By Luke Andrews Health Reporter For Dailymail.Com
17:40 20 Dec 2023, updated 18:20 20 Dec 2023
Once touted as a healthy way to quit smoking, vapes are now being banned in many countries amid fears they are ‘no better than cigarettes’.
A total of 34 countries — including Mexico, Brazil and Norway — had banned the sale of the devices by July 2023, according to the World Health Organization.
And 87 — mainly in the West — had imposed restrictions on their sales, such as outlawing certain flavors and online sales. Back in 2020, 79 had adopted bans.
The US — which has the largest vape market in the world — is nowhere near a nationwide ban, but there are signs of a shift among the states — with five outlawing the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
The WHO — which recently called for all flavored vapes to be banned — is urging for more ‘urgent’ action to curb use of the devices. It noted that 74 countries don’t have any rules in place.
But even in areas where vapes are banned, the devices — and their fruity varieties — remain available because of poor enforcement.
About one in twenty adults — or 11million people — use vapes in the United States, according to statistics.
But among teenagers and young adults, use is as high as one in four in certain age groups.
Tobacco companies claim e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes and pose significantly lower risks to health.
But a growing body of evidence shows the devices generate dangerous substances that damage the lungs and raise the risk of heart and lung problems.
WHO Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this week: ‘Kids are being recruited and trapped at an early age to use e-cigarettes and may get hooked on nicotine.’
‘I urge countries to implement strict measures to prevent uptake to protect their citizens, especially their children and young people.’
The WHO’s director of health promotion, Dr Ruediger Krech, added: ‘E-cigarettes target children through social media and influencers, with at least 16,000 flavors.
‘Some of these products [even] use cartoon characters and have sleek designs, which appeal to the younger generation.’
Countries are scrambling for the best way to regulate vapes amid their surging popularity and growing concerns over their health effects.
Many are imposing bans or restrictions, but a lack of enforcement is making largely ineffective in some areas — with vapes remaining available.
Over the last three years, six countries have moved to ban the sale of vapes entirely — Cabo Verde, Laos, Nicaragua, Norway, Turkey and Vanuata.
Turkey has banned the import of e-cigarettes as well as their sale and distribution, with its ruler Recep Tayyip Erdogan previously saying of vape companies: ‘They get rich by poisoning our people, we will not allow that.’
In Norway, the country has a ban on all new nicotine products entering the market but it is already looking to loosen the restriction.
Its health ministry says vapes should be made available to help people quit smoking, but plans to refuse to sell the fruit and berry flavors people get hooked on.
Over the same period, four countries have gone the other way and lifted their restrictions on vapes — Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Palestinian territories.
For Egypt, where about one in five adults smoke and the biggest smoker in the Middle East, the ban was lifted in 2022 to make vapes available to help people quit cigarettes.
In the US, policymakers are coming under pressure to do more to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes in the country and their availability to children.
All e-cigarette companies are meant to apply to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval before selling their products in the US.
But enforcement of this rule has been patchy at best, with flavored vapes widely available despite the FDA having never approved a flavored device. The agency says it will not authorize flavored vapes without ‘extraordinary evidence’.
Five states in the US have banned the sale of flavored vapes — California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island — alongside several cities.
The strictest ban is in place in San Francisco, which banned the sale of all vape devices in 2019 in an attempt to crack down on their use in the city.
Another eight states — Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont — ban online sales of e-cigarettes.
But many experts say more action is needed to discourage youngsters from picking up the habit and becoming hooked on nicotine.
Current statistics show nearly eight percent of middle and high school students vape, or around 2.1million children, mostly using flavored devices.
A quarter of children in 12th grade admit to using the devices at least once within the past year.
This figure has dropped slightly, from 2.55million in 2022, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) heralded as ‘great progress’ — but experts say much more work is needed.