As the UAE discusses lifting their vaping ban, it could ultimately benefit Big Tobacco more than anyone
Even now, after a few generations of anti-tobacco campaigns, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide. The number of smokers has steadily decreased over time, but it is now, in what could be the final stretch, that it’s essential we put an end to smoking once and for all. To make that happen, more quickly and with fewer deaths, smokers must be able to take advantage of all the tools developed to help them. The device proven to be the most effective in assisting people to quit, and helping them stay off of cigarettes long term, is vaporizers. E-cigarettes have also been proven to be 95% safer than combustible cigarettes.
Despite this, they’re still seen in a very negative light. This poor public opinion has been picked up and spread by many governing bodies, leading to many countries deciding to take a harsh stance on e-cigarettes. So while many countries have been wary of placing restrictions, others have made attaining vaporizers legally a near impossible task. The United Arab Emirates or UAE had previously placed a ban on vaping, but recently there’s been hope that they might soon lift it. However, such a move may not be as positive for the vaping community as you may first think.
Lifting the Ban
Before these more recent moves, the UAE had taken a firm stance against vaping. Not only were the products banned, but extensive measures were taken to ensure e-cigarettes were not being smuggled into the country. It was just in March that officials started discussing a possibility of harsher regulations concerning smugglers or those caught with a vaporizer. ESMA, a prominent consumer advocacy group in the UAE, has stepped in since then and worked on a plan that has the potential to lift the ban.
At this point, all of the vaporizers that have been brought into the UAE have been done so illegally according to Dr. Wedad Al Maidoor, head of the National Tobacco Committee. He continued saying “No import standards have been specified, so they are smuggled.” Philip Morris Representatives also spoke on the subject “We believe that ESMA is seriously considering how to best regulate all novel tobacco products to ensure product safety and the highest quality.”
This, however, is where things start to get tricky. While at face value the ban being lifted seems like a wonderful advancement for vaporizers, Philip Morris’s involvement in the situation is potentially troublesome. It’s clear with such a fast, drastic change that they may be placing their thumb on the scales, using their considerably deep pockets to get a footing in countries where the independent vaping companies have failed.
A multi-billion dollar company like PMI working for vapers rights ought to be a good thing. However, this sort of move puts the company in prime position to influence the new market, potentially putting themselves in a position to benefit. Certainly more than the many independently owned vaping companies. Philip Morris has never been one to shy away from lining their pockets at the detriment of others, in fact, that is their business model. As the vaping market currently stands, the most prominent players are primarily independently owned companies, who have smoking cessation in mind. Philip Morris, meanwhile, has been grasping at a way to keep themselves relevant into the future, as traditional smoking comes to an inevitable end.
To that end they jumped on the vape train, producing their own heat-not-burn products. They have also pledged 80 million dollars a year over the next 12 years to fund a non-profit foundation which researches smoke-free alternatives. They have come out about the UAE situation saying, “Our ambition is clear. We are working to replace cigarettes with smoke-free products in all countries, including the whole of the GCC.” And while outwardly this all looks to be at the benefit of the vaping industry, their goals are clear. Using their influence, they stand to corner the market in the UAE and put themselves in a prime location to swoop into other countries that currently have vaping bans.
It’s a marvelous step in the progress of vaping that a country as influential as the UAE is taking another look at their legislation. Changes like this, however, can actually go either way for the vaping industry. If the outcome is not appropriately handled, countries repealing their bans could unwittingly be putting themselves right in the pocket of Big Tobacco once again. Vaping was invented with the goal of helping people quit their dependence on tobacco.
It was Philip Morris and their other Big Tobacco brethren that willingly harmed people for the last century just to line their own pockets, and now they aim to take over the industry built to stop them. While vaping as an industry supports the UAE lifting their current ban, it is critical that Big Tobacco’s involvement is monitored. Otherwise vaping, already on shaky footing, may fall victim to them and taint the industry with another century of harm and preventable deaths.
Do you think repealing vaping bans can be bad for the industry? How can we know for sure if Big Tobacco is getting a leg up on independent vaping companies? What’s the best way to improve the public perception of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.