UAE consumer regulator the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) is conducting a review that could see a ban on e-cigarettes and similar products lifted, according to reports.
Despite being less impactful on health, according to some studies, e-cigarettes are not available to buy in the UAE, Australia, Singapore, Brazil and other countries through legal channels.
Dubai Municipality inspectors conducted raids on shops selling e-cigarettes and other illegal tobacco products in March, resulting in seven retailers being fined and having their goods confiscated.
ESMA’s preliminary review, reported by The National, will determine if the ban on e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine devices could be removed.
“The UAE is an important market for us, and we hope to provide the product here under the adequate regulatory framework,” US tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris International’s director of risk reduction products, Lama Gamal El Din, was quoted as saying.
Tobacco firms say the latest iterations of e-cigarettes are heated at a much lower temperature than their traditional equivalent and result in less harmful chemicals being absorbed by the smoker.
However, the long-term impact of e-cigarette use is still unclear.
A study released by the University of Birmingham using a mechanical procedure mimicking the practice of smoking an e-cigarette, known as vaping, found the smoke was still toxic to living cells and promoted inflammation of the lungs.
“In terms of cancer-causing molecules in cigarette smoke, as opposed to cigarette vapour, there are certainly reduced numbers of carcinogens,” lead study author professor David Thickett was quoted as saying by UK publication The Telegraph.
“They are safer in terms of cancer risk, but if you vape for 20 or 30 years and this can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), then that’s something we need to know about.”
Should the ban be lifted it would provide a new source of revenue for tobacco manufacturers after the UAE introduced a 100 per cent tax on products last October.
Preliminary estimates suggest the tax will add Dhs7bn ($1.9bn) a year to the state budget.