A review of the evidence in relation to the potential harms of e-cigarettes and their effectiveness as a smoking cessation aid is expected to be completed this month, this newspaper has been informed. A Department of Health spokesperson confirmed that the review, which is being undertaken by the Health Research Board (HRB), is due to be completed in April. However, this estimate may be impacted by the measures being undertaken to control the spread of Covid-19

The Director of the Irish Vape Vendors Association wrote to outgoing Minister for Health Simon Harris in September about the “recent hysteria about vaping [that] has led to alarmist reactions, not just in the US, but also worldwide, including Ireland”. Mr Alan Kelly, Private Secretary in the Department of Health, responded on behalf of Minister of State for Health Promotion and National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne.

“As you are aware, the current position on e-cigarettes in Ireland is based on advice to the Minister for Health from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) in its 2017 health technology assessment of ‘Smoking Cessation Productions and Services’,” wrote Mr Kelly.

“In relation to the safety of e-cigarettes, the HIQA assessment concluded that this remains an evolving area of research. While potentially safer than smoking, evidence of long-term safety has yet to be established.

“In relation to e-cigarettes as an aid to smoking cessation, HIQA advised the Minister for Health as follows: ‘Although the currently available research results for e-cigarettes are promising, there is insufficient evidence at present to reliably demonstrate their effectiveness as an aid to smoking cessation’.”

Mr Kelly added that a further review conducted by the HRB would also influence Government advice. 

“Although the HIQA assessment was published only in 2017, the evidence on e-cigarettes is rapidly evolving,” outlined Mr Kelly. 

“In that context, in March this year the Minister for Health has asked the Health Research Board to undertake a review of the evidence in relation to the health harms of e-cigarettes, their effectiveness as an aid to smoking cessation and whether they act as a gateway to smoking tobacco products.”