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; while potentially safer than smoking, evidence on long-term safety has yet to be established.
Although the HIQA assessment was published only in 2017, the research 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 internationally on the safety of e-cigarettes and whether they facilitate smoking cessation.
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.
Later this month I intend to bring forward 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.