Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Questions (263)

Cecilia Keaveney

Question:

392 Cecilia Keaveney asked the Minister for Health and Children if, in the context of the forthcoming ban on smoking in public places, he envisages a widening of the locations at which smoking cessation support products will be available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2937/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

There is a wide range of nicotine replacement therapy, NRT, medicinal products available to those who wish to quit smoking. These products are subject to control as medicinal products, some of which are available only on prescription and others which are for sale over the counter in pharmacies.

The Irish Medicines Board is the statutory body responsible for the regulation of medicinal products and it has recently examined the possibility of making NRT products available at locations other than pharmacies. I am advised by the board that it would not be in favour of such a proposal for the following reasons. As with all medicinal products, there is a need for caution concerning the use of NRT by those under 18, persons with heart disease, and during pregnancy.

Nicotine, in any form, is considered to have the potential to generate addiction in the user. In this regard I am advised by the board that a recent survey of schoolchildren in the United States has shown that a large number of these children have used these products for purposes other than smoking cessation. The general principle is that unless there is a good reason to the contrary, medicinal products should be sold only in pharmacies. Many pharmacies are now open until late in the evening and at weekends and, consequently, the availability of NRT products through pharmacies is already good. In addition, smokers who are making an effort to quit will probably take care to have an adequate supply of NRT products.

In view of the advice I have received from the Irish Medicines Board, I do not propose to widen the availability of these products at this time. However, the matter will be kept under review.