There is a place for e-cigarettes
Most countries that have reduced tobacco consumption have achieved that drop through a broad series of initiatives rather than one knockout blow. These range from the regulatory (such as banning smoking in public places) to the financial (increasing the cost of cigarettes) and through curtailing their appeal by restricting the advertising of tobacco products.
While the UAE has made significant strides in this area in recent years, there is still much work that needs to be done. This makes us question why one of the most effective methods for helping smokers quit the habit is not just unused but is actually forbidden.
The use of e-cigarettes is banned here but, as The National reported yesterday, a global health conference in Abu Dhabi was told that a study of nearly 20,000 e-cigarette users found 81 per cent had been able to quit smoking by using them. By comparison, the success rate of nicotine-replacement therapies was 7 per cent.
Nobody is suggesting that e-cigarettes are a silver bullet solution to smoking. They also emit toxic chemicals, albeit in lower quantities than conventional cigarettes. Part of the cause of the ban is the precautionary principle because the long-term effects of e-cigarette use are not fully understood.
Especially as this country and others in this part of the world are being targeted by tobacco companies because antismoking initiatives in the US, Europe and Australia have caused sales there to plummet, we need to look at everything that can persuade smokers to kick the habit.
As other countries have found, success is likely to come from a multifaceted approach. However there is a logical dissonance in banning e-cigarettes while conventional cigarettes here cost one twentieth of the price in somewhere like Australia. Increasing the price of cigarettes is a useful option, especially in preventing children taking up smoking, but that will not solve the problem in itself. It’s worth looking at the positive role e-cigarettes can play.