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UAE Legalizes Vape Product Sales

UAE Legalizes Vape Product Sales

Varying global regions have developed a variety of different attitudes toward vaping. Many countries in the Middle East, for instance, have enacted strict bans on the sale of vapor products. That includes the United Arab Emirates (UAE), though the tides are turning with a government announcement that the ban will soon be lifted.

The UAE is a relatively small but oil-rich country on the Persian peninsula, sharing a border with Saudi Arabia. According to an official who spoke to the Khaleej Times, the daily English paper for the country’s biggest city, Dubai, vapor products should be legalized within the month.

"We issued the regulation to legalise it, and it will be enforced by mid April 2019, as the Authority is working hard through the development of technical standards and regulations," said  Abdullah Al Maeeni, the Director General of the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (EASM).

As far as regulations are concerned, the forthcoming standards haven’t been made public, but Al Maeeni said that "vapes are treated like normal cigarettes," which means they can’t be used in public places like cinemas and shopping malls. He also said the legalization will include products known as "heat-not-burn" devices, a kind of hybrid style of vaping that still involves cigarettes. These have not yet been approved by the United States' federal Food and Drug Administration.   

"These products include non-tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes (electronic shisha) and refill packages such as flavored nicotine 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," Al Maeeni said.

Abu Dhabi World reported that regulations will govern importation, manufacturing, packaging, require warning labels, and reflect British and European standards of regulation of nicotine limitations. This means that there will likely be an upper limit on nicotine content imposed by the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD), which caps the amount of nicotine in e-liquid at 20 mg/mL. This limitation has made small cigalikes and pod systems less attractive, as the high-nicotine "salt based" liquids preferred for use in such devices often deliver two or three times as much nicotine by volume.

The UAE was one of the first countries to ban the sale and use of vapor products in 2009, though the products are still widely used by the local population through a thriving underground marketplace. According to Abu Dhabi World, these new laws are being put in place by the EASM to combat the "illegal sale of potentially harmful tobacco-alternative products."

This legalization could signal a shift in attitude in the Middle East toward vaping products. Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia all have bans on the selling of vaping products, although there are restrictions on the use of vapor products, which varies from country to country. In those countries, similar underground markets exist where vapor products are sold.