New laws will ban the sale of e-cigarettes to those under 18
The sale of e-cigarettes to teenagers and children under the age of 18 will be banned in the second quarter of next year, it has emerged.
It follows a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report that highlights the health hazards of the devices that simulate the sensation of smoking.
Last June, the Government agreed on a plan to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors - and to outlaw the use of some 7,000 tobacco vending machines nationwide.
Under the proposed scheme, retailers for the first time will be required to have a licence to sell cigarette-related products.
Ministers adopted the policy on the understanding relevant legislation would be introduced during the lifetime of the Government.
A Department of Health spokesman confirmed to the Irish Independent that the legislation was expected to become law between April and June next year.
"I would imagine it will be before the summer recess," he said.
There is currently no minimum legal age governing the sale of e-cigarettes.
The government plans have been given renewed impetus following the latest WHO report, which has raised fresh fears over the safety of the electronic devices.
The report says the sale of these cigarette substitutes to minors should be banned.
The agency also warns that they pose a "serious threat" to the health of unborn children and to young people.
It fears that fierce competition for market share in certain countries may further compromise safety.
It is still unclear whether exhaled vapour - from this kind of smoking - poses a health risk to those in the immediate vicinity of e-cigarettes.
However, there are concerns that children can become addicted to the nicotine in the product.
Usage could also significantly increase if 'vaping' helps destigmatise smoking as a social habit.
A number of Irish retailers have rallied behind the WHO's calls for stricter regulations.
"The sooner the Government brings in the legislation banning the sale to minors the better," said Steve Barrett, MD of purplebox vapours in Temple Bar, Dublin.
"We ID anyone who looks under 18; therefore it is then an adult decision purchasers are making. Smoking is vilified in society and rightly so, it's a killer. But we do know these products are better than cigarettes, and with ongoing research it's an adult choice for people to make.
"The American Heart Association has come out and said they can help people quit smoking. So on a broader scale they are very beneficial.
"As the research and education about them continues to grow, they will become more and more accepted as an alternative for people to get their nicotine stimulant."
Joe Dunne is MD of VIP Electronic Cigarettes, the brand leader in the Irish e-cigarette market.
He said they also have a strict over-18 policy.
"It's like selling alcohol to minors - it's something that shouldn't be done. This industry is exploding at the moment so the product definitely needs to be regulated. We need an e-cigarette board established - and the retailers who want to sell to the public - will have to pay for the products to be tested through this body. Only those approved through this independent body should be allowed sell the products."