Electronic cigarettes could soon be banned for sale to anyone under the age of 18, depending on the outcome of a public consultation launched today (Wednesday).
Consultation on a Bill containing provisions aimed at restricting the age of sale of nicotine-containing products (NCPs), including e-cigarettes, has been launched by Health Minister Edwin Poots.
And it comes less than two months after the Southern Health Trust took the step of banning their use from all of its properties, from hospitals to care homes.
It was in 2008 that the age at which it is permissible to buy cigarettes and tobacco products was raised from 16 to 18.
The provisions on e-cigarettes form part of a wider consultation on a draft Bill which also contains proposals for amending the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) (NI) Act 2008.
Minister Poots said today: “The popularity of e-cigarettes has grown rapidly in recent years. While they are likely to be less harmful than tobacco products, e-cigarettes are currently unregulated and, as such, we cannot confidently state that they are safe to use.
“At present, there are no legal restrictions on the age of sale for e-cigarettes.
“Given that the nicotine levels and additional chemical components can vary from product to product, I believe that they should be age restricted in line with alcohol and tobacco products and should not be available for sale to children and young people.”
Since the introduction of smoke-free legislation in the UK, the popularity of electronic cigarettes has increased significantly, with recent reports indicating that there are around 2million users of e-cigarettes in the UK.
The Minister added: “While it appears that the use of e-cigarettes by never-smokers is very low, there are concerns that these products could act as a gateway into smoking by young people.
“I want to ensure that our children and young people are protected from potential nicotine addiction and from subsequently taking up tobacco smoking. I believe that prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18s will help to achieve this.
“I therefore welcome views from all stakeholders and would encourage anyone with an interest to provide my Department with their comments.”
The consultation is available on the DHSSPS website and will last 12 weeks, until November 21.
It was in July that the Southern Trust outlawed their use by anyone, regardless of age, at buildings including day centres, care homes and any others under the control of the Armagh-based Trust.
The move followed a decision taken earlier this year by Armagh City and District Council to forbid the use of e-cigarettes from all of its buildings.
Almost one in four (24 per cent) of people in the Southern Trust area are smokers and, the Trust says, around two thirds of them want to quit.
A Trust spokesperson said: “The Southern Trust has a strong track record of helping smokers to set quit dates and to successfully remain quit after four weeks, thereby increasing the likelihood of remaining quit for good. Free help to stop smoking is available from the Trust Stop Smoking Service and for an appointment, ring 028 3741 5333 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“A qualified Stop Smoking Specialist will take you through the stages of stopping, including preparing to stop, actually stopping and staying stopped. This will include advice on using a regulated and licensed nicotine replacement therapy to help quit smoking.
“Combined with Stop Smoking support, this is the most effective way to succeed in quitting smoking.”
Further information is available at www.stopsmokingni.com.
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