Argentina yesterday banned electronic cigarettes, apparently because of concerns over the safety of the product and concerns about whether these devices actually can help smokers to quit.
According to an article from the AFP: "Argentina on Monday banned the import, sale and promotion of electronic cigarettes, saying there is no proof they help smokers kick the tobacco habit. ... Manufacturers say the cigarettes are not harmful to the smoker or people around them -- a claim health experts reject. Experts also said the devices, which are meant to simulate the experience of puffing on a cigarette, are ineffective in helping smokers end their habit."There is no scientific evidence that validates these products as auxiliary measures to stop smoking, nor their safety," said Roberto Lede, a senior official in Argentina's state regulatory office said.The statement mentioned a World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation stating that the level of safety and the degree of nicotine absorption by these products has not been established. Eduardo Bianco, a leading Uruguayan anti-tobacco expert, said at a WHO health conference in Uruguay in November that electronic cigarettes "sabotaged smoking prevention efforts" designed to encourage people to quit."
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This is great news for the tobacco companies in Argentina, as it ensures that their profits will not be threatened and that a viable method for smokers to quit using their products will remain unavailable. The country could not have done anything more significant to protect the profits of its tobacco companies.
The health authorities' claim that there is no evidence that electronic cigarettes can help smokers quit is fallacious. There is abundant evidence that thousands of smokers have been able to quit smoking, or at least cut down substantially, with the help of electronic cigarettes. It has also been established that electronic cigarettes are much safer than tobacco cigarettes. Furthermore, there is no evidence that these products pose any dangers to bystanders.
Argentina's action represents a huge victory for the transnational tobacco companies and a huge defeat for the public's health.