Vapers in Ireland think flavour ban would create a black market, survey shows

Vapers in Ireland think flavour ban would create a black market, survey shows

More than nine in ten users of e-cigarettes in Ireland would not favour an outright ban on flavoured vapes, a new survey has found.

The research, conducted by Red C, a market researcher in Dublin, was carried out through 221 face-to-face surveys last month. The survey found that nearly half of vapers would stop vaping altogether if a flavour ban was introduced. It’s believed more than 200,000 people are vape users in Ireland.

About 84 per cent of vapers believe a flavours ban would create a black market for the products, while a majority — 59 per cent — said they would source the products abroad or online. The most common flavours are tobacco, menthol and fruits.

Of those surveyed 42 per cent said that they were in favour of a ban on the flavours that aimed at young people.

Joe Dunne, founder of Respect Vapers, an advocacy group representing vapers in Ireland, said e-cigarettes were less harmful than smoking. He said that vapes in different flavours helped current and former smokers stay away from cigarettes, and they should not be limited to tobacco.

He said: “If a flavour ban did come out, you will be looking at probably 45 to 50 per cent of vapers going back to cigarettes. Then you look at probably 30 per cent going to buy black market products.

“Are we willing to consider a flavour ban because maybe there’s a potential of people using vape that should not, or are we willing to put 100,000 people back smoking to a life-threatening product, and probably 50,000 of them back to death and disease associated with smoking?”

Dunne said vaping should be part of the “toolkit” of a broader “harm reduction” strategy. “So many people die in car crashes all the time, but we don’t ban driving. What we do is we make it as harm reductive as we can, with speed limits, safety belts,” he added.

The survey found that “a large majority” of vapers are ex-smokers. The vapers in the survey acknowledged the “important role” vaping had in helping them reduce the amount they smoke or quitting altogether and that it had been more effective in helping them do this, compared with other means like patches and gum.

Des Cox, chairman of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland policy group on tobacco, said that e-cigarettes were “not harmless,” and that studies had shown they were a “gateway” to teenagers taking up cigarette smoking. “There is good evidence that flavours are the most important factor for teenagers when they start experimenting with e-cigarettes,” he said. “It’s also been shown in studies that teenagers are more likely to use e-cigarettes that are flavoured ones.”

Cox said that he did not want to see former smokers relapse. He said that there were other “proven methods” to get off tobacco smoking, like nicotine gum, patches, or pharmaceutical medications.

Three countries in the EU — Estonia, Finland and Hungary — have banned flavours of vaping products. Cox added that these countries had not experienced an increase in ex-smokers relapsing since the introduction of the ban.

Cox recommended to an Oireachtas committee in February to prohibit the sale of nicotine inhaled products, excluding those of tobacco flavour. “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,” he said in the opening statement.

The Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill is undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “The general scheme of the bill does not contain any provisions relating to a ban on flavoured vape products.”

The department added that the bill would prohibit the sale of nicotine inhaling products to people under 18. It will also establish a licensing system for the retail sale of tobacco products and nicotine inhaling products.

Source: The Times