Up until recently, the UAE had maintained a forbidding stance towards e-cigarettes. However in a sudden U turn, last September the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma), said that it was reviewing the scientific data on alternative tobacco products, as part of a plan to establish whether the ban should be lifted or not.

Consequently, last Sunday ESMA confirmed that new regulations known as UAE.S 5030, will go into effect as of next April. The new rules will allow the legal sale of e-cigarettes and vaping devices, as long as manufacturers meet new standards and carry health warnings similar to to those on traditional cigarette packets.

Abdulla Al Maeeni, director general of Esma, said concern about the spread of unregulated e-cigarettes was among the reasons behind the move, adding that many users have a “lack of knowledge of the ingredients used”. He said that by regulating sales, ESMA can ensure quality and safety standards.

The UAE fails to see vaping products as harm reduction tools

“But legalising and regulating e-cigarettes does not mean they can be offered as a quitting aid for tobacco smokers”

Yet, while some countries such as the UK, encourage smokers to switch to vaping, in order to decrease harm whilst trying to reduce smoking, the UAE’s doctors will not make such recommendations. Dr. Mohammad El Disouky explained that he only considers these new regulations as a positive step forward because they promote transparency.

“Consumers will now have full details of the chemicals contained in the products and information on how to use them,” he said. “From a public health perspective, this is a good move as people who are using these products will know they have been legally distributed under supervision from the authorities.That will guarantee their content and will restrict what materials some companies are using.”

“But legalising and regulating e-cigarettes does not mean they can be offered as a quitting aid for tobacco smokers,” emphasized El Disouky. “In some countries, the debate will continue to determine if they are less harmful, or if they should be used as a bridge towards giving up tobacco products. We know there are hidden dangers with e-cigarettes and the chemicals they use.”

The UAE will follow the US FDA

“Once the WHO releases its recommendation and this is supported by the FDA, we will follow. Until then we can not support e-cigarettes as a quitting aid,” he added. Meanwhile due to endorsing the devices, in the UK there are now more than half a million fewer smokers than in 2015, which also equates to the country now boasting the second-lowest smoking rates in Europe after Sweden.

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