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Mexico: Ban on Importing Electronic Cigarettes Receives World Health Organization Award

(June 29, 2020) On May 22, 2020, the Pan American Health Organization (the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO)) announced that the Mexican government had won an award in recognition of the ban on the importation of electronic cigarettes that it enacted in February 2020.

The World No-Tobacco Day (WNTD) Awards are part of the annual tobacco control campaign organized by the WHO on May 31, which the WHO has proclaimed as World No-Tobacco Day. The goal of the WNTD is to raise awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco use and discourage its use in any form.

Background

In February 2020, Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, issued an executive order (EO) banning the importation of electronic cigarettes, which had been brought into Mexico from abroad in large quantities in the last few years.

The preamble of the EO explains that the ban was issued in accordance with article 131 of the Mexican Constitution, which provides that the president may prohibit the importation of particular products if doing so is deemed urgent and beneficial to the country.

In this instance, the preamble explains that the benefit and objective of the ban is to protect the health of the Mexican people, citing several sources that have recently warned about the high health risks that electronic cigarettes pose to those who use them.

Specifically, the Mexican government indicated in its press release regarding the ban that, according to the WHO, e-cigarettes may lead to the consumption of toxic substances and are a risk not only for smokers, but also for people exposed to secondhand smoke emanating from these devices, as the substances burned by e-cigarettes often include chemicals harmful to the heart and lungs.

In addition, the EO cites information reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, in September 2019, there were approximately 200 documented cases of patients who had suffered serious lung injuries related to the use of electronic cigarettes in about 25 American states.

The press release also stated that, according to a survey conducted by Mexico’s National Council on Addictions, 938,000 teenagers in Mexico have tried e-cigarettes, and about 160,000 use such devices regularly, a fact that prompted the Mexican government to take action.

Criticism of the Ban

Some Mexican legislators have expressed disagreement with the presidential EO because they believe that the Congress should have the responsibility for regulating e-cigarettes. In their view, the issue of health risks associated with e-cigarettes should be discussed by Congress and, if appropriate, addressed by legislation that is properly informed by in-depth analysis of all available pertinent data. They added that an absolute ban on the importation of all types of electronic smoking devices could lead to the creation of an e-cigarette black market.