Public Health (Electronic Cigarettes and Herbal Cigarettes) Bill 2019: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to prohibit the sale or supply of electronic cigarettes or herbal cigarettes to persons under 18 years of age and for that purpose to provide for offences, proceedings and authorised officers and to provide for related matters.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to introduce the Public Health (Electronic Cigarettes and Herbal Cigarettes) Bill 2019. As we work to move towards a tobaccoless society, we must also act to ensure our younger citizens are not attracted to smoking of any kind and are not introduced to it through other products. As we know, nicotine is an addictive substance and many vaping or e-cigarette products contain nicotine. Ensuring that our younger citizens are not attracted to such products or herbal cigarettes that do not ordinarily include nicotine must be of the utmost importance, particularly in the context of ensuring that such products do not act as a gateway to tobacco-based products.

This Bill would address several issues. Section 1 provides the definitions for the Bill and follows those definitions used in Directive 2014/40/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on 3 April 2014. Section 2 of this legislation would make it an offence to sell e-cigarettes, refill containers or herbal cigarettes or to supply or invite to purchase such a product to a person under 18 years of age. Sections 3 and 4 of the Bill propose to provide penalties for an offence under this legislation in line with those provided for tobacco by sections 5 and 6 of the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2002 and are cognisant of the Fines Act 2010. Section 5 of the Bill relates to "the functions of authorised officers", that is, the HSE, extending the application of section 45 of the Public Health Act of 2002 to enable it to act in accordance with the provisions of this Bill.

The Bill would address an aspect of our laws that we have, to date, failed to adequately tackle. The fact is that recitals of the directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on 3 April 2014 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the member states concerning the manufacture, presentation and sale of tobacco and related products have recommended that an age limit be imposed on the sale or supply of such products. However, this is left as a matter for member states to address in domestic legislation. While we have banned the sale of tobacco products to those under the age of 18, we have not yet taken such action regarding the supply or sale of related products. This Bill will work to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes, refill containers and herbal cigarettes to people under 18 years of age and fill a void that currently exists within our domestic law.

I am quite cognisant of the fact that the Minister for Health has obtained approval for a draft scheme of a Bill that covers many of the same aspects as my Bill. However, in this regard, I ask the Government to consider the fact that my Bill is ready and that the likelihood of the Minister's Bill being subject to the EU's transparency directive is quite high. The transparency directive, where a Bill is subject, requires member states to notify the Commission of technical regulations in draft and then wait for a standstill period of at least three months before adopting those regulations.

The Bill I have brought forward, which proposes to prohibit the sale of e-cigarette and herbal cigarette products to those aged under 18, would not, I argue, be subject to the transparency directive. However, from reading the heads of the Minister's Bill, I believe it may be subject to the directive. In practice, that would mean that my Bill to ban the sale of these products to minors could be enacted, while the Minister's Bill, when brought forward, would have to wait some months. That would not just encompass the drafting period but also the standstill period. I must ask the Government to give serious consideration to enacting this Bill. I ask it to do so with a view to implementing the outstanding aspects of the draft scheme published by the Minister last week by way of amending legislation in an effort to deter children from taking up the habit in the short term. We are all working towards the same goal. The sooner we ban the sale of such products to children and introduce the appropriate penalties for doing so, the sooner we can deter children from taking up smoking. That is in all of our interests.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.