UAE to allow sale of e-cigarettes and vaping devices
The move was confirmed by the goods regulator Esma on Sunday
New regulations will allow the legal sale of e-cigarettes and vaping devices in the UAE for the first time.
Manufacturers will be allowed to sell the battery-powered products as long as they meet new standards and carry health warnings similar to traditional cigarettes.
The Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology confirmed the move on Sunday.
The new rules - known as UAE.S 5030 - allow the sale of electronic cigarettes, electronic pipes, electronic shisha devices plus the liquid refills.
Until now it has been against the law for retailers to sell e-cigarette products - although it is not an offence to own or use one and they are widely available online.
E-cigarettes are expected to be available in stores from mid-April, officials said.
Abdulla Al Maeeni, director general of Esma, said concern about the spread of unregulated e-cigarettes was among the reasons behind the move.
He said many users have a "lack of knowledge of the ingredients used" and that by regulating sales it can ensure quality and compel retailers to carry warnings.
The authorities have not yet set out rules for buying the cigarettes but they are likely to have the same age controls and tax as regular cigarettes.
Health authorities in the United States have expressed concerns about how many young people smoke e-cigarettes - estimated run as high as one in five in high schools - like Juul, which is particularly popular.
As The National reported in September, Esma has been examining the move for some time.
Doctors have expressed concern over the negative health impact of e-cigarettes, that continue to deliver a nicotine hit, as little is known of the damage of inhaling potentially harmful toxins.
“We are still not sure of the long term impact of vaping, it seems we are just replacing one bad habit with another,” Dr Fadi Baladi, medical director for Burjeel Day Surgery Centre, Abu Dhabi.
“Vaping may be less harmful, but could still be a health problem in future.
“People who are experiencing clinical chronic health problems like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchitis, are still having medical issues, despite switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes.
“As a personal observation in my patients, people who are vaping are continuing to experience coughing and respiratory problems, because they are still inhaling chemicals.
“The promise that e-cigarettes are a transitioning tool to allow people to quit smoking and vaping completely has not yet materialised.
“People are often vaping more than they were smoking tobacco, so where is the cessation?"
Tobacco companies including Philip Morris International has urged countries with vaping bans to lift them, as part of a push towards alternative tobacco products.
I've heard of counterfeit devices sold online that have blown up in people's faces and liquids that have things added in
E-cigarette smoker Ahmed Abdualla
The electronic smoking market is estimated to be valued at more than $10 billion worldwide.
"Vaping is less harmful than tobacco smoking, but we do not know to what extent," said Dr Arun Arya, a pulmonologist at NMC Royal Hospital, Khalifa City.
"Particles inhaled from e-cigarettes are very fine and are absorbed deep into the lung tissue, and we are not sure of the long term damage this is doing."
For users, the legal sale from legitimate vendors is a relief, and gives them confidence that they're buying regulated products.
"I buy my vapes from a reputable website but I've heard of many counterfeit devices sold online that have blown up in people's faces and liquids that have strange things added to them," said Ahmed Abdualla, 40, a government employee in Abu Dhabi has been vaping for two years.
"This way it becomes regulated because there is a lot of fake liquid and fake devices being sold right now."
Updated: February 18, 2019 09:46 AM