Gulf States discussing total ban of e-cigarettes

Just yesterday the GCC Health Ministers Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE) set the stage for a total ban of e-cigarettes.

A statement issued by the conference underlined the “necessity for imposing a total ban” on e-cigarettes in line with the WHO guidelines and the findings of recent studies on the product.

Anti-smoking activists in the region have been campaigning for a ban on e-cigarettes, which are used as an alternative for traditional cigarettes, on grounds that it is more dangerous to the users compared to the traditional cigarettes.

I’m not sure why the level of misinformation regarding e-cigarettes is so astonishingly high in this part of the world but every few weeks there seems to be another outrageous statement such as:

Water vapour is absorbed by lungs, which can cause even lung cancer, says WHO report.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a warning to e-cigarettes users after it found the sticks contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreezes.

The recurring two items that seem to show up in almost every one of these articles out of this region are the FDA findings and the WHO advisory.

Oddly enough, the WHO advisory simply stated that there was no evidence yet for long term safety, and no non-anecdotal evidence that would support producers making cessation claims. This now close to three year old and rather restrained communication has through the wonder of the embellishment machine we call the media become a howling warning of danger.

And quite similarly, despite being widely dismissed as substandard work, the FDA report has become the official word on e-cigarette safety. What I fail to appreciate is why this report ever assumed the stature it did, and why (in the world) it achieved any prominence outside the borders of the United States. (Yes, I know they are a big country, and the FDA is well known but still, these are independent countries with their own research facilities, and some sense of national pride, are they not?)

Now of course it is quite possible that, just like most everyone else, the powers that be have an end in mind and then cast about for supporting (and tweakable) views.

One of the issues here is that we have authoritarian or tending toward authoritarian governments using tools generated in regions that are less so. As misguided as the FDA is, various agencies and the population itself act as checks on them, and as cynical as we might be about that process, it is still much more likely to end up benefiting the many than what happens in many other parts of the world. But then, these same tools generated in a democratic context, even if discarded on the home front, are then picked up by others to use.

So in summary, we have a substandard product assay from a far away country (otherwise often demonized in this part of the world) and a warning about proper product description from an international health agency being used as the main evidence to support the actions of a government to remove the availability to its people of a safer alternative to smoking.

And this too will be chalked up as a victory for the anti-smoking forces.

-Paul L. Bergen

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Comments

  • nafel (@nonizi)  On March 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    i am very ammazed by the war against e-cigs, as an ex-smoker for 19 years whom only quite with e-cigs and it has been 1 solid year since i have, i can’t help it i can’t avoid saying it’s nothing but a consperacy and it’s not in favor of general health for sure that is…

  • Rehan  On June 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    FDA and WHO both are playing this drama to support ordinary cigarettes because U.S is making lot of tax money on ordinary cigarettes (google each state yearly tax on cig) . If they will not ban e-cig they will lose lots of tax money, U.S just want to kill his own people with carcinogens cigarettes but don’t want to lose tax money. This is all conspiracy to get tax money. There are lots of reviews, tests and before after chest lungs X-Rays on the internet by some clinics and doctors which proved that e-cig is 90% better than ordinary cigarettes. Arabs are fool who just follow U.S.

  • Bu Yousef  On January 11, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Yes as the previous commentor rightly said US makes tax money and in the GCC cigarette cartels make -whatever you name it- money and while millions can easily switch to e-cig’s in US UK EU AU and CA, here in q8 you pay x5 times (kw in particular) roughly who almost smuggle it to inside the country.. Let it free and many will Switch to Ecig
    With the ban on Ecig gov is/will be incurring health expense to make more rich the regional agents of US cigarette producers

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