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By Madhuparna Bhattacharjee

In the coming weeks, Oman may take a decision to completely ban electronic cigarettes, which are increasingly becoming popular around the world as a substitute for tobacco smoking and claimed to be risk-free by manufacturers.

Talking to Muscat Daily, Dr Jawad al Lawati, senior consultant and rapporteur of the National Tobacco Control Committee in the Ministry of Health, said, “Sale of e-cigarettes is at present not allowed in the country and a permanent comprehensive ban is being considered by concerned authorities.”

As of now, the sultanate has no formal ban in place on such cigarettes.

Oman, however, is on the list of nations that restrict their promotion and sale.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoCI) is considering a ban on e-cigarettes in view of several international recommendations based on case reports and medical studies illustrating their addictive nature, Dr Lawati said.

“They have not been approved by international health agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO) and the safety of these cigarettes is yet to be proven,” he added.

The electronic nicotine delivery systems report (by The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) for 2014 states that 47 countries either have bans or restrictions in place on e-cigarettes.

Among the 47 are Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Colombia, Greece, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lithuania, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Suriname, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Of these, 33 countries including Oman prohibits or restricts advertising, promotion or sponsorship of e-cigarettes in their policies. The other GCC countries doing the same are Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

A regulation to implement a decision by health ministers of Gulf countries is under way. It will impose a complete ban on sale and marketing of e-cigarettes, says a recent report titled ‘Country Laws Regulating E-cigarettes: A Policy Scan’, published by John Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, an institute for global tobacco control.

Health officials fear that e-cigarettes are a point-of-entry, which introduce conventional cigarettes and other tobacco products to children, youth and non-smoking adults, Dr Lawati said. Some smokers in Oman smuggle the devices into the country.

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