In October of this year I received Government approval to draft the Public Health (Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill. The Bill will include provisions to prohibit the sale of nicotine inhaling products, including e-cigarettes, to and by persons under 18 years and will introduce a licensing system for the retail sale of nicotine inhaling products.
E-cigarettes are already regulated by the European Union (Manufacture, Presentation and Sale of Tobacco and Related Products) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 271 of 2016) which transpose EU Directive 2014/40/EU on Tobacco and Related Products.
The Regulations 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. In addition, 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 manufacturer, 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.
Under the Regulations there must be health warnings on packaging which advise consumers that e-cigarettes contain nicotine which is a highly addictive substance. Finally the Regulations prohibit advertisements for e-cigarettes on television and radio, online, and in printed publications, other than publications directed at persons in the e-cigarette industry or publications outside the EU.
The current position on e-cigarettes is based on 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 and that while potentially safer than smoking, evidence on long-term safety has yet to be established.
Although the HIQA assessment was published only in 2017, in March of this year I asked the Health Research Board to undertake a review of the evidence on 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. This review is expected to be completed in March 2020 and its findings will contribute to informing any additional regulation in this area.