobacco cigarettes, which could potentially lead to serious harm.”
Chief executive Dr Mairéad O’Driscoll told reporters: "Independent and credible evidence is vital in order to help inform policy decisions.” But how independent and credible was it?
The meta review managed to skew its findings by focussing mainly on pseudoscience from the United States. Fifteen of the twenty-one papers it looked at came from America, including roundly lambasted work by Stanton Glantz, Adam Leventhal, and Jessica Barrington-Trimis.
Ignoring the need to ween vulnerable groups away from smoking, the Board says “a population health approach” should address price, availability, and marketing. It isn’t alone in making what appears to be a coordinated push to clamp down on vaping.
Last week, The Irish Heart Foundation pushed the Government to initiate an tax of 6% on a millilitre of eliquid. The tax proposal would raise the cost of juice bottles and prefilled pods by up to 25%.
Attempting to excuse the inexcusable, the Foundation’s head of advocacy, Chris Macey, said: “e-cigarettes must be priced out of the purchasing reach of children and adolescents”.
Dropping any pretence at objectivity and balance, he added: “Some 22% of teenagers in Ireland have used e-cigarettes and whilst the international industry claims they are only intended to help long-term smokers to quit, branding that features cartoon characters, flavours such as candyfloss and bubblegum and aggressive marketing tactics on social media platforms used by teenagers show this claim is preposterous.”
New Nicotine Alliance Ireland was appalled at the proposals “to increase the cost of quitting smoking”. And as far as the international tobacco industry marketing to teens, NNA Ireland adds: “This is factually wrong, most e-cigarettes are independent products. Mr Macey seems to be basing his opinion on convenience store sales from the U.S.”
The consumer group points out that there is a wealth of research showing how tax rises on reduced harm products leads to a decline in sales as vapers return to using tobacco products [Example] – not through preventing adoption.
“Less than 1% of teens are regular users of e-cigs, while 12% are regular smokers, focusing on the small issue seems like the IHF are missing the point. This is an historic low rate of teen smoking and it has happened while e-cigs are easily available and affordable. The IHF need to consider the consequences of restricting the most effective reducer of smoking rates.”
The European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates, a partner NNA Ireland, commented: “Protection of youth, which has become a mantra for those opposed to tobacco harm reduction, was yet again cited as the rationale. Ironically, repeated suggestions from NNA IE and vendors to introduce U18 legislation that would make it illegal to sell vapour products to under 18’s have been ignored.
“Instead of a common sense approach that would directly address their concerns regarding youth, the plan from the IHF seems to be to punish adult vapers who have made the decision to greatly improve their health by switching from smoking to vaping, by adding extra expense to the products they depend on to remain smokefree. Vaping products are used by +200000 people in Ireland and have led to historically low levels of smoking.”