Young people who use e-cigs more likely to smoke tobacco

By June Shannon Policy News   |   14th Oct 2020

HRB review found that e-cigarettes are associated with young people starting to smoke tobacco cigarettes, and are no more effective than nicotine replacement therapies

Young people who use e-cigarettes are three to five times more likely to start smoking compared to those who never used an e-cigarette, which could potentially lead to serious harm, according to a new review by the Health Research Board (HRB).

The HRB review into e-cigarette use, also found that e-cigarettes were no more effective than approved and regulated nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) such as nicotine gum or patches, for example, to help people stop smoking. However, e-cigarettes as a tool to help people stop smoking are not regulated or approved and their safety beyond 12 months is not fully known.

Furthermore, the review found that using both e-cigarettes and ordinary tobacco cigarettes was not less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes alone, which it stated raised questions about the smoking reduction benefit of e-cigarettes.

The HRB review also pointed out that e-cigarettes can cause serious harm including, poisonings, burns, blast injuries, lung injury, and asthmatic attacks.

" It is important more is done to promote NRT and protect the health of adolescents and vulnerable groups before considering the role of unregulated e-cigarettes as a harm reduction approach,"

Dr Jean Long, , Health Research Board

According to the review, some of the chemicals in e-cigarettes are thought to cause tissue and cell damage and some are agents that may cause cancer in the long-term. The long-term health effects beyond 24 months are not researched.

Dr Jean Long, Head of the Evidence Centre at the Health Research Board said, “HRB evidence shows e-cigarettes are no more effective than approved and regulated nicotine replacement therapy to help people stop smoking. They can cause harm including burns, poisonings, and lung injuries. Our findings also highlight that e-cigarettes have the potential to negatively impact on the health of adolescents, leaving them more likely to initiate tobacco smoking. These factors would have to be considered as part of any smoking harm reduction strategy.”

“Our findings highlight that it is important more is done to promote NRT and protect the health of adolescents and vulnerable groups before considering the role of unregulated e-cigarettes as a harm reduction approach,” Dr Long stated.

In its pre-budget submission, the Irish Heart Foundation called for a new excise tax of 6c per millilitre of e-cigarette liquid to prevent young people from becoming addicted to nicotine. Unfortunately, this was not introduced in Budget 2021 as announced yesterday (Tuesday 13th of October) which the Irish Heart Foundation said was disappointing.

" It underlines the need to introduce effective measures to curb the use of teenage e-cigarette use,"

Mark Murphy, Advocacy Officer, The Irish Heart Foundation

Commenting Mark Murphy, Advocacy Officer with the Irish Heart Foundation said, ‘’We welcome this latest comprehensive review by the HRB into studies on e-cigarette use as it will update and inform the Department of Health’s policy position in relation to e-cigarettes.

“Its key finding that adolescents who use e-cigarettes are three to five times more likely to start smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes compared to baseline is deeply concerning. It underlines the need to introduce effective measures to curb the use of teenage e-cigarette use, including an immediate ban on sale to under 18s, a ban on all fruity and sweet flavours, a prohibition of all forms of marketing, and the introduction of a conservative level of tax to deter young people from attempting to purchase these devices in the first place.”

“As the comprehensive review also found that e-cigarette use had acute health effects such as poisonings, lung injury, and asthmatic attacks, we are calling on the government to swiftly introduce the legislation of the Tobacco Products Bill as promised to protect adolescents.”

“Finally, as the HRB report also concluded that e-cigarettes were no more effective than approved NRT for smoking cessation, we would encourage all smokers seeking to quit to use medically approved and regulated forms of smoking cessation such as NRT, and avail of the quit.ie services,” he added.

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke however, there is support available to help you to quit please see here

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