I would like to thank the Deputy for her question. As I have not introduced any measures on the area to date, I assume the Deputy is referring to the recent announcement by the Health Service Executive that the use of e-cigarettes will no longer be permitted in any of its facilities or campuses. The ban commenced on 1 May, as part of the HSE’s Tobacco Free Campus policy, which, in line with Tobacco Free Ireland, our national policy, aims to denormalise smoking and to protect the health of staff and patients.
The HSE has told me that the decision was taken because e-cigarettes pose a challenge to smoke-free campus enforcement and come with safety concerns for a healthcare environment. Taking into consideration the practical issues, the HSE has decided that e-cigarettes should be prohibited on campuses in the same way as tobacco products. However, the Executive has committed to reviewing this policy as new evidence becomes available.
Contrary to the Deputy’s statement regarding smoking cessation aids, the majority of e-cigarettes are not presented by their manufacturers as a smoking cessation aid, and they are therefore not licensed as such.
A World Health Organisation Study Group Report concluded that the safety and extent of nicotine uptake from e-cigarettes has not been established and that not enough scientific evidence existed to validate the claim that the products were smoking cessation aids. The Report also notes that the delivery of nicotine to the lung might be dangerous and that it was of global importance to address lung delivery in scientific studies. Further research and clinical trials were recommended.
The European Tobacco Products Directive, which will come into force later this month, provide for the regulation of e-cigarettes. The Tobacco Directive will:
- set mandatory safety and quality requirements e.g. on nicotine content, ingredients and devices, as well as refill mechanisms etc., for e-cigarettes,
- make health warnings and information leaflets obligatory,
- introduce notification requirements for manufacturers and importers of e-cigarettes
- impose stricter rules on advertising and monitoring of market developments.
In addition, it is my intention to introduce further regulation on e-cigarettes in the near future.