Electronic cigarette: why thirty countries such as Mexico prohibit its sale

Before leaving on a trip, if you are a vaper, you will now have to make sure of the legislation in force in your country of destination. This Tuesday, Mexico consolidates its place in the 32 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which prohibits the sale of electronic cigarettes. The equivalent of 2.4 billion inhabitants. Some even prohibit the possession (Gambia), distribution, import (India) or even the use of flavors (Finland) of these e-cigarettes and their refill liquids. A total of 111 countries have implemented restrictive or sanitary measures according to the WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, published in 2021.

“It is a lie to say that the new products, the vapers, are an alternative to cigarettes”, announced the Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, considering that they were “also bad for health”. A mainly health motivation advanced by a large number of countries, such as Argentina. “A cigarette replacement product that also contains nicotine poses health risks,” warned the country’s health agency. Egypt is concerned about longer-term health effects.

However, the proliferation of scientific work over the past fifteen years has provided the first indications. “We have more hindsight and work carried out by scientists who are less oriented by lobbies. We do not say that it is innocuous for health. But many studies have shown that e-cigarette liquids are far less toxic than a cigarette. We do not find the 4,000 chemical substances and the fifty or so carcinogenic molecules, ”sums up Fabienne El-Khoury, researcher in social epidemiology at Inserm, citing Public Health France.

Other countries, such as Cambodia, invoke the “fun” and “attractive” aspect for the youngest who could vape to ban its sale to all. “In the United States, vapers are younger than smokers,” confirms the researcher, who has been working on e-cigarettes for eight years.

For her, other reasons, more or less official, can be at the origin of these public policies. “Countries where there is a very low prevalence, such as Brazil which has 10% of smokers, prohibit the sale to avoid creating addiction to nicotine. They want to prevent young vapers from becoming smokers as adults. Indeed, studies have shown that vapes can be as addictive as smoking cessation patches.

“Countries linked to the tobacco economy, such as Lebanon, can also prevent vaping to defend their interests. We must not forget that there is an industry with a strong marketing strategy…”, points out Fabienne El-Khoury, who is currently conducting a study on smoking cessation tools.

For countries where there is heavy smoking, especially among young people, it is one of the main tools for quitting smoking. As in France, where vaping remains prohibited in a certain number of public places, at work, and where the sale is prohibited to those under 18 years old. If the packaging is not (yet) neutral, advertising is prohibited. These measures concern the 5% of French people who vape, an almost stable figure according to the latest data dating back to before Covid.

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