The Ministry of Health is considering banning the sale of electronic cigarettes in Israel
In recent years, the Ministry of Health has been leading the implementation of a national plan for reducing smoking and smoking-related damage. The program has been implemented through the use of legislation and enforcement to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, promotion of a taxation policy on tobacco products, advocacy intended to raise awareness of smoking and the damage it causes, and incentives to stop smoking.
In addition, beginning in 2010, proven and effective technologies for withdrawal from smoking, have been added into the basket of health services. These services include group workshops and prescription drugs.
Lately we have witnessed a growing trend toward distribution of various brands of “electronic cigarettes” – a cigarette-shaped electrical vaporization device used to inhale various substances into the palate and the respiratory tracts, which include a solution of odorizing and flavoring agents and other active ingredients – substances which generate smoke-like steam.
Some of the cigarette brands contain nicotine, which is an addictive, toxic substance. Some of the electronic cigarettes doe not contain nicotine. These products are not subject to oversight regarding their makeup and the potential health hazards they pose.
It is important to stress that not a single electronic cigarette product, whether with or without nicotine, which is currently on sale in Israel, has received approval from the Ministry of Health.
The electronic cigarette is sold under false pretenses as a so-called safe substitute to the regular cigarette, and as a device which helps in withdrawing from smoking addiction. It is sold in stores and over the Internet, exploiting the fact that that this is a new product, still untested and lacking in-depth study, and that therefore there is no regulatory policy towards it in Israel or worldwide, contrary to the limitations in place restricting the tobacco industry, like restrictions on advertising and marketing of tobacco products, prohibition of smoking in public places etc..
In 2009, the American FDA issued a severe warning regarding the safety of using electronic cigarettes, due to the presence of carcinogenic substances in several of the electronic cigarette brands which it tested, and in the absence of proof as to the efficacy of this device in withdrawal from smoking addiction. Following that, many countries imposed limitations on the marketing and import of electronic cigarettes, to the extent of totally banning marketing and importing them.
The Ministry of Health in Israel has issued public warnings on the use of these cigarettes due to the potential risks. However in spite of all these, the interest and the use of these products has increased, with an alarming increase in the volumes of advertising and marketing of these cigarettes.
This trend, along with reports on irregular use of electronic cigarettes among the public, such as among school children, and the presence of a black market for electronic cigarettes containing psychoactive substances, have led to the formation of a multidisciplinary professional panel under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, to evaluate this issue, on all of its different facets and implications, including the health and consumer issues, and to recommend a policy regulating the electronic cigarettes market.
The panel reviewed the regulation of such cigarettes in other countries and also reviewed various studies which have been made so far concerning the efficiency, safety, and modus operandi of these devices, and determined that at this point there is considerable doubt as to the safety of using these cigarettes, whether or not they contain nicotine. Furthermore, noted the panel, that there is no medical proof of the efficacy of using them, for example in withdrawing from the smoking habit, and there is no proof of the safety of exposure to the vapors emitted from electronic cigarettes, and that this is, in fact, an exposure to second hand smoking.
The panel’s recommendations:
In view of these and other findings, the panel recommended the prohibition of the manufacture, importation, and marketing of electronic cigarettes in Israel. The panel recommended that this move be made through a temporary order, which will remain in effect for 5 years.
The panel recommended that, over the 5 years of the temporary order, the Ministry of Health will continue to monitor the worldwide scientific developments on the risks or the safety of using electronic cigarettes, the benefits or the lack thereof in withdrawing from smoking, and after the regulatory policies in other countries around the world, and following that, a decision will be taken as to whether to reverse or amend the temporary order.
The panel also recommended another possible alternative for regulating the issue of the electronic cigarette, according to which it will be regarded as a tobacco product and as such, all of the regulatory practices applicable to tobacco products would apply to the electronic cigarettes, including taxation, advertising and marketing restrictions, prohibition on smoking in public places, increasing the transparency and reporting to the public of the dangers from using the product, and more.
As a part of the process of evaluating the panel’s recommendations, the Ministry of Health is interested in receiving the public’s reaction in this matter. The Ministry of Health therefore invites anyone wishing to dispute, comment, or make constructive suggestions on this matter, to contact the Ministry of Health via the public participation website at: www.shituf.gov.il
All communications must be sent until 14 Nissan (25 March, 2013). After this date, these communications will be discussed and the regulatory policy will be determined. Meetings with part of those who made suggestions will be held during April and May 2013.
To see a summary presentation made by the panel and its recommendations (Hebrew)