Limerick Institute of Technology researcher calls for ban on cigarette vending machines

Principal Investigator of the HEALR Research Group (LIT’s Health, Education & Social Research Group) & LIT lecturer Dr Frank Houghton photographed at LIT, Moylish Campus, Limerick.

A LEADING researcher in public health issues and lecturer at Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), has called for a complete ban on cigarette vending machines in Ireland. 

In a published report, Principal Investigator of the HEALR Research Group (LIT’s Health, Education & Social Research Group) & LIT lecturer Dr Frank Houghton has challenged the Irish Government to follow the majority of its European neighbours and impose a complete ban on cigarette vending machines from hotels, bars, and other public places.

Dr Houghton said, “Legislation in Ireland now requires standardised packaging for cigarette packets as well as the EU mandated combined graphic and text anti-smoking warnings. However, although overt tobacco advertising has also been banned for many years, a lacuna currently exists in relation to cigarette vending machines.”

The public health expert warned that cigarette vending machines, which remain easily accessible, are “of particular concern” as they can be a route to underage smoking, and despite changes in the laws on cigarette packaging, these machines display aesthetically pleasing images.

“More than 7,000 children aged 10–14 years old use tobacco daily,” he said, noting this was 1.96 per cent of boys and 3.03 per cent of girls.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

“Evidence from elsewhere identifies both the importance of cigarette vending machines in youth access to tobacco, and the ease with which attempts to police access to such machines are circumvented by young people,” he warned.

“Restrictions on tobacco advertising in Ireland are longstanding, and include bans in both the media and at the point-of-sale. Ireland has also introduced mandatory packaging which may now be referred to as dissuasive,” Dr Houghton said.

Although restrictions on advertising both in-store and the display of cigarette packets, the LIT researcher believes “the question of the appearance of cigarette vending machines in Ireland remains”.

“Current Irish legislation around such machines requires the packets themselves to be effectively hidden, and clearly prohibits tobacco advertising. Beyond these basic stipulations in Ireland there is little or no guidance,” said the LIT researcher and lecturer.

“An examination of industry practice has identified the use of idyllic outdoor and coastal scenes on the outside of vending machines. This is problematic for three reasons. First, they are reminiscent of former cigarette advertisements and packaging. Second, such artwork serves to minimise the environmental damage caused by the tobacco industry and their products. Third, the use of landscape imagery undermines the Irish Government’s strategy of denormalising smoking,” added Dr Houghton.

“The Irish Government previously aimed to ban the sale of cigarettes from vending machines in both 2014 and 2016, a move that was never implemented. We are entering a new decade, so it is past time that the Government stood over its previous assertions and simply ban these machines.

“Alternatively, the outer casing of cigarette machines could be legally mandated to require the display of the EU’s combined anti-smoking graphics, or a stop-smoking quit-line number. A final option could be for the vending machines to simply be required to feature a monotone dissuasive colour,” concluded Dr Houghton.