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With sweeping vaping age-restrictions now in force in Ireland, and flavours and disposables in the spotlight, we ask Garrett McGovern if these new and potential restrictions will negatively impact Ireland's ongoing goal to reduce smoking rates.


0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak
1:01 - Ireland's vaping age restrictions explained
1:40 - Is there a flavour ban on the horizon?
2:39 - Youth vaping in the spotlight
4:51 - Environmental impact of disposable vapes
8:47 - What other restrictions are in force?
10:04 - Closing remarks


00:00:13 --> 00:01:07

Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. Vaping has increased in popularity in recent years. It's not risk-free, but it has been shown to be significantly less harmful than smoking. Recently, Ireland has taken steps to regulate vaping in the country. In June, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications launched a consultation on disposable vaping devices. and is now working on legislation banning the sale of vaping products to under 80s. Joining us today to discuss Ireland's ideas is Garrett McGovern, Medical Director of the Priority Medical Clinic in Dublin and GP specialising in addiction medicine. Hello Garrett. Can you tell us more about recent changes regarding vaping in Ireland?

00:01:07 --> 00:01:39

Garrett McGovern: Change that has been recently introduced, Joanna, is an age restriction. At this point in time, there is no restriction on flavors and there is no restriction on disposable vapes. The only thing they've brought in is, which they should have brought in a long time ago, was an age restriction of 18 years. And that's it. That's been brought in. That's now in regulation.

00:01:40 --> 00:01:51

Joanna Junak: You mentioned there are currently no restrictions on flavors. So does this mean that you can currently buy any flavor of vape? And what are the government's views about this?

00:01:52 --> 00:02:38

Garrett McGovern: You can have any flavor you want. Flavors are okay. They haven't been touched. There is a plan to probably ban flavors. There's an appetite among a certain group of the medical profession to ban flavors and certain politicians and the Minister for Health has rather vaguely, he didn't specifically say flavour should be banned, but he put a tweet up the other day, which it was a video saying, I don't know if you saw, where he said something like flavour has been aimed at young people. He didn't say they were going to be banned. The general feeling is there is an appetite to ban flavours yet.

00:02:39 --> 00:02:48

Joanna Junak: And what about disposable vapes? Are they easily accessible in Ireland? And are they popular among the younger generation?

00:02:49 --> 00:04:49

Garrett McGovern: Yeah. Disposable vapes are very popular among young people. I suppose if you look at the level of electronic cigarette use, the vast majority of young people using electronic cigarettes are not addicted to them. They're just messing with them. It's a rite of passage, I suppose. It's probably only about, if you look at the S-PAD study of the group that was surveyed, they showed that about 4.5% used electronic cigarettes daily or almost daily. Whereas the other 95%, almost 95% did just put them to register as a e-cigarette user in this study, all you had to do was take a puff in the last 30 days. So they didn't differentiate, but they went, when it was reported, they said something like, I don't know, 30, 40% of young people are vaping, which was a rather inflated figure, I have to say. The numbers who, as I said, have a problem with it, And we don't even know what the problem is. I mean, is taking an electronic cigarette every day a problem? I don't know. I think the biggest problem I have with all of this is we seem to talk a lot about electronic cigarette use among people below the age of 18 and very little about young people below the age of 18 smoking. Nobody talks about young people smoking anymore in Ireland. It's all about vaping. So that's where obviously people below the age of 18 generally are getting them where they're easily accessed. And that's usually in supermarkets and shops. The vaping stockists are very careful about who they sell electronic cigarettes to.

00:04:51 --> 00:05:06

Joanna Junak: In June, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications launched a public consultation on disposable vaping devices. Does the government want to completely ban disposable vapes? And how will this impact vapers in Ireland?

00:05:07 --> 00:08:46

Garrett McGovern: Yeah, they do want to. It's hard to know exactly what the motivations are. I think there are a lot of people that just don't like electronic cigarettes. There are obviously certain groups of people who are genuinely very interested in the environment. So I did a radio interview a number of months ago where there was a member, I think, of the Fianna Fáil party, which is one of our big parties over here. And he was very much in favor of electronic cigarettes, but he thought disposable vapes. And he just talked about it from the environmental point of view. So I made the point Would it not be better to have proper disposal units for electronic cigarettes rather than ban it? You're throwing the baby out with the bathwater. So it's a bit of a disproportionate response. There's many people in this country, smokers I mean, who are using disposable electronic cigarettes and getting great benefit out of them to give up smoking. And I think it would be a shame if we didn't do the first thing. If it's the environment we're worried about, then we need to be able to dispel the plastic and electronic cigarettes. It's not rocket science. It's easy enough to do. And that would solve that problem. Now, whether people think that young people getting access to electronic cigarettes is what we should also be doing, again, we've only just brought in an age restriction. So let's enact the age restriction and see how it affects youth use. I think getting rid of disposable vapes again is disproportionate. The vast majority of people who use electronic cigarettes in this country, and there's estimated to be anything between maybe as high as 250,000 vapers in Ireland. That's a lot of people vaping. Even if it's the lower figure, which might be 150,000, I'm not quite sure the prevalence of it. The vast, vast majority of those people are using them as a smoking cessation tool. And we need to, you know, we're all trying to get our smoking rates down. They're in and around 18%. They're a bit static at the moment. But I've absolutely no doubt that the explosion of electronic cigarettes has hugely reduced our smoking rates in this country. It's gone from, over the last seven or eight years, from 25% to 18%. But unfortunately, tobacco control in Ireland and the health service over here won't recognize electronic cigarettes as having any value. And I'm not sure whether you've seen that, but we call it the Health Service Executive, the HSC. If you look on their webcomment, electronic cigarettes, and in fact, just only the last couple of days, they had a webinar where they just talked a lot of lies about electronic cigarettes, about diacetyl and they're full of cancer causing agents and really scaremongering stuff. So we really have a very, very big battle with our own national health service in this country, who they will not encourage or they won't advise smokers to use electronic cigarettes. Completely different than the NHS in the UK, which they've gone all out in trying to encourage people by whatever means to give up cigarettes, but electronic cigarettes are encouraged over there to the point now where they're starting to give out free electronic cigarettes, devices and nicotine.

00:08:47 --> 00:08:53

Joanna Junak: And coming back to age restrictions, when can we expect the introduction of the bill?

00:08:53 --> 00:10:03

Garrett McGovern: Well, the bill is, I don't know whether the bill is going to be in the new year, but there's a number of things contained within the bill. They obviously want to prohibit the sale of nicotine-inhaling products to persons under the age of 18. They want to get rid of self-service vending machines. They want to stop the products being sold from what we call mobile premises, pop-up shops, they call them in Ireland, or at events primarily intended for children. So any event which might be aimed at children. I can't imagine why anyone would be selling these events for children, but anyway. And they talk about a lot of penalties for and convictions for people, stockists, who break the law. So I'm still very worried about the flavors, though, I have to say. That's the thing that worries me the most. If we go anywhere near flavors, we're going to be in trouble, I think, in real trouble.

00:10:04 --> 00:10:18

Joanna Junak: Thank you, Garrett. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our podcast. You can also find the transcriptions of each episode on the GFN TV website. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.