Letter to the University of Limerick President and Students Union

Today it was announced by the University of Limerick that their new smoke-free policy defines “smoking” as including “the use of electronic cigarettes (…) whether or not the deliver a nicotine dose or not.”

The IVVA is committed to seeing the delivery of policies on vape products and their use, which are evidence based. One of the biggest obstacles to this delivery is the continued conflation of smoking and vaping; treating both product categories the same, despite vaping being far safer than tobacco smoking and a proven pathway to smokers becoming smoke-free.

If a smoker chooses to vape instead, they should be supported in doing so. Banning an adult smoker or vaper from using their vaping device send the message that the two categories of product pose the same risks. This is not the case.

We have written the following letter to the President and Students Union of UL regarding their new policy :

Dear Professor Fitzgerald, and Students Union leadership,

The decision to include the use of e-cigarettes in the University of Limerick’s ban on smoking is not grounded in evidence and runs counter to the public health goals of reducing the harms of smoking.

Vaping is not comparable to smoking. E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, nor do they produce smoke. There is no legal requirement to include vaping in bans on smoking, and neither is there a scientific basis. It is the byproducts of combustion such as tar and carbon monoxide that make smoking so deadly, not the use of reduced-risk nicotine products.

The Royal College of Physicians, London, and Public Health England both conducted comprehensive evidence reviews of the safety of vaping products and concluded that they are at least 95% safer than smoking.

A 2015 study by the School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia looking at the effects of second hand vaping found that exposure to bystanders poses no apparent concern.

Public Health England, in their 2016 guidance to owners and managers of public spaces on policies on vaping made clear that “international peer-reviewed evidence indicates that the risk to the health of bystanders from secondhand e-cigarette vapour is extremely low and insufficient to justify prohibiting e-cigarettes. This evidence should inform risk assessments.”

Smokers who switch to vaping are reducing their risk of exposure to toxins by 97%, according to a University College London study which was funded by Cancer Research UK. They are reducing their levels of exposure to carcinogens by 99%, according to the findings of a study by the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

The adult students and staff of the University of Limerick who have made the choice to use an e-cigarette as a means to displace their smoking are now banned from doing so, even if they are not even using nicotine in their device.

Vaping does not “re-normalise” smoking. Fears that young people might see people vaping and then go on to become long term smokers are unfounded. There is no evidence in Ireland, the UK or the US that this is the case. Research which has been conducted in this area includes that by Cancer Research UK, ASH, and the Smoking Toolkit Study, which is conducted by Prof Robert West of University College London.

Vaping is a proven pathway out of smoking, with over 6.1 million people in the EU now ex-smokers because they switched. To restrict smokers and vapers from using their vaping device “gives the message to the the public about them being as dangerous as smoking”, according to Prof Linda Bauld of the University of Stirling.

A number of English Hospital Trusts including Colchester, and Nottingham University Hospitals are lifting their bans on vaping. According to Dr Stephanie Fowlie, medical director at the Nottingham trust, they “can’t ignore the potential benefits of electronic cigarettes”.

The UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies say vaping may help explain the record fall in UK smoking rates, with Prof John Britton says that the UK’s policy of supporting and encouraging smokers to switch “could generate huge benefits in public health

For the sake of the choices that the adult smokers at UL have available to them, we hope that this policy is reversed in a timely manner, and that adult smokers there who are trying to stop their tobacco habit by vaping are supported rather than punished.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with your office or management at the University of Limerick to discuss this matter further.

There is also a dialogue event taking place in Dublin in October, the details of which are available at this link : https://gfn.net.co/dialogues/autumn2017/dublin

We would like to extend an open invitation to your office and officers of the Students Union to come along and take part in constructive discussion on the topic.