TO THE HEALTH COMMITTEE:
Respect Vapers, which represents over 200,000 people who use vaping to quit smoking, is deeply concerned that the members of the Health Committee has, yet again, opted to exclude people who vape from the Pre-legislative Scrutiny of the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill.
Our members have heard from shopkeepers that the Committee now plans to listen to the retail trade in mid-February.
Respect Vapers has written to the Committee on numerous occasions to make sure the members hear the stories of people who vape and have accurate information and scientific research on this issue. We have NEVER got a response from the Committee or an invite to attend the meeting.
How can elected TDs and Senators leave out their constituents, who rely on vaping to quit smoking, from this meeting. Don’t constituents count anymore!
We believe that it is important that the Committee listens to the people who know about vaping, as some of the statements made at the November 17th meeting were dangerously inaccurate.
The two agencies invited went far beyond their briefs by providing what appears to be personal views on vaping that are not substantiated. Their views were not challenged by the members, despite the fact that Respect Vapers emailed scientific research on flavoured vaping to all committee members in advance of that meeting.
Chairman, we represent people who vape, nobody else. The reason we came to together is to stop this one-sided approach to something that works for people who try to quit smoking.
I include below recent correspondence sent to the committee members from the people who vape and ask that we are invited to the next meeting.
Email sent November 2021
Some of the errors relating to vaping made by agencies at Committee meeting include:
Vaping flavours are used to attract young people to vaping:
This is not true. Respect Vapers sent the Committee a briefing note on vaping flavours and how they help former smokers overcome the habit. This briefing was backed up with Irish and international research. (see * and ** below).
The Committee members made no reference to this briefing note.
Vaping is a gateway to smoking for young people:
Respect Vapers included in its submission factual scientific research that clearly shows vaping is used to quit smoking, not as a gateway for your people to start smoking. We have consistently stated that vapers are quitters not tobacco starters. The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey 2018 found that 5 percent of children aged 10-17 smoke, a decline of 3 percent on the 2014 figure. (see ** below)
Research used to show the success of vaping is usually rubbished:
This is not true. In fact, the Department of Health officials used such research in their briefing to the Committee earlier this month.
There is a proliferation of vaping advertisements:
This is untrue. We can’t remember seeing advertisements anywhere and we ask the Members to think when they last saw an advertisement for vaping. The fact is the majority of vapers find out about vaping by word of mouth, having tried everything else to quit smoking.
I wish to bring to your attention some inaccuracies presented by the Irish Heart Foundation at the Joint Committee on Health debate on Wednesday, 16th June 2021.
In its opening statement to the Committee, the Irish Heart Foundation stated:
Teen smoking rates are increasing for the first time in decades amid an explosion in vaping that we know is a gateway to smoking.
This should be addressed in new legislation, including a full ban on e-cigarette advertising and child-friendly flavours.
Independent research in Ireland and Europe shows that vaping is not a gateway to smoking for young people.
*The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children study, released in March 2021, showed that youth smoking has plummeted in Ireland in recent decades.
The percentage of 10–17-year-olds who are current smokers fell from 22.6% in 1998 to 5.3% in 2018.
**The Government’s National Drug and Alcohol Survey, published 1st July 2021, puts to bed the myth that vaping is a gateway to smoking for young people and shows that the majority of vapers are aged over 35.
The survey found that 77% of those vaping did so to stop smoking, to help them cut down or to stay off cigarettes. Almost six in ten people said they vaped to quit smoking.
Most importantly, vaping is working for these smokers. More than half, approximately 93,000, of Irish vapers reported that they had now stopped smoking completely because of vaping. This is more successful than the Government-promoted gums and patches.
The request to ban flavours, because of the IHF perception that they are ‘child-friendly’, is unwarranted as flavours have helped those who vape to stay away from tobacco.
Our experience on the ground supports these findings. Those starting vaping do so to quit tobacco, not to start smoking. The profile of those who vape in Ireland are aged between 35 and 65 and not teens.
****A comprehensive European survey of survey of 37,000 people in 28 European countries found that 95% of vapers use flavours, with the remining 5% opting for no flavour or a tobacco flavour.
The survey found that if vape flavours were restricted to tobacco flavour alone:
- 71.2% would consider using parallel sources to find flavours that suit them.
- 28% are afraid they would start smoking again, or smoke more.
These data indicates that flavour bans would cause social and economic harm. And above all, they would create great health insecurity by pushing consumers towards alternative sources which are outside the EU and unregulated.
Respect Vapers is a voluntary group that represents about 200,000 in Ireland who have used vaping to quit smoking. Vaping is not smoking. When it comes to tobacco, we are quitters not starters.
Indeed, we believe that those who have used vaping to quit smoking are the largest group of supporters of Healthy Ireland’s ‘Tobacco Free Ireland’ campaign in the country.
We are bringing this to your attention because we are concerned that such inaccuracies could be taken as fact by the committee members and allow for legislation to be decided upon based on such inaccuracies.
*** Medical research, by leading health authorities including the Royal College of Physicians in the UK, has found that vaping helps smokers give up their habit and reduces smoking-induced cancer. This research is supported by the leading Cochrane evidence review of vaping, which concluded that vaping is 70% more effective than gums, patches and sprays.
NHS experts now accept vaping is much less harmful than traditional cigarettes. As a result, patients at hospitals in Norfolk, London, Leicester and Edinburgh are now to be offered a vaping device, enough e-liquid for a week and a referral to local smoking cessation services. The plan is part of a trial designed to help people quit smoking altogether.
So, we ask you to make sure you have the full facts when deciding on legislation relating to how vaping has helped thousands of us quit tobacco.
** The 2019–20 Irish National Drug and Alcohol Survey. Main findings (hrb.ie)
***Royal College of Physicians responds to draft NICE guideline recommendations out for consultation today | RCP London
**Letter sent to the Committee in November 2021
As the founder of Respect Vapers, the grassroots group representing the voice of Ireland’s 200,000 people who use vaping as an alternative to tobacco, I’d like to provide you with some independent research from around the world on vaping flavours.
Respect Vapers exists to raise awareness of the contribution vaping makes to help people quit smoking.
By presenting all the facts we ensure that you and other public representatives can make informed legislative decisions on vaping and its contribution to reducing the harm caused by tobacco.
We are concerned that some members of the Oireachtas Health Committee share the perception that the inclusion of flavours in vaping products are aimed at attracting young people to the products. This is not true.
The majority of vapers in this country are over 35 years of age. Most of them take up vaping to quit smoking. They are ‘Quitters, not cigarette starters’. Vapers regard flavours as an important ingredient in helping them to quit smoking.
Respect Vapers members will tell you that once you switch to vaping to quit smoking, you start to get your sense of taste and smell back again. You also begin to reject the smell and taste of tobacco, so you opt instead to try other flavours. We surveyed almost 800 vapers in Ireland and the majority of them use mint or fruit flavours.
Our experience of flavours is mirrored across the world and we include below a list of some of the scientific research findings on this subject for your consideration.
Independent surveys on vaping flavours
Europe. Vape flavours are very important for 78% of vapers. Flavour bans, in Finland and Estonia, and Hungary, are making it more difficult for people to stop smoking. In these countries, only 45% of vapers used a local source to get e-liquids, compared to 92.8% in countries without vape tax and flavours ban, resulting in a loss of tax and an inability to ensure quality. EU Nicotine users survey 2020, European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA).
UK – “Vapers said that banning flavoured liquids would deter them from using vaping products to help them quit or reduce their smoking. It could also push current vapers towards illicit products… A ban on flavoured liquids could have adverse effects and unintended consequences for smokers using vaping products to quit.” [Ann McNeill (UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies), Linda Bauld (University of Stirling) et al; Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2020, 4 March 2020].
International – “EC liquid flavourings play a major role in the overall experience of dedicated users and support the hypothesis that they are important contributors in reducing or eliminating smoking consumption.” [Farsalinos, K., et al. (2013). Impact of Flavour Variability on Electronic Cigarette Use Experience: An Internet Survey. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 10, no.12: 7272-282. doi:10.3390/ijerph10127272].
International – The World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged that “[f]lavours also seem to play a role among adults and experienced ENDS [electronic nicotine delivery systems]/ENNDS [electronic non-nicotine delivery systems] users in helping migration away from tobacco”. [FCTC/COP/7/11, WHO (2016), Electronic nicotine delivery systems and electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS)].
USA – In 2020 a study using survey data from the US Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study showed that flavoured e-cigarettes were not associated with greater youth smoking initiation and that flavoured e-cigarettes were associated with greater adult smoking cessation. [Friedman AS, Xu S. June 2020, Associations of flavored e-cigarette uptake with subsequent smoking initiation and cessation JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(6):e203826. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3826].
USA – One study analysing the self-reported impact of flavour descriptors on non-smoking teens’ and adult smokers’ interest in electronic cigarettes concluded that flavours are not a determinative factor in youth initiation of e-cigarettes. [Shiffman S., et al. (2015). The impact of flavor descriptors on nonsmoking teens’ and adult smokers’ interest in electronic cigarettes. Nicotine & Tobacco Research 17 (10): 1255-262].
USA – A Yale School of Public Health (USA) study concluded that San Francisco’s ban on sales of flavoured vapour and tobacco products, which came into effect in July 2018, was associated with increased smoking among minor high school students. A Difference-in-Differences Analysis of Youth Smoking and a Ban on Sales of Flavored Tobacco Products in San Francisco, California, 24 May 2021].
*** Tobacco Control Measures – Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 – Parliamentary Questions (33rd Dáil) – Houses of the Oireachtas
The most recent Healthy Ireland survey in 2019 found that 17 percent of the population smoke, a 12 percent decline (14 percent smoke daily and 3 per cent smoke occasionally) In 2009 the number of people smoking was at 29 percent of the population. The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey 2018 found that 5 percent of children aged 10-17 smoke, a decline of 3 percent on the 2014 figure.The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey 2018 found that 5 percent of children aged 10-17 smoke, a decline of 3 percent on the 2014 figure.