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Health campaigners have called for a ban on sales of tobacco and vaping products to anyone under 21 in Ireland.

Professor Des Cox, chair of the Royal College of Physicians Ireland Policy Group on Tobacco, has also called for vaping flavours to be banned and for vaping products to be sold in plain packaging similar to that for tobacco.

Addressing the Oireachtas Health Committee which is considering new legislation on tobacco and nicotine, Professor Cox called for more urgent action to promote the government objective of “Tobacco Free Ireland”. He said: “Adolescents are more likely to initiate nicotine inhaled products use through flavoured products relative to other age groups. While adults may also enjoy flavours, the risks of nicotine inhaled products initiation in adolescents and young adults outweigh the benefits of ex-smokers using flavoured products.”

Dr Helen McAvoy, of the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, told the committee that “supportive evidence is lacking” and that vaping is an effective way of stopping smoking. She ,called on those who wish to quit to visit clinics rather than vaping shops. ”That’s what we know works and that’s what we are sticking with.”

Earlier, John Dunne of Vape Business Ireland told the committee that several health bodies in Ireland seemed to be out of step with the view of vaping among health bodies in the UK and New Zealand. He highlighted that the Westminster Health Secretary is proposing to make vaping products available on NHS prescription.

VBI urged the health committee to promote a ban on sales of vaping products to under 18s but it opposed a ban on flavours. Mr Dunne accepted that flavours may attract children but said an age limit would address this and he said flavours serve a purpose in encouraging adults to quit smoking.

Rejecting assertions that vaping is a ‘gateway’ to smoking, Mr Dunne pointed to the Healthy Ireland Survey 2021 which indicated that less than 1 per cent of vapers have never smoked.

Mr Eoin O’Boyle of VBI who runs a vaping shop in Drogheda, said that he had helped countless numbers to quit smoking by offering them a choice of vaping products. He called for “proportionate“  legislation, highlighting that another stop smoking method, Nicorette gum, comes in flavours and brightly coloured packaging.

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