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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Dubai launches citywide raids on stores selling e-cigarettes

Municipality hits tobacco shops with fines and penalties during campaign

The sale and import of e-cigarettes is banned in the UAE. Tolga Akmen / AFP
The sale and import of e-cigarettes is banned in the UAE. Tolga Akmen / AFP

Tobacco shops illegally selling e-cigarettes have been targeted in a city-wide crackdown.

A total of seven retailers were hit with fines and had illegal goods confiscated and destroyed as part of a widespread campaign in Al Hudaiba, Bur Dubai and Al Murar.

Municipality inspectors seized 30 electronic cigarettes from 11 outlets, as well as 100kg of tobacco that was being sold in illegal packaging.

“During the campaign, as much as 100kg of tobacco was confiscated,” said Redha Salman, director of the public health and safety department at Dubai Municipality.

It is the latest sign that government officials remain firm in their stance against tobacco smoking alternatives since a 100 per cent tobacco tax came in during the last quarter of 2017.

The sale of e-cigarettes and e-shisha pipes is prohibited.

Shops selling vapes, e-cigs and refill liquids can have their goods confiscated and will be given a warning if a first offence, with repeat offenders risking a Dh500,000 fine.

During the Dubai crackdown, 200 packets of artificially-flavoured tobacco were withdrawn from the market, as the packaging did not specify the origin of the product or its ingredients, or did not have any health warning labels attached as per government regulations.

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Read more:

UAE smoking poll: only one in four have changed their habit since introduction of 'sin tax'

Electronic heated-tobacco products 'just as harmful as conventional cigarettes' study finds

UAE doctors stand firm over e-cigarettes despite UK backing

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Smoke-free tobacco products are yet to launch in the UAE, although e-cigarettes are widely used with liquid top-ups either purchased overseas or from black market dealers.

In an online poll of more than 600 smokers conducted by The National, more than half said they had tried e-cigarettes or e-pipes, despite devices and refills being banned from sale in the UAE.

Of those who had tried tobacco alternatives, 54 per cent said they were not prepared to switch to electronic devices to feed their nicotine habit.

One of the world’s largest tobacco producers, Philip Morris International, has said almost 5 million adult smokers have quit cigarettes globally by switching to electric powered tobacco devices that heat tobacco, without the same carcinogens.

In February, Tarkan Demirbas, area vice president for Philip Morris in Dubai, said the company was committed to one-day offer smoke-free alternatives in the GCC.

“There are certain commercial and regulatory requirements that must be met before we can bring a new product into a market,” he said.

“I personally hope that those requirements are met as soon as possible so that we can begin offering these better options to the current smokers in GCC.”