Ireland’s Royal College of Physicians Suggests a Tobacco Age Limit at 21

Prof Des Cox, chair of the Royal College of Physicians (RCPI) Policy Group on Tobacco said that Ireland should consider increasing the age limit on buying tobacco and nicotine inhaled products to 21.

Besides the tobacco age limit, the chair also suggested a ban on vape flavours, and advert restrictions on vapes similar to the ones placed on tobacco products. Discussing the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill at the Oireachtas Health Committee, Cox explained why he believes a flavour ban is the way to go.

“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,” he said.

Cox added that vaping leads teens to smoking, a theory disproved by science countless times. “Studies also show that nicotine inhaled products are a gateway to tobacco smoking. Adolescents who ever used nicotine inhaled products are between three and five times more likely to start smoking compared with adolescents who have never used nicotine inhaled products.”

Flavours are crucial
On the contrary, tobacco harm reduction experts such as renowned cardiologist and smoking cessation researcher Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, keep highlighting why flavours are crucial in helping adult smokers quit. “Everyone loves flavors, from the youngest to the oldest. That is human nature. You want to use something that is interesting,” said Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos as recently quoted by Filter.

The researcher has recently published, The Case for Flavours in Tobacco Harm Reduction, to Save Lives, a paper which in detail discusses the link between flavored nicotine products and smoking cessation success. The report highlights that ultimately flavour bans are a form of prohibition, which only fuel the growth of massive black markets and also lead to increased  smoking rates, as many vapers would turn back to smoking.

Discussing the report in a recent episode on Regulator Watch, Farsalinos discussed Health Canada’s recently proposed ban, saying that their case for such a ban may be crumbling as evidence keeps indicating its potentially negative impact on public health.

The alleged teen vaping epidemic
In the past Farsalinos spoke against the alleged teen vaping epidemic explaining why considering an increase in e-cig use an epidemic, is a flawed premise. He had explained the risk of dependence on nicotine and the risks associated with e-cigarette use cannot and shouldn’t be compared to the risks from smoking. He added that the duty of public health officials is to weigh the benefits and adverse effects of any intervention and check where the balance lies. Farsalinos adds that in the case of e-cigarettes, the benefits outweigh the adverse effects, and this needs to be taken into account.

“Even if e-cigarettes are causally linked to subsequent smoking (which has not been proven to be the case, the common liability phenomenon is a much more plausible explanation), the contribution of e-cigarettes to smoking prevalence is minimal. We should not forget that all these years that e-cigarette use (mainly experimentation) was increasing among youth, the smoking prevalence has substantially declined. This is why I mentioned above that the smoking rates should be mentioned when the data are presented,” he explained.