MEXICO CITY – The lack of regulation of electronic cigarettes in Mexico puts users at risk, the number of whom is increasing despite the fact that there is not yet enough scientific evidence to say that they help “treat” smoking addiction, experts consulted by EFE warned.
Currently, there is regulatory ambiguity surrounding e-cigarettes in Mexico, given that Article 16 of the General Law for Control of Tobacco prohibits marketing and sale of the product but not consumption.
Moreover, the so-called vaporizers needed to “smoke” e-cigarettes are not recognized as aids in treating smoking addiction.
The majority of the items used to “vape,” as inhaling vapors via e-cigarettes is called, are imported from China.
Alvaro Perez, the commissioner for Health Cooperation with the Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (Cofepris), said that the lack of regulation has resulted in vaporizers and their components being sold clandestinely.
“They are products that have no transparent origin or production,” he said in an interview with EFE.
“There is also a health alert in place for 200 brands of tobacco products and 36 e-cigarettes,” he added.
However, in 2015, Mexico’s Supreme Court granted protection to one seller sanctioned by Cofepris.
“The Court, in tune with protecting public health, ruled that this product may be sold only if it complies with the same regulations as tobacco,” Perez said.
Guadalupe Ponciano, the director of the Smoking Research and Prevention Program at the Public Health Department of Mexico’s Autonomous National University (UNAM) said that the legal ambiguity confuses consumers and allows disinformation to persist.
“What would be better would be strict regulation, just like for cigarettes, (with) pictograms (on the packaging) and (they) would have to pay taxes,” she said.
Otherwise, she said, it’s a situation of “free sale that’s doing nobody any good” and which leaves consumers unprotected.
In general, the liquids used to produce the vapor for e-cigarettes contain different concentrations of propylene glycol, ethylene glycol and glycerin, as well as flavors and coloring agents.
Each individual manufacturer decides on the concentrations of the various substances, without there being any health control over that process.
Among the main criticisms, Ponciano said that there is not enough scientific evidence to determine whether e-cigarettes are a better alternative to nicotine patches or medications for treating smoking addiction, and moreover not enough time has passed for scientists to be able to know the effects of long-term e-cigarette use.