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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Vaping should be legal, but it's still not good for you

The sale of e-cigarettes will now be regulated, but the best advice is to refrain from any form of nicotine use at all

The jury is still out on the long-term effects of vaping. Reuters
The jury is still out on the long-term effects of vaping. Reuters

Earlier this week, the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology announced the lifting of a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes. The move has been met with relief from their users but concern from others. However, this carefully considered decision has been made with the sole aim of protecting public health. While the possession and use of electronic cigarettes and e-liquid – the substance that is heated to produce a vapour and then inhaled – has never been an offence in the UAE, the sale of these products has, up until now, been illegal. Still, a number of retailers have operated online for several years. Legalising these businesses will allow the relevant authorities to oversee the quality of products they sell and to enforce the prominent display of appropriate health warnings.

In recent years, there has been a significant cultural shift from traditional cigarettes to vaping. In some countries, electronic cigarettes are promoted as an effective way to quit smoking. However, some medical professionals remain sceptical. Dr Fadi Baladi, medical director for the Burjeel Day Surgery Centre, Abu Dhabi, is one of them: “We are still not sure of the long term impact of vaping,” he says. “It seems we are just replacing one bad habit with another”.

Like traditional cigarettes, vaping involves the inhalation of nicotine – a highly addictive and toxic chemical. There are also concerns that vaping could be taken up by younger people, who might not consider using tobacco. In December last year, the US Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned of “an epidemic” of e-cigarette use among American teenagers. He also highlighted a worrying fact: most of them were unaware of the chemicals that e-cigarette vapour contains. UAE regulators should be cautious and ensure that vaping products are not sold as fashionable accessories.

While the jury is still out on how safe vaping truly is, legalisation is an important step towards the necessary regulation and monitoring of this growing market. Such measures should also be accompanied by a far-reaching education campaign on nicotine use. For, while some people believe vaping to be a less damaging alternative to smoking, the healthiest option is to do neither.

Updated: February 21, 2019 04:28 PM

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