Joint Committee on Health Report on the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill.

We are disappointed to see the Joint Committee on Health has been gripped by a moral panic over vaping products and has chosen to ignore the fact that smoking has plummeted since e-cigarettes became popular. Instead, they are seeking to further extend the stalled tobacco control policies to include the competing vaping products. This will only serve to protect combustible cigarettes from the competition.

We have forwarded a letter from some of the top global experts on smoking and nicotine clearly setting out why this strategy is wrong. In it, they say the proposal, “is likely to do more harm than good and would be a significant setback for the country’s public health policy”.

Earlier this year, the State of Tobacco Control in Ireland 2022 report estimated that on current trends, Ireland will not meet its 2025 smoke-free target until 2037. In a letter sent to the Department of Health and members of the Joint Committee on Health, the signatories claim a vaping flavor ban would put Ireland’s ambitious smoke-free target even further out of reach.

This is because adult smokers who want to switch away from combustible cigarettes to vapes (e-cigarettes) overwhelmingly prefer flavored products, and quit rates are higher among those using flavored e-liquids. If a flavor ban were to be introduced, it is likely many adults would face increased risks by relapsing to smoking, not switching in the first place, or by using unregulated or DIY vaping products.

According to Public Health England, vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking, this figure is supported by the Royal College of Physicians, and the rise of vaping in Ireland between 2017-19 coincided with record declines in smoking.

More recently, though, progress has reversed, thanks to negative public commentary and the proliferation of misinformation about vaping.

After 2019, the vaping prevalence fell but smoking increased, suggesting cigarettes and e-cigarettes function as substitutes, with people moving between the two products.

This substitution effect suggests that measures taken to degrade the vaping experience are likely to increase smoking, both for adults and adolescents.

A study of a ban on flavored products in San Franciso showing a sharp rise in teen smoking compared to districts without a ban provides further evidence for this. Similar happened in Finland when they banned flavors and Estonia reversed its flavor ban for that reason.

While combustible cigarettes are available, the safer product must be more attractive, more affordable, and more available.

Setting out the rationale for this bill they state that “tobacco costs the Irish exchequer €10.6 billion every year and that 6,000 deaths a year are caused as a result of smoking”. As the only tobacco product available in Ireland is combustible tobacco, we can take it that that cost is entirely attributed to smoking.

The committee seems to have lost sight of this.

While combustible cigarettes are available, the safer product must be more attractive, more affordable, and more available. Without flavors and with the proposed plain packaging and inclusion in smoking bans, this makes the safer product less appealing and less attractive. This is misguided at best, at worst it’s a dereliction of public health in favor of ideology.

2 thoughts on “Joint Committee on Health Report on the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill.

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