Saturday, Aug 13, 2016

Dubai: While electronic cigarettes and vaping are banned in the UAE, these continue to be sold unhindered, with many online stores peddling vaping paraphernalia to UAE residents.

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has reiterated that the ban on sale of e-cigarettes continues. Any kind of vaping gear that is brought into the country is seized at the airport. The UAE supports the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) stance which does not endorse e-cigarettes as it feels there is no conclusive medical research to prove that vaping, which was introduced in 2006, does not have a harmful impact on health.

Dr Wedad Al Maidour, head of the Tobacco Control Programme at the ministry, told Gulf News: “E-cigarettes are banned in the UAE and vaping is illegal. We have not given permission to anyone to make this stuff available here.”

Last year, there was some discussion on the easing of rules on sale of e-cigarettes when the Emirates Standardisation and Meterology Authority (Esma) sent a draft technical law to the World Trade Organisation indicating this step.

However, Dr Maidour stuck to her stance: ”There is no signed document from Esma to the ministry that says that the law banning the sale of cigarettes has been relaxed. A draft law is not a law and if vaping websites are freely advertising online and selling material to UAE residents, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) needs to explain how they got a licence for their website and allowed to have online advertising and trade of this banned substance.”

In a statement to Gulf News, a TRA spokesperson said: “The TRA follows a clear policy with regard to access to the internet, which includes an approved list of prohibited content categories and it is applied by both licensees, etisalat and du, where they block access to websites and pages that contain substances that fall within these prohibited categories. The blocking is based on automated filtration systems that identify and block websites that fall under the prohibited content categories. Moreover, website blocking is also based on reports from the public and governmental entities as well as the TRA and licensees’ personal effort.

“We would like to clarify that the TRA role is to coordinate the blocking of websites between the licensees and concerned governmental entities in cases where a website is in violation of their laws and jurisdiction. In this regard, the TRA ensures continuous coordination with governmental entities to establish mechanisms to report such websites and take proper action against them.”

The vaping websites are taking advantage of the loophole as it clearly means only if the Ministry of Health and Prevention registers a formal complaint to the TRA will it be empowered to act. In the meanwhile, Dubai residents continue to happily vape on.

Vaping website

Gulf News came across a thriving online vaping website called Dubai Vapers (DV), describing itself as the “first official” online vape store for Dubai. The Beiruit-based website, with more than 9000 registered users, is doing brisk business in vaping juice and gear. All one needs is a self-certification of being over 21 years of age to place orders. The devices are delivered anywhere in the UAE within a day. The gallery on the website is enticing, with exotic vaping paraphernalia and those behind it have openly declared that so far DV has attended to 18,000 orders!

When questioned about the illegal status of vaping, a spokesperson who went by the first name of Hala, wrote to Gulf News: “Vaping in the UAE is not illegal and there is no clear UAE law that criminalises vapers or vaping activity as there is nothing criminal to begin with. We operate from Beirut, Lebanon and cater to the whole of the Middle East, including Dubai.”

When questioned about making illegal financial transactions in exchange for supplies that are banned in the UAE, Hala commented: “All our shipments are shipped via international couriers and if there was anything illegal in it, UAE customs would have stopped it before reaching the end customers.”

What is vaping

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling vapours of liquid nicotine through a personal vaporiser that is delivered through a battery operated e-cigarette when an individual blows on it. Those who support vaping argue that it can help thousands of smokers in nicotine deaddiction as it helps them stay off cigarettes and smoke and from inhaling other harmful chemicals such as ash, and carbon monoxide that smoking cigratttes does.

A 2014 survey of 19,441 e-cigarette users worldwide indicated that they had the minimal adverse effect on their health. The research of this study was conducted by Dr Konstantinos Farsalionos, MD, researcher from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre, Athens, and from the University of Patra, Greece, and published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health last year.

By Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary Senior Reporter

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