Smoking rates in the UK have now dropped to below 15%, an impressive decline from around 19% in 2012. However, the smoking rate in Ireland sits at 17% meaning their target of having a smoking prevalence of less than 5% by 2025, seems unlikely.

The HSE estimated that if the current trends continue and factors remain consistent, Ireland can only expect to be smoke-free by 2052. For the UK however, forecasts suggest that we can expect to be smoke-free by 2030. What are the reasons for this 22-year swing between the UK and Ireland?

Experts believe that the UK’s declining smoking rates have come as result of the rise in popularity of vaping. Public Health England (PHE) actively endorse vaping as a way to quit smoking, however this sentiment is not currently in place in Ireland.

There has been a reluctance from the likes of The Irish Cancer Society and the HSE to endorse e-cigarettes. This could be about to change as extensive research and encouraging figures continue to come out of the UK.

Following in the UK’s footsteps

According to the Irish Mirror, ‘Leinster House is to look at the benefits and dangers of vaping for the first time. The Oireachtas Library Service has announced in its Spring Bulletin it is to produce a study into e-cigarettes.’

This is encouraging to see and could look to mirror the UK Government’s Science and Technology Committee’s e-cigarette inquiry. The results from the UK inquiry were very encouraging and led to a number of positive initiatives in the Tobacco control plan.

Fine Gael Senator, Catherine Noone said:

“I have called for e-cigarettes to be used as part of the approach to tackling smoking rates in Ireland. I believe if we are to make progress and achieve a tobacco-free Ireland we must examine approaches that are proving effective in other countries.

“One such example of this is the UK, which has seen a significantly bigger drop in smoking rates than here at home.”

These are important steps for the Irish health bodies to take and we hope to see a positive impact. The evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of vaping in terms of the relative safety of e-cigarettes compared with traditional cigarettes.

Importantly, a recent study on the effectiveness of vaping a cessation aid was also very encouraging. It showed that e-cigarettes are almost twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapies. This is arguably the data which advocacy bodies have been waiting for to get fully behind e-cigarettes.

This could be one of the reasons for the e-cigarette debate to be reignited in Ireland. We look forward to seeing more research being gathered in Ireland and a positive approach potentially being put in place.