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Policy and Advocacy


Current Initiatives


Climate and Health

Position Paper on Climate and Health

Climate Change and Healthcare /Sustainable Healthcare is an agreed advocacy priority for RCPI.

Members of the Irish Doctors for the Environment (IDE) group worked with RCPI's advocacy team to develop a position paper on Climate Action. RCPI Council approved this paper in May 2023.

We launched this paper during RCPI's annual symposium in October 2023, calling for strong and urgent action from leaders in Irish healthcare to highlight and act on the imminent danger that climate breakdown poses to health.

Key messages:

  • The climate crisis is a health crisis, potentially the biggest health crisis of our time.
  • Worldwide, increasingly frequent extreme weather events like heatwaves, wildfires, and flooding are resulting in illness, death, and damage to healthcare infrastructure.
  • Burning of fossil fuels contributes to increases in stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and COPD. Around 1000 premature deaths could be prevented every year on the island of Ireland if air pollution levels below the recommended World Health Organisation limit were achieved.
  • Healthcare delivery itself contributes significantly to global heating. If the healthcare sector were a country, it would be the 5th largest polluter in the world.
  • Moving towards a healthcare system based on primary prevention of disease is necessary to reduce the carbon footprint in healthcare.
  • Strong and urgent leadership is now required from leaders in Irish healthcare to highlight and act on the imminent danger that climate breakdown poses to health.
  • At both the individual and organizational level healthcare workers can make a difference, with the right leadership, support, and education.

Read full report

Taking Action on Climate Change and Health (PDF, 1,365KB)


"RCPI is committed to creating a space for discussion on climate and health, to increase awareness amongst its membership and to advocate for the provision of climate-informed, sustainable healthcare in Ireland for the benefit of our patients, our country, and our planet."

Professor Trevor Duffy, Head of Healthcare Leadership at RCPI


Climate and Health at St Luke's Symposium Oct 2023

The annual symposium saw the launch of an RCPI Art Exhibition which featured work from Irish artists on the topic of climate and health.

Talks on climate change and sustainable healthcare were also held, for both public and clinical/healthcare audiences. 

Read - ways to sustainably achieve a healthier planet and healthier population (RCPI Public Meeting) 

Climate and Health Art Exhibition 



Disposable Vapes

In October 2023,  RCPI published a position paper, developed by the RCPI Faculty of Paediatrics in collaboration with the RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco. The Faculty of Paediatrics strongly supports the introduction of legislation to ban disposable vapes to protect the health and wellbeing of children and young people, who are using them in alarming numbers. 

What we know about vaping:

  • Vapes are increasingly used by adolescents and young adults at a cost to their health and wellbeing.
  • Disposable vapes are the most frequently used vaping device among young 
    people, and this has seen a sharp increase in recent years.
  • Clever marketing/advertising /social media has influenced this with 
    many flavours and colours to attract young people.
  • Research suggests that young people using vapes are very likely to transition to traditional 
    cigarette use, posing additional serious health harms from tobacco smoking.
  • Disposable vapes are an environmental hazard. Their design is such that recycling will always be labour intensive and expensive, which is why it makes sense to ban them outright

This evidence-based position paper calls for:

  • A ban on disposable vapes.
  • A ban on use of flavours, apart from tobacco flavour, in vapes.
  • Adoption of stronger legislation on the advertising and marketing of 
    vapes, particularly, the online marketing of these products.
  • Doctors to ask about vape use and provide advice in their clinical practice.
  • Doctors to discourage vaping among young people based on its potential negative health effects.
  • Doctors to give clear guidance on the potential negative health impacts of vapes 
    on chest symptoms like cough/wheeze/asthma exacerbations and highlight the 
    risk of dependence and neurotoxic effects on the not fully matured brain.
  • Implementation and teaching in post primary schools of the HSE SPHE content on vaping. 
  • More research on long term safety of vapes- especially risks in young people.
  • Research is also needed to understand addiction and progression to traditional cigarette use.
  • Funding for the HSE to develop a mass media campaign on vaping targeted at young people and delivered in a way that responds to the media consumption profile of young people.


“If something is causing environmental damage and has serious health impacts for our young people, it seems an obvious solution to ban disposable vapes entirely.”

Professor Des Cox, a representative of the Faculty of Paediatrics, and Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

Read full report

Disposable Vapes and Young People  


Health Equity

What does it mean to provide inclusive healthcare? How do we deliver trauma-informed care? How can I as a clinician be more inclusive in my practice?  

A new report provides some perspectives on these questions, capturing the discussion from an RCPI masterclass held in March 2023 on 'Achieving Equity in Healthcare - More Than Just an Appointment.'  This Masterclass was part of an attempt to understand the bigger story behind people not attending appointments or engaging with the health system. The report captures the main themes and discussion points from that masterclass that relate to clinical practice. Included you can read: 

  • Real-life stories behind the statistics of social adversity
  • Discussion of the mismatch between service delivery and need
  • The role of employment and job seeking as a determinant of health
  • Tips on inclusive clinical practice
  • Principles for delivering trauma-informed care 
  • Recommendations for policy makers and healthcare leader

In practice, none of us has all the answers. But by working with our colleagues, community and government agencies, and key workers, we can have a profound impact in addressing the societal and systemic issues of access to care for individuals and for populations. A multifaceted approach to community healthcare in Ireland is vital in addressing healthcare equity and there is important work underway, some of which is captured in this report."
Prof Trevor Duffy, Head of Healthcare Leadership RCPI

Read full report

Equity in Healthcare: More than just an appointment (PDF, 748KB)


Tobacco 21

Nearly 4,500 people die in Ireland each year from the effects of smoking - the single biggest contributor to early death. Thousands more suffer from smoking-related diseases, including heart and lung disease, and cancers.

In September 2022, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland’s Policy Group on Tobacco launched a report calling for the minimum age of sale of tobacco to be raised from 18 to 21. The report was developed from national and international evidence analysed by the Institute of Public Health. The report by the RCPI Policy Group says amending legislation to raise the minimum legal age for the sale of tobacco products in Ireland offers a proven approach to significantly reduce the numbers of teenagers and young adults becoming addicted to tobacco.

Read full report

Tobacco Free Ireland:Time for Tobacco 21 (PDF, 1,365KB)


Recent consultation submissions

RCPI regularly makes submissions to national consultations on healthcare related issues. In 2022/2023 we made submissions as part of the following consultations:

  • Department of Environment, Climate and Communications consultation on Disposable Vaping Devices (July 2023). The Faculty of Paediatrics and the RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco made a submission to this consultation (read the submission here) The submission highlighted the harms caused to the environment and the disproportionate usage of disposable vaping devices among children and young people, and the associated health concerns.  
  • Department of Health public consultation on a National Open Disclosure Framework (September 2022)
  • Pre-budget Submission (September 2022) from RCPI Policy Group on Tobacco