Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 3 November 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health
General Scheme of the Public Health (Tobacco and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill 2019: Department of Health
I thank the Chairman. I started smoking in my teens and I am off them a year. I smoked for 40 years. I had made numerous attempts. Every 1 January I would make an attempt. For many years when I played sports I was able to stay off them for a couple of years at a time. Playing sports gives a person a huge incentive not to smoke.
I go back to the point made by Ms Gordon in her introduction about de-normalising smoking and protecting young people. This is key to the Bill. We support this Bill and we have a couple of ideas we would like to see incorporated to make it as strong as possible. Once a person starts smoking as a teenager or a young person, the consequences include trying to give it up. It is a battle for the rest of that person's life.
With regard to motion pictures and television shows, I often sat down at night and saw somebody on the television light up a cigarette and I instantly had an urge to smoke even though I am off them now. I remember when I did smoke, that feeling would often lead me to have a cigarette. My wife hates cigarettes. Her father, God rest his soul, passed away from lung cancer. She always hated it. As a student she worked as a barmaid and she would hate coming home at night with the smell of cigarettes on her clothes. I never smoked in our house and I would be out the back. I would see someone on TV smoking and I would end up throwing on the kettle, making a cup of tea and going out the back to have a cigarette. Thankfully, my 12 year-old and 15 year-old daughters never saw me smoking because I was always conscious of that.
However, many people, including me, did not know the consequences of cigarettes as they were growing up. We know now and we have to protect our children to the best of our ability. That is why this Bill includes restrictions on e-cigarettes for those under 18. I certainly support that.
I will also touch on advertising, which was discussed earlier. When passing an e-cigarette shop or any other shop that sells e-cigarettes, people will see posters promoting them and their different flavours. The flavours are a key issue. We saw this issue years ago in respect of alcopops in the drink industry. E-cigarettes now come in different sweet flavours, including bubblegum and candy. These appeal to a younger audience. These companies are trying to get young people onto the candy flavours to start with. People, especially adults, may want to have an e-cigarette because, as the witnesses have said, there may be a benefit to using e-cigarettes instead of smoking as regards risk reduction. It may not be completely risk free, but the risk is certainly lower than for cigarettes. Should they then be limited to tobacco flavours only to avoid covering up what the product is? The witnesses touched on advertising earlier. Could there be a complete ban on e-cigarette advertising as is the case for cigarettes? There is also the issue of flavoured products.
My colleague mentioned earlier the work the Irish Heart Foundation is doing. Like the Department, the foundation is looking at the travesty of smoking and the carnage that results from it. Will the witnesses touch on that?