The current position on e-cigarettes in Ireland is based advice from the Health Information and Quality Authority (‘HIQA’) in its 2017 Health Technology Assessment of Smoking Cessation Products and Services.
In relation to the safety of e-cigarettes the HIQA assessment concluded that this remains an evolving area of research; while potentially safer than smoking, evidence on long-term safety has yet to be established.
In relation to e-cigarettes as an aid to smoking cessation HIQA advised the Minister for Health as follows:
Although the currently available results for e-cigarettes are promising, there is insufficient evidence at present to reliably demonstrate their effectiveness as an aid to smoking cessation.
Although the HIQA assessment was published only in 2017, the evidence on e-cigarettes is rapidly evolving. In that context, in March this year I asked the Health Research Board to undertake a review of the evidence in relation to the health harms of e-cigarettes, their effectiveness as an aid to smoking cessation and whether they act as a gateway to smoking tobacco products. The evidence review is expected to be completed in March 2020.
In addition my Department continues to monitor developments and publications by authoritative bodies on the safety of e-cigarettes and whether they facilitate smoking cessation.
In Ireland e-cigarettes are regulated under the European Union (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale of Tobacco and Related Products) Regulations 2016 (S.I. 271/2016). These Regulations transpose the EU Tobacco Products Directive (Directive 2014/40/EU).
Under these Regulations health warnings which advise consumers that e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is a highly addictive substance are mandatory. The Regulations also provide for mandatory safety and quality requirements for e-cigarettes and refill containers, including maximum nicotine concentrations for e-cigarettes containing nicotine, and maximum volumes for cartridges, tanks and nicotine liquid containers.
Finally the Regulations require e-cigarette manufacturers or importers to notify the Health Service Executive of all products that they place on the market and, if a manufacturers, importer or distributor has a reason to believe that a product is not safe, they are required to immediately notify the Health Service Executive and to explain what corrective action has been taken.
In relation to advertising, the Regulations prohibit advertisements for e-cigarettes online and in printed publications except for those directed at persons in the e-cigarette industry or publications printed and published outside the EU and intended for markets outside the EU. In addition, advertisements for e-cigarettes are prohibited on television and on radio. Finally, any form of contribution to an event, activity or person with the aim of promoting e-cigarettes and with a cross-border effect is also prohibited
In addition to the current legislation my Department is developing a draft scheme for a Public Health (Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill which will include provisions to:
- introduce a new licensing system for the retail sale of tobacco products and nicotine-inhaling products such as e-cigarettes
- prohibit the sale of nicotine inhaling products to persons under the age of 18
- prohibit the sale of tobacco products and nicotine inhaling products by persons under the age of 18
I intend to bring the draft scheme to Government in the coming weeks.
The current health advice given by the Health Service Executive (‘HSE’) reflects the position from the HIQA research and conclusions.
The HSE advises people who smoke that currently e-cigarettes are not recommended as a help to stop smoking because the safety and effectiveness profile is uncertain. People who want to stop smoking and /or using e-cigarettes, and who want support, can use HSE QUIT services and access help. Research shows that using stop smoking services like the HSE’s QUIT service makes someone twice as likely to quit for good. Even better news is that using stop smoking services in combination with Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and stop smoking medication makes people three to four times more likely to quit. The HSE’s QUIT service is a free, personal support service to help quitters – providing a team of trained advisors, online tools, understanding and support. If anyone is thinking of giving up smoking, or is using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid, the QUIT service can help over the phone, on Facebook or Twitter, via email or text, or through Live Chat via the QUIT.ie support. The QUIT Service also has a network of face-to-face HSE QUIT services in locations around the country, providing one-to-one and group support for smokers.