While the most powerful countries in the region have banned vaping, at least one Persian Gulf country may change its stance on vapes. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has begun an assessment of its ban on e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn tobacco products.
A government agency known as the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) is reviewing the country’s vapor products prohibition, according to UAE news site The National. There is no word on how long the review will take, or what the outcome may be.
The review comes not long after the Philippines parliament urged that country’s health department to encourage vaping and tobacco harm reduction to combat smoking.
The move may be due to influence from Philip Morris International (PMI), which is pushing for the opportunity to sell its IQOS heat-not-burn product in the wealthy Arab federation. IQOS heats actual tobacco, unlike traditional vapor products, but is still frequently confused with e-cigarettes, especially in countries where neither product is sold.
The UAE is a federation of small monarchies on the Persian Gulf, bordering Saudi Arabia. The states have a population of more than nine million, but most of the residents are not Emirates citizens. The tiny federation of states controls the seventh largest oil reserve in the world.
Last year we reported on an effort to crack down on public vaping in Dubai, the largest of the seven emirates. Sales of vapor products and vaping itself is illegal in the UAE, but enforcement of the ban is apparently spotty and inconsistent. Sellers of vapes have been raided, and fines for sales can be as high as $136,000 for repeat offenders. The products are certainly not easy to obtain in the UAE.
The entire National article is built around the PMI/IQOS angle, with quotes from PMI executives, and PMI-provided data. The reporter was either thoroughly confused, or misled by PMI, because he makes the claim that IQOS is safer than e-liquid-based vaping products, which is not true.
“Vaping, as it is known, works by heating a liquid usually containing nicotine and other flavourings to boiling point, with the resulting vapour then inhaled into the user’s lungs,” writes The National reporter Nick Webster. “Despite the huge success of the product – variations are now sold worldwide – its long-term health implications are still unclear.
“But according to Philip Morris,” he continues, “technological advances incorporated into their latest product – the Iqos – have reduced smokers’ potential exposure to harmful chemicals even further.”
However, whether the change of mind was prompted by careful study of evidence or the influence of a wealthy multinational tobacco company, it’s encouraging to see a country reconsidering the value of harm reduction products for cigarette smokers. With the government of India advising its states to ban vaping products completely, any country rethinking a ban is a hopeful sign.