Under 18s may be banned from using e-cigs, according to the latest proposals by the Department of Health.
Local councils, including Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, have been consulted on possible changes to regulations on the sale of e-cigs to minors.
According to the consultation paper, the use of nicotine inhaling devices, particularly e-cigarettes, has grown significantly in recent years.
“E-cigarettes do not contain many of the harmful components of tobacco, however they contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), exposure to nicotine whilst in adolescence can lead to long term consequences for brain development,” said the paper.
“As a result, WHO recommended that the sale and/or distribution of e-cigarettes to minors is banned. In addition to the long-term health implications, there are also concerns that e-cigarettes may act as a gateway into smoking.”
In Northern Ireland, at present, there are no restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes. This is not the case in the rest of the UK where they are now prohibited for sale to under eighteens.
“A number of e-cigarette products are marked by their manufacturers as only suitable for use by adults and most responsible retailers will refuse to sell them to under eighteens. However, a consistent approach in the form of a minimum age of sale requirement is preferable,” says the paper.
The Department of Health here is proposing to introduce regulations made under powers granted in the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.
Local councils will be the enforcing authority as part of existing work within consumer protection and tobacco control duties.
The regulations propose two new offences: the sale of nicotine inhaling products to a person under the age of 18; and the purchase of a nicotine inhaling product on behalf of a person under the age of 18 (i.e. proxy purchasing).