Kazakhs Advocate for Strict Control of Vape Sales Instead of a Complete Ban
Vaping has become a subject of intense debate in Kazakh society, with concerns mainly focused on the unrestricted sale of vapes to minors. Kazakhstan already has legislation in place to restrict the sale of vapes to children, prohibiting their sale to individuals under the age of 18 as outlined in Article 110 of the Code “On the Health of the People and the Healthcare System of the Republic of Kazakhstan.”
However, this restriction does not apply to “gray” sellers who sell vapes to teenagers. The underlying problem seems to lie in the lack of certification for vape products in our country and the absence of provisions to enforce the ban on their display and open placement. Although the ban exists, inspections are not conducted. The petition suggests that it would be more effective to regulate the existing law and introduce certification.
According to experts, a complete ban on vapes, which is advocated by the Ministry of Health and anti-tobacco activists, does not guarantee a solution to the issue of underage vaping. Additionally, such a ban encroaches upon the interests of adult smokers who view vapes and other tobacco heating systems as less harmful alternatives to conventional cigarettes.
In Kazakhstan, approximately 70-80% of the vaping market operates in the “gray zone.” This situation arises due to the lack of strict government control and regulation, primarily caused by a three-year moratorium on inspections for small and medium-sized businesses. During this period, the underground circulation of vapes and their sale to minors has gained momentum. Banning vape sales should not be the solution to this coincidental occurrence, especially since it will not effectively address the problem. Currently, 80% of underage smokers purchase vapes through social networks. Imposing bans will have little impact on unofficial sellers, and consequently, the volume of vape sales to teenagers will remain unchanged. Moreover, these bans will result in the closure of legitimate stores catering to adult customers, leading them to revert to smoking regular cigarettes, which pose greater health risks. Anton Shishkovsky, the head of the Association of Vapers of Kazakhstan, supports this viewpoint.
Implementing a direct prohibition on vape sales in Kazakhstan will likely stimulate the underground import and sale of counterfeit products, which can be even more harmful and dangerous than regular cigarettes, as experts have warned.
Neither anti-tobacco activists, the Majilis, nor the Ministry of Health can provide a clear answer regarding how the import of vapes into Kazakhstan can be controlled, given the open border with Russia. Our neighboring country also deliberated on the issue of banning vapes, but ultimately decided to prohibit their sale to minors starting from June 1st of this year. In our petition, we propose a similar ban on selling vapes to individuals under the age of 21. There is no need to devise new ineffective bans, similar to what happened with hookah and snus. Although these products were banned, unscrupulous sellers simply went underground and evaded tax payments to the state budget, as pointed out by Tatiana Fominova.
Anton Shishkovsky supports this stance and urges the Parliament and Government not to introduce new and ineffective measures to reduce vape consumption among minors. Instead, the focus should be on regulating and strictly controlling the e-cigarette market.
In Kazakhstan, mechanisms already exist to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to teenagers, and it is essential to ensure their enforcement. These products were initially designed for adult smokers as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes and to reduce associated health risks. Therefore, we should follow the example of developed countries and the practices of our neighbors by introducing a ban solely on selling vapes to minors, just as it was done with cigarettes and alcohol. Implementing a complete ban on vapes will not work for various reasons, as believed by Anton Shishkovsky.
Opponents of a total vape ban urge the Parliament and authorities to consider the opinion of the Kazakhs who signed the petition and make a well-considered decision.
Compliance with and enforcement of the existing bans stipulated in the law, along with the urgent establishment of regulations for vape products, is crucial in guaranteeing their technical safety concerning nicotine dosage, permissible substances, and aerosol parameters. Hence, we call upon the government and members of the Majilis to address this public demand and consider stricter regulation instead of a complete ban, as suggested by Dmitry Zhukov.
It is worth mentioning that in May of this year, Nurgul Tau, a member of the Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, proposed a ban on vape sales in the country. This idea garnered support from the Ministry of Health.