Critics worry that plans to allow vaping in the United Arab Emirates could ultimately benefit Big Tobacco most
The world now has seen decades of anti-tobacco campaigns, yet smoking is still the leading cause of preventable deaths around the globe. While the number of smokers continues to decrease it is as vital as ever that we address this global crisis and put an end to smoking once and for all. To do that in the quickest and most efficient way possible, people need to be able to take advantage of all the tools available to them. E-liquids and vaporizers are one such tool and effective ones at that. In fact, research indicates vaping has the highest success rate of any nicotine replacement therapy as well as offering an option for smokers that is proven 95% safer. Despite the growing amount of evidence that indicates vaping’s relative safety and effectiveness, it’s still generally seen in a negative light. Because of this negative public opinion, many governments around the world have chosen to place harsh and restrictive regulations on vaporizers.
Many places, like the US, have been wary of the products but haven’t enacted total bans. Some countries though, like Australia, have put in place enough regulations to make it nigh impossible to get a hold of these products. Many places have implemented sweeping bans of vaporizers and related products in spite of having a very open and lax treatment of cigarettes. The UAE, United Arab Emirates, has been following this problematic approach, but more recently there have been indications that the vaping ban may soon be lifted.
Lifting The Ban
Until these recent updates, the UAE has been clearly and firmly against vaping. This includes a ban and efforts towards stopping any vape products from being smuggled into the country. As recently as March officials spoke about place harsher regulations on smugglers or anyone else caught with vaping devices. However, ESMA, a UAE consumer advocacy group, has been working on a plan that has real promise to lead to the ban being lifted.
What’s known is that all vaporizers that have been brought into the UAE at this point are sold underground. The Head of the National Tobacco Committee, Dr. Wedad Al Maidoor had this to say, “All the e-cigarettes currently available in the country have not been imported, since no import standards have been specified. So, they are smuggled.” Representatives from Philip Morris International weighed in with this saying, “We believe that ESMA is seriously considering how to best regulate all novel tobacco products to ensure product safety and the highest quality.” While that would be great for the industry if that were genuinely true, Philip Morris’s involvement is more than worrisome. This massive change in the opinion of the legislature could open the door for Big Tobacco companies like Philip Morris and their deep pockets to elbow out the independent vaping industry, right as vaping gets its footing in these countries.
PMI’s Long Play
While having the support of a multi-billion dollar company like PMI may seem like a good thing for the vaping industry, what this really does is give these companies the chance to influence standards and squash their independently owned opponents. Big Tobacco has proven time and again over the past century that they care more about profit than their consumer’s health and well being. As things currently stand, the vaping market is lead by independent companies who work to help people successfully quit smoking. Meanwhile, PMI has made it clear they are planning for a future without cigarettes.
They’ve been trying very hard to save face and jump on the vaping bandwagon in recent months. They pledged 80 million dollars over the next 12 years to form a non-profit foundation which aims to research smoke-free alternatives, a move they hope will paint them as vaping advocates. Their statements on the UAE ban are very open about this topic, “Our ambition is clear. We are working to replace cigarettes with smoke-free products in all countries, including the whole of the GCC.” While their goals are surface-level in line with the vaping industry, it is obvious they wish to use their influence to change the tide in their favor.
It is amazing to see countries like the UAE take another look at their vaping legislation. But these changes could become critical for the vaping industry. If not handled properly these countries could be blindly handing themselves over to Big Tobacco yet again. Vaping was created and has continued striving as an effective way to end the tobacco epidemic that has damaged and taken the lives of so many. These companies, who willingly harmed millions to line their own pockets cannot be trusted with such large shares of the vaping industry.
While vaping as an industry should work to support the lifting of the UAE’s ban, it’s imperative that we monitor, and keep in check, Big Tobacco’s involvement. Otherwise, we are tainting our reputation with a century of death and destruction, and risking the progress, health, and lives of the millions who use vaping to quit tobacco.
Would this ban being lifted still be good if PMI got the most significant boost? What’s the best way to prevent Big Tobacco companies from taking control of the vaping industry? How can we help inform a broad audience about the benefits of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.