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What is happening with e-cigarettes around the world?

September 26, 2019

During the last month, the US media have exposed several cases of teenagers with serious health complications due to the use of electronic cigarettes. The main concern associated with these cases is the lack of regulation of these products, since not knowing with certainty their ingredients, it has not been possible to prevent the community about the consequences of their consumption.

Faced with this critical situation, President Trump explained that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will present a policy to remove all flavored electronic cigarettes from the market and issue it within the following month. This statement was supported by the First Lady, who expressed her concern about the rapid increase in the use of these devices among teenagers.

In response to the pronouncements of the US Government, Walmart decided to stop sales of electronic cigarettes and nicotine management systems. While Amazon reiterated that these products are not allowed on its platform. However, other stores such as Kroger, 7-eleven, and Family Dollar have not ruled on whether they will follow the decision made by Walmart.

The current situation in the US helped to ban the sale of all electronic cigarettes in India. The Minister of Finance said that these devices were initially promoted as a strategy to quit smoking, but with the cases presented in the US, they need to take immediate measures to protect the health of their citizens. Therefore, the ban in this country will include: production, manufacturing, import, export, transportation, sale, distribution, storage and advertising of these devices.

These types of decisions are a great political advance for the protection of children, as the most vulnerable population to the marketing tactics of these products. However, the tobacco industry has already started its strategies to undermine the proposal in the US: Juul and other companies propose to exclude mint and menthol flavors from the restrictions. But, there is no justification for making this exception, as there is no evidence on how menthol cigarettes help to quit smoking; instead it is clear that leaving one type of flavored cigarette in the market will make teenagers migrate to it.

Another example is the Colombian case, where a proposal will be presented to include electronic cigarettes in the regulation of traditional cigarettes. Given this, the industry has sought approaches with the academy and the media, offering meetings with “experts” to explain why vaping products are “the best strategy” to end the smoking epidemic, even when there is no evidence of it.

The epidemic of electronic cigarettes in the region is alarming, and presents a new challenge for tobacco control topics. Undoubtedly, the policy approved by the US government will set a worldwide precedent, especially in the region, on how to move forward to stop this epidemic. Therefore, it is important that the academy and the media recognize the conflicts of interest of the data presented by the industry; as the independent evidence ratifies taxes as the most effective tobacco control measure. This is of great relevance for the proposals that are advancing in the region, as governments cannot bend to the demands of the industry, which mainly seek to engage new teenagers to start smoking.