University president urges minister to ban vaping on all college campuses

UL president wants all universities to follow its lead amid warning that 'vaping worse than cigarettes'

President: Des Fitzgerald

Laura Lynott

The president of the University of Limerick (UL) is urging the Department of Education to ban vaping across all Irish educational institutions.

Dr Des Fitzgerald, a professor of molecular medicine and former chief academic officer for the Ireland East Hospital Group, said vaping is now "a real health risk and is being directly implicated in health crises and even deaths among users".

The university banned vaping and smoking on campus in 2018.

It is currently the only campus in the country to have instigated such a move.

Dr Fitzgerald said: "We can see by the introduction of flavoured vaping products and other marketing initiatives big business is now aggressively pushing this product to young people, in particular, and we should waste no time in mounting a robust challenge to these forces and that begins with a ban.

"The Minister for Education and Skills should immediately institute a ban on vaping and smoking in any institution which is in receipt of Exchequer funds."

In recent weeks, New York and Michigan have introduced a ban on flavoured vaping products.

US Senator Mitt Romney published legislation to prohibit flavoured vaping products and to apply cigarette taxes to vaping devices, while India has announced a ban on the production, importation and sale of electronic cigarettes.

Professor Sherif Sultan, a vascular surgeon from Galway, praised Dr Fitzgerald's stance.

"I totally agree with Limerick that we need to be proactive on vaping," Prof Sultan told the Irish Independent.

"We are facing into unchartered territories and the health system cannot cope.

"Vaping is worse for people than smoking cigarettes.

"Smokers know a pack of cigarettes is expensive and smoke according to that, but vaping is the repeated inhalation of nicotine."

Prof Sultan warned that people are unaware of the dangers of the devices.

"E-cigarettes are like a fashion accessory to 20 year olds.

"They don't realise the amount of toxins in e-cigarettes is more damaging than smoking.

"Vaping manipulates the lung, so they're not able to function," he said.

"It can block arteries and because people are vaping repeatedly, they are quadrupling the risk of heart attacks.

"We have to warn people because many are under the impression it's safe.

"We are seeing some deaths in the US.

"We need to absolutely flag this to protect our children and I agree, ban vaping on campuses but also in every outdoor area to send the message to the public."

Dr Fitzgerald has called on Education Minister Joe McHugh to take direct action to ensure vaping is prohibited on all university campuses and other educational institutions across the country.

Scientists have claimed that e-cigarettes could damage the heart leading to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, arterial stiffness and platelets, which cause clotting.

Some experts also believe vaping leads to a rise in free radicals and reduced antioxidants, increasing the risk of plaque build-up in the artery walls, which could lead to a heart attack.

Health officials in the US said this weekend a man in his 40s with no prior lung illness had become the eighth person to die from vaping.

The man, from Missouri, started using e-cigarettes in May.

Medics said his lungs were unable to provide the body with enough oxygen, which happens when the organs become inflamed with an infection or injury.