E-cigarettes to be legal in UAE from mid-April
Dubai - Up until now, the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) has been illegal in the UAE.
Residents in the country have long been questioning if the ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes will be lifted in the UAE. And the answer is yes, by mid-April.
Following the announcement on Saturday that the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma) approved new standards for the nicotine components of e-cigarettes, many suggested that outlets here may soon be able to sell the product.
Esma approves new nicotine standards for e-cigarettes
And on Sunday, Abdullah Al Maeeni, Director General of ESMA confirmed that speculation was correct.
"We issued the regulation to legalise it, and it will be enforced by mid of April 2019, as the Authority is working hard through the development of technical standards and regulations."
Up until now, the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) has been illegal in the UAE. However, residents readily smoke the devices in public.
In a previous statement to Khaleej Times, Redha Salman, director of health and safety department at the Dubai Municipality helped clear up the confusion regarding the sale of e-cigarettes and the use of the them.
For public use "vapes are treated like normal cigarettes", he said. They must not be smoked in public places like cinemas and shopping malls.
However, with these new standards set by Esma it will regulate all nicotine components used in e-cigarettes, as well as details relating to the technical specifications, weight, list of ingredients, import, packaging, and labeling, among others.
"These products include non-tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes (electronic shisha) and refill packages such as electronic liquids, and products that use tobacco as the plant where it is placed in an electronic device that heats the tobacco rolls and smoking by the device without a burning process of tobacco".
As such, they will now be viable for sale.
The new Esma standards have been set in place following the government's efforts to curb smoking and put a stop to the illegal sale of e-cigarettes in the UAE.
The authority urged all dealers and manufacturers to abide by the standards and obtain a certificate prior to the distribution of the products.
Speaking to Khaleej Times on Sunday, Salman from Dubai Municipality reiterated that the sale of e-cigarettes and e-shishas are "still prohibited under Federal Law No.15 of 2009".
"As and when a new federal regulation comes into force, we will act accordingly."
E-cigarettes, which are often smoked as an alternative to cigarettes, have always been banned from sale in the UAE.
Speaking on the basis of anonymity, one resident who brings in "vapes" (a form of ENDS) from the UK said his e-liquids usually contain 6mg of tobacco.
"I'm not sure what the new standards will specify in terms of amount of tobacco etc, but I can see why they want to regulate it. Despite the sale of products being illegal here, it still happens. New regulations will make sure users are getting a 'safe' product. Right now I buy a new unit once a month because I see many explode, it's scary. Tighter regulations is good."
Customers also pay a lot more than in other countries for vapes here because it's illegal, he said. But with sale becoming legalised it could decrease prices dramatically.
"Sellers take advantage of you because vapes are not available everywhere. I pay anything between Dh60-Dh100 for e-liquids and between Dh180-Dh1,000 for the vape unit, depending on size. I'm looking forward to paying less."
Dr Hanan Obaid, head of the Dubai Tobacco-free initative at Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said new standards are "a good move to safeguard people that still choose to smoke, however it won't prohibit the behaviour of smoking", which is the DHA's long-term strategy.
Approving new standards for nicotine components likely means that such e-cigarettes will have low amounts of nicotine in the product, she told Khaleej Times, however smoking is still harmful to health.
"Even if nicotine levels are low, low amounts doesn't prevent the illnesses or diseases caused by smoking. So yes, while certain standards may safeguard and regulate use, we would encourage people not to smoke."