Mexico Bans Import of Vaping Products
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Mexico Bans Import of Vaping Products by Presidential Decree

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In February 2020, the government of Mexico released a presidential decree banning the importation of all vaping products. The new law was set to go into effect on February 20. The import ban – which the administration says is merely an extension of an existing 2008 law banning the sales of e-cigarette products in Mexico – applies even to items containing no nicotine, such as nicotine-free vape juice and vaping devices sold without e-liquid.

The decree is a surprising move from the Mexican president, as Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was elected into his office largely on the strength of his firm stance against the Mexican war on drugs. Among the items on Lopez Obrador’s platform were the legalization of marijuana and the release of those imprisoned for non-violent drug crimes. The Mexican president’s stance on vaping appears to run contrary to his other substance-related policies, and reasons cited for the ban are questionable at best. Lopez Obrador mainly cites guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), which has an extremely negative stance on vaping and has been criticized by tobacco control experts around the world for omitting crucial facts in the vaping-related information it has published.

Mexican Government Blames E-Cigarettes for U.S. Vaping Lung Illness

Among the reasons cited for the ban are the notions that vaping:

  • Inflames the respiratory system
  • Increases white blood cell count
  • Causes opacities in the lungs
  • Reduces the body’s oxygen supply
  • Causes respiratory failure
  • Increases the likelihood of viral infections
  • Increases the likelihood of COPD
  • Increases the likelihood of lung cancer

If you’re reading closely, you’ll note that much of the list above matches the symptom list for EVALI, the devastating lung illness that more than 2,000 people in the U.S. have contracted as a result of using illegal THC vaping cartridges adulterated with Vitamin E acetate. The problem with Lopez Obrador’s logic, however, is that the lung illness has nothing to do with nicotine e-liquid. Obviously, that fact isn’t mentioned anywhere in the president’s decree.

Lopez Obrador Cites Information From the WHO in the Vaping Import Ban

In Lopez Obrador’s decree, he cites information from the WHO – and the need to protect public health – as the primary motivations behind the ban on imported vaping products. In particular, the decree mentions the purported danger of second-hand vapour exposure. 

So, what does the WHO say about vaping? The WHO page on e-cigarettes, it turns out, isn’t positive at all. One might even call it horribly biased against the very concept of harm reduction. The page completely ignores the available facts about EVALI, saying that e-cigarettes “have been linked to an outbreak of lung injury in the USA,” which is a false statement. In the FAQ section asking whether vaping is more or less dangerous than smoking, the WHO dodges the question, stating that “it is difficult to generalize on the risk to health of [vaping].”

Public health activist Clive Bates lambasted the WHO vaping FAQ, saying the WHO “fails at science and fails at propaganda.” 

Who could possibly have approved the publication of a page that so wilfully ignores the facts? Actually, the name might be familiar to you.

What Is Michael Bloomberg’s Connection to the WHO?

Former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg – anti-vaping activist extraordinaire – is one of the world’s biggest donors to tobacco control organizations such as Tobacco-Free Kids. He has also donated $1 billion to the World Health Organization with the funds earmarked for tobacco control efforts. Bloomberg is actively campaigning to ban flavoured e-cigarettes and e-liquids in cities and states throughout the United States. 

Thanks to Bloomberg’s $1 billion donation, the WHO has ample funds to provide to countries willing to submit to the organization’s vision for tobacco control policy. Nations need only to apply for grant money, and the nations selected to receive that money then have ample funds with which to launch their own tobacco control programs and create new jobs for public workers.

Michael Bloomberg has devoted much of his fortune to the funding of tobacco control initiatives, and his stance against vaping is well documented. As such, the WHO recommends that vaping bans continue in nations where e-cigarettes are already banned.

What Does the Ban on Imported Vaping Products Mean for Mexican Vapers and Vape Shop Owners?

The Lopez Obrador administration maintains that, under Mexico’s existing tobacco control policy, e-cigarette sales were already banned in Mexico. The presential decree, in the administration’s view, only reinforces the existing law and makes the law easier to understand. 

The Mexican supreme court ruled in 2019 that the existing tobacco control policy was unconstitutional. Nevertheless, some worry that the Mexican government could use the presidential decree as justification to conduct stings on vape shops or to confiscate vaping supplies from tourists.

How Many People Vape in Mexico?

Vaping is very popular in Mexico, with estimates suggesting that there may be anywhere from 400,000 to 1.2 million regular vapers in the country despite the government crunch on vaping product sales and imports. With an adult smoking rate of 11.9 percent, it’s also clear that vaping – along with Mexico’s tobacco control policies – have helped to curb the country’s smoking prevalence. 

Dr. Roberto Sussman – president of the Mexican harm reduction association Pro-Vapeo – warns that a ban on vaping imports will only lead to a black market, as all prohibitions do. Sussman also warns that the prohibition will not be successful because hundreds of thousands of people in Mexico already vape and will continue doing so – by whatever means necessary – despite the ban. Those who don’t continue buying vaping products will revert to smoking, making the ban a major loss for public health in Mexico as well. 

Prior to the presidential decree, Sussman had been working with the Mexican Congress on drafting regulations that would establish the framework for a legal vaping industry in Mexico. Sussman warns that the presidential decree could derail that work and potentially set tobacco harm reduction in Mexico back by years.

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