Ireland plans to introduce ‘essentially an outright ban’ on vapes being sold to children

Plans also include ban on vapes being advertised around schools, on public transport, and in cinemas in the Republic of Ireland. Credit: PA

A draft law that would “outright ban” vapes being sold to children in the Republic of Ireland is hoped to significantly reduce the number of young people who use them, a minister has said.

Cabinet on Tuesday approved legislation that would ban e-cigarettes being sold to people aged under 18 at shops, and banned them from being sold from vending machines, mobile premises and events for children.

It also plans to ban vapes being advertised around schools, on public transport, and in cinemas.

Under the legislation, if somebody sells to a minor they would face a maximum fine of 4,000 euro or up to six months in prison for a first offence, and a maximum fine of 5,000 euro or up to 12 months in prison for subsequent offences.

The Environmental Health Service is to be given more powers in order to enforce these laws.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that the draft law would reduce “the availability and the visibility” of e-cigarettes for children and young teenagers.

He warned that in some petrol stations and shops, people are “bombarded” with point-of-sale advertising that he believed was being targeted at children.

“We’re acting to protect our young people from the harmful effects of nicotine, which impact on brain development and from the possible long term effects of vaping,” he said.

“We’re also acting on the on the evidence that vaping increases the likelihood that a child or a young teenager will smoke later on in life.”

He indicated that it wasn’t looking at an Australia-style ban of vaping products “at the moment”, but said it would be reviewing point-of-sale advertising.

Citing figure that nearly one in 10 children said they had vaped in the past 30 days, he said there weren’t targets being set for what they hoped the legislation would achieve, but said the proposal was “essentially an outright ban” that would have a “very significant effect” on the number of young people who vape.

Minister of State for public health and wellbeing Hildegarde Naughton said that the aim of the legislation was to protect children amid concerns by parents and schools.

“As has been highlighted, the impact of nicotine on the developing brain is widely recognised,” she said.

“We know vaping is harmful for younger people in relation to their brain development, but also the facts and the research is there that if you vape, you are five times more likely to go on and smoke cigarettes, and the evidence around that is absolutely clear and categoric around the health implications.”

Speaking before Cabinet, Tanaiste Micheal Martin welcomed the move, saying that he saw vaping as “very dangerous, particularly for young people”.

“I’m really shocked at the manner in which it’s being marketed towards young people in particular,” Mr Martin said, who introduced a tobacco-smoking ban in Irish workplaces in March 2004 while serving as minister for health.

Mr Donnelly said Ireland is working with the EU on its amendment to the Tobacco Products Directive, expected to be published next year, which aims to introduce restrictions on vape labelling and flavours.

Mr Donnelly said that although his preference was to do this on an EU-wide basis, if the legislation is “delayed or watered down”, legislation could be amended here at a national level.

“This is the conversation that Minister Naughton and I will be having at EU level: is to say what curbs can we put in in terms of plain labelling to get away from what I would view to be very child-friendly labels on some of them and undoubtedly child-friendly flavouring.

“Other countries have looked at these kinds of things, we need to look at them, and we want to pursue it, as we were saying, on a full (EU) basis first, but if that doesn’t work, we will we will proceed ourselves as well.”

He said that disposable e-cigarettes were not covered by the legislation, but added that “there’s a corresponding issue”, in that the nicotine levels in them can be very high.

Mr Donnelly said the aim was to introduce the bill to the Houses of the Oireachtas and pass it “as quickly as possible”.

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