Ministry to monitor e-cigarettes

Barbados is moving to regulate the use of electronic cigarettes, commonly referred to as e-cigarettes.

Minister of Health John Boyce reported today that Cabinet had approved his ministry’s request for regulation and draft legislation. Draft legislation has been presented to the ministry for review.

“It is expected that this amendment, along with legislation to adopt the CARICOM Standard On Packaging And Labelling Of Tobacco Products will be ready for consideration in 2015, and will strengthen our national response to tobacco control,” Boyce told those gathered for the opening of the Aan American Health Organization (Paho)/World Health Organization (Who) Sub-Regional Training Workshop On Tobacco Taxation at PAHO headquarters this morning.

He made the disclosure as he noted that policymakers must keep tobacco control at the forefront of public health policy and be ready to respond when new threats arise, including the e-cigarette.

An e-cigarette is a battery-powered vaporizer that has the feel of tobacco smoking. It produces a mist rather than cigarette smoke. A heating element vaporizes a liquid solution that usually contains a mixture of propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine and flavourings.

Electronic cigarette.
Electronic cigarette/e-cigarette.

The minister said the growing popularity of the e-cigarette, especially manufacturer’s claims of the product being a healthier alternative to tobacco, or promotion of its use for smoking cessation demonstrated this point and was cause for concern.

“A recent report by the WHO highlights the need for Government regulation to restrict advertising, promotion and sponsorship to ensure that manufacturers of the e-cigarette do not target youth and non-smokers or persons who do not currently use nicotine,” he said.

“The report also advises that legal steps should be taken to end use of the e-cigarette indoors, in public and workplaces, as evidence suggests that exhaled e-cigarette aerosols increases the background air level of some toxicants, nicotine and particles.”

Boyce also told the meeting that Government intended to review its analytical and administrative tools as they related to tobacco taxation.

“Therefore, policies relating to consumer behaviour and consumption of tobacco products, especially from a health perspective, would be surely reviewed. The strengths and weaknesses of tobacco taxation would have to be monitored closely to determine their effectiveness in achieving policy objectives related to tobacco control,” he said.

The minister also revealed that tobacco consumption in Barbados had decreased from 32 per cent in 1982 to 8.2 per cent in 2007, and preliminary results from the most recent survey completed in 2013 showed an even further decline.

He praised the efforts of pioneers such as Dr Tony Gale and the Barbados Cancer Society, along with the Heart & Stroke Foundation, the National Council On Substance Abuse, the National Committee For The Prevention Of Alcohol And Drug Dependency, the National NCD Commission and faith-based organizations.

Their efforts, he maintained, were buttressed by Government policy which at an early stage saw the benefit of banning tobacco smoking in health care facilities and of restricting the advertisement of tobacco products on television to the late evening hours. In 2010, the sale of tobacco products to minors was banned and regulations to prevent tobacco smoking in public places were implemented.

Boyce noted that while no formal evaluation had been conducted, informal assessments indicated a high degree of compliance with both measures.

The three-day meeting will consider issues of taxation and price of tobacco products for English-speaking Caribbean countries, with a focus on the economics of tobacco taxation and the role of the WHO Framework Convention On Tobacco Control and tobacco taxes.

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