Home > Dail Eireann debate – Leaders questions [Vaping and drug prevalence].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate – Leaders questions [Vaping and drug prevalence]. (09 Oct 2019)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

Deputy Micheal Martin: The tobacco industry is one of the most evil industries that has ever existed, although it works within a legal framework. It has consigned millions of people to their deaths, destroyed millions of lives and injured and maimed millions more. It infamously targeted children to get them addicted young and secure customers for life. It suppressed for decades knowledge and research that proved how fatal tobacco smoking was. The comprehensive anti-tobacco legislation of 2002, coupled with the smoking ban of 2004, helped to de-normalise smoking and allowed for worker safety, while also preventing younger generations from engaging in a killer habit.


The tobacco industry, however, has struck back via the vaping epidemic. The vaping industry mirrors many of the strategies deployed by the tobacco industry, particularly in hooking young people and getting them addicted to nicotine. The financial muscle behind this epidemic is provided by the tobacco industry. Children are being targeted with colourful and flavoured vaping products. Pop-up shops selling vaping devices and e-cigarettes are located in the country's shopping centres and on main streets. Advertising campaigns have proliferated on nearly every Dublin bus, as well as on strategically placed billboards all over Dublin and across cities and towns. Last week the United States Center for Disease Control, CDC, produced some alarming statistics which confirmed that over 1,000 lung injuries and 19 deaths had already occurred in 48 states due to vaping. The CDC has warned that the aerosols users inhale and exhale from e-cigarettes can potentially expose them and bystanders to other harmful substances such as heavy metals and volatile organic compounds. As a result, there has been a flurry of legislative activity in a variety of US states banning the use of vaping devices and advertisements to varying degrees, particularly those aimed at young people. There has been an unacceptable level of youth usage of these products. Teen e-cigarette use has risen sharply since 2017. When will the Government introduce legislation to ban the sale of vaping products to people under the age of 18 years? Will it introduce legislation to ban all advertising and sponsorship of vaping products, as we did for tobacco products? Will the Government extend the existing ban on tobacco in the workplace to vaping? One wonders how such devices ever came into being. I ask the Taoiseach to send me at a later date a comprehensive account of the regulatory framework governing the vaping sector....


.....Deputy Micheal Martin: I raise the issue of the prevalence of drug abuse in our society, which is at an all-time high. We all know people in our communities who are addicted or who have lost loved ones through addiction. The latest statistics from the Health Research Board are alarming. Between 2010 and 2017, some 63,000 cases presented for treatment of drug abuse alone. Anecdotally, according to anybody in third level education, access to drugs is now the norm. There is no element of surprise. It is all-pervasive in our society. Cocaine use has risen year after year. Since 2016, in particular, it has risen dramatically. The following figure, on which I ask Deputies to reflect, is staggering. In 2016, the Garda secured 30 million seizures, whereas in 2017, that rose to 70 million seizures. The Garda is working at the limits. It seems that Fine Gael-led Governments, in particular, have dropped the ball in respect of the deeper community based response that is required.


In the 1990s, the drug task forces were introduced. I pay tribute to the former Ministers and Ministers of State, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, Mr. Noel Ahern, Mr. Eoin Ryan, Mr. Pat Carey, Deputy Curran, Deputy Shortall and others, all of whom understood the importance of the drug task forces and the need to empower and resource communities. It is unacceptable that since 2013, the drug task forces have had no increase in core funding. Communities have been disempowered against those who peddle drugs within their communities. Alternative facilities have not been developed. The RAPID programme was additional to the drug task forces initiative, which was impactful and had a significant effect in the early years. Too many people are dying and too many people's lives are being destroyed. Access to addiction services, to counselling, to mental health services and, in particular, to child and adolescent mental health services, CAMHS, is poor. There is considerable anxiety and frustration among parents, for example, in respect of gaining access for adolescents to CAMHS. Overall, there is an absence of a comprehensive strategy for drugs embracing the various Departments. Given that I saw no reference to the matter in yesterday's budget, I ask the Government to reflect carefully and to ensure a significant increase in the core funding of the drug task forces this year and into the future.


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