The Department of Health has launched a public consultation on draft regulations which will make it an offence to sell e-cigarettes to persons under the age of 18 in Northern Ireland.
A further offence of proxy purchasing in relation to e-cigarette products is also proposed. The regulations will be made under powers granted in the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act which was passed by the NI Assembly in 2016.
The consultation process is seeking views on detail of the regulations, including proposed exemptions such as nicotine products which have been licensed as medicines suitable for use by under 18s, and licensed products available on prescription.
Launching the consultation, the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said, “While e-cigarettes are certainly less harmful than tobacco and have a role to play in helping smokers to quit, the long-term health impact of using them is largely unknown. Therefore, I strongly discourage their use by all non-smokers and, particularly, by children and young people.
“At present, Northern Ireland is the only UK country where there are no legal restrictions on the age of sale for e-cigarettes. The introduction of this legislation will protect our young people by bringing e-cigarettes into line with other age-restricted products such as tobacco and alcohol.”
Children and young people in Northern Ireland were questioned on e-cigarette use for the first time in the Young Persons Behaviour and Attitudes Survey 2016. The results, published earlier this year, revealed high levels of awareness concerning these products with 94% of 11-16 year olds claiming to have heard of them. Furthermore, 20% of children were reported to have tried e-cigarettes at least once, with 5% stating that they used one within the past week.
Notes to editors:
- Copies of the consultation are available on the Department’s website at:
- The consultation will run for 8 weeks from 4 September to 27 October 2017.
- The Department is committed to reducing smoking prevalence rates, including reducing uptake of smoking by children and young people. The latest survey results available show that 4% of 11-16 year olds in NI are regular smokers. These children are 3 times more likely to die of cancer due to smoking than someone who starts in their mid-twenties.
- Regulations banning the sale of e-cigarettes to U18s was introduced in England and Wales from 1 October 2015. Similar legislation came into effect in Scotland from 1 April 2017.
- Since the introduction of smoke-free legislation, the popularity of electronic cigarettes has increased significantly, with a recent survey indicating that there are over 85,000 adult users of e-cigarettes in Northern Ireland. While it appears that the use of e-cigarettes by adult never-smokers is very low, there are concerns that these products could act as a gateway into smoking by young people.
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