Health authorities in Mexico have closed down two vape stores in Mexico City, seizing almost 9,500 devices and citing the technical illegality of e-cigarettes in the country. The action has been taken under the General Tobacco Control Law, which – despite not originally having e-cigarettes in mind – has been deemed to apply to e-cigarettes. Prior to this seizure, only around 2,200 devices had been seized, and this may be an indication that authorities are planning on stepping up activity against vaping.
Seizing E-Cigs, Closing Vape Stores and the General Tobacco Control Law
The closure of the stores was conducted by the Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks (Cofepris), who seized their largest shipment ever – 9,455 devices and accessories – under existing laws. Over the past two years, only around 11,700 e-cigs and accessories have been seized, so this month’s move is the first really substantial effort against e-cigarettes to date, as more and more people in Mexico start to vape. According to the authorities, these e-cigarettes are “smuggled” in from China.
The move is allowed under Article 16 of the General Tobacco Control Law (link to English translation), which makes it illegal to sell, trade, distribute, produce, promote or display any non-tobacco product that resembles a tobacco product in terms of design, brand elements or even sound. This was originally intended to stop the sale of things like candy cigarettes, but it’s easy to see how it could be argued that e-cigarettes fall under this description.
Why Are They Being Harsh on E-Cigarettes? The Same Old Nonsense
Seemingly attempting to explain why vape shops are being closed down, the move was accompanied by plenty of criticism of e-cigarettes. Alvaro Perez Vega of Cofepris said, “They are products that have not been confirmed anywhere in the world to have the necessary safety, quality and effectiveness to replace the use of tobacco, but unfortunately people believe they are a viable means to stop smoking when no evidence for that exists.”
Of course there really is evidence, but that doesn’t matter. All around the world – at least when it comes to e-cigs – political rhetoric drowns out the science every time. People simply say whatever they like. Some additional comments were offered to the media by an addiction specialist, who commented (even more stupidly) that makers “never say how much” nicotine is present in e-liquids (which they obviously do), and that “[the] smoke really isn't water vapor. The makers include propylene and diethylene glycol, which are highly irritating types of alcohol.”
The FDA analysis – the only such analysis to find diethylene glycol in an e-liquid – was conducted in 2009, and it’s still being trotted out when people need to make e-cigarettes look bad. Why? Because there is no reasonable reason whatsoever to be against vaping.
And this is especially true if you’re in a country like Mexico, where the smoking rate (p286) is around 37 percent for men (although much lower for women, at 12.4 percent). E-cigarettes hold more potential to bring this rate down (in virtually any county) than any technology or approach in recent memory, or even potentially in the whole history of smoking. The reason for this is that they’re fun! You get your nicotine, you can continue to enjoy something very much like smoking, but you don’t expose yourself to needless risk. However, the fact that e-cigs can actually be enjoyed is undoubtedly the reason for the backlash: how dare we try to consume nicotine recreationally and safely?!
Conclusion – A Sad Development for Mexican Vapers
So the future of vaping in Mexico looks sadly uncertain, and if more vape shops are closed and more shipments ceased, smokers in the country will be stuck with ineffective (and un-enjoyable) pharmaceutical options for quitting and little else. Whether the application of the law could be challenged is another question, but if things keep going this way, vapers in Mexico will find it more and more difficult to stock up on essentials like e-liquid, and many may have no viable option but to return to smoking.