Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 September 2019

UAE doctors won't promote vaping to help smokers quit

Some countries encourage smokers to vape to cut down on traditional cigarettes

More than a tenth of deaths in the UAE are linked to smoking, but the decision to allow the sale of e-cigarettes remains controversial. Getty
More than a tenth of deaths in the UAE are linked to smoking, but the decision to allow the sale of e-cigarettes remains controversial. Getty

E-cigarettes will not be offered as an aid to help smokers quit until the full health impact is determined, doctors have said.

This week the government's product regulator said e-cigarettes and vaping products could be sold legally from mid-April.

Regulation will ensure consumers will have transparency over the vaping products they buy and help authorities stamp out black market and unregulated sellers.

But government doctors said the country will not go as far as some nations in promoting the devices to problem smokers.

Dr Mohammad El Disouky, who is in charge of Dubai Health Authority’s smoking cessation clinic, said more long-term research was needed.

“Consumers will now have full details of the chemicals contained in the products and information on how to use them,” he said.

Most e-cigarettes and vaping devices contain a battery, a heating coil and liquid containing flavour and nicotine. Ramon Penas / The National
Most e-cigarettes and vaping devices contain a battery, a heating coil and liquid containing flavour and nicotine. Ramon Penas / The National

“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.”

Governments vary significantly in their attitudes towards e-cigarettes.

In the UK, Public Health England recently said it supported their use to help smokers quit, citing evidence that they are 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco products.

But in Hong Kong, the government has announced plans for a blanket ban on all e-cigarette products, with anyone importing, selling or promoting products facing six months in jail or a HK$50,000 fine (Dh23,393).

Other nations, like the US, are also unsure of how safe e-cigarettes are and their long-term impact on health.

“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,” said Dr El DIsouky.

“We know there are hidden dangers with e-cigarettes and the chemicals they use.

“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.”

Parents in the UAE have expressed concerns over how e-cigarettes will be sold, and how accessible they will be for children.

One Dubai parent, Bhavana Sood, whose children are 16 and 13, said she was worried about children being attracted to vaping by the flavours on offer, like fruit and candy.

“There is peer pressure among young adults and it becomes an issue,” she said.

"I think vapes or e-cigarettes should only be available to people over the age of 22 or 23.”

Even before the ban on e-cigarette sale is lifted, Juul vaping devices were available online in the UAE.

The product is one of the most common vaping devices used by young people in the US, with a single Juul pod containing as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes.

Sara, a Lebanese mother who did not want to give her full name, said she was shocked when her son, 12, told her e-cigarettes were being smoked and sold in his school’s toilets.

"My son told me that there is a child selling flavoured e-cigarettes. I was shocked,” said the Dubai resident.

"It’s a new fashion that young boys and teens can have these e-cigarettes in school.”

Updated: February 20, 2019 06:52 PM

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