E-cigarettes Threaten Global Anti-Smoking Efforts

The rising popularity of e-cigarettes poses a new and troubling challenge to global anti-smoking efforts, particularly in light of data from the World Health Organization (WHO) showing increased usage among children and teenagers.

A recent report estimates that around 37 million children worldwide aged 13-15 use tobacco. In many countries, e-cigarette usage among teenagers surpasses that of adults, with 20% of 15-year-olds in Europe who participated in a survey for the report stating they use e-cigarettes.

The report emphasises that the emergence of e-cigarettes and other new tobacco and nicotine products represents a severe threat to youth and anti-tobacco efforts. Studies indicate that e-cigarette use increases the likelihood of traditional cigarette smoking, particularly among non-smoking youth, by about threefold.

UAE’s Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Framework

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has warned against promoting e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes, citing a lack of scientific evidence. The ministry urged smokers to quit, highlighting the various diseases caused by smoking, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and mental health disorders.

The UAE has successfully established a comprehensive framework of legislation, public policies, and measures aimed at combating smoking and reducing its negative impact on individual and public health. In 2009, the UAE issued a federal anti-smoking law that prohibits the import of tobacco and its products unless they meet UAE standards, including clear warning labels on packages, and bans all forms of advertising and promotion of tobacco products.

As an early signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the UAE has implemented a national programme to reduce tobacco consumption and achieve a smoke-free environment. This approach includes integrating tobacco reduction into national health indicators.

Since the last quarter of 2017, the UAE has imposed an excise tax on products harmful to human health or the environment, including tobacco and its products.

Global Impact of Tobacco

The tobacco industry causes more than 8 million deaths worldwide each year. The environmental damage is equally alarming, with tobacco cultivation resulting in the loss of 600 million trees, 200,000 hectares of land, 22 billion tonnes of water, and the emission of 84 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

According to the WHO’s 2022 report “Tobacco: Poisoning Our Planet,” most tobacco is grown in low- and middle-income countries where water and farmland are critically needed for food production. The carbon footprint from tobacco production, processing, and transport equals one-fifth of the CO2 emissions from the commercial aviation industry each year, contributing significantly to global warming.

The report also highlights that tobacco products are among the most littered items on Earth, containing over 7,000 toxic chemicals that leach into the environment. Around 4.5 trillion cigarette filters pollute oceans, rivers, city sidewalks, parks, soil, and beaches annually.

The financial burden of cleaning up tobacco product waste is substantial. For example, China spends approximately USD 2.6 billion annually, while India spends about USD 766 million.

Al Jundi

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