Venezuela Bans Vaping Products

The government of Venezuela has recently implemented a complete prohibition on the manufacture, sale, import and use of all electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products. This comprehensive ban comes despite no limits being placed on regular combustible cigarettes, which remain legal and widely available in Venezuela.

Sweeping Ban on All Vaping Products

The far-reaching ban on vaping products was enacted through an August 2022 resolution by Venezuela’s health ministry. The resolution was published in the country’s official state gazette, giving it the full force of law.

Specifically, the health ministry resolution bans the “manufacture, storage, distribution, circulation, commercialization, import, export, use, consumption, advertising, promotion and sponsorship” of all e-cigarettes and heated tobacco devices and products. This is an extensive prohibition covering every aspect of the vaping market, including bans on making, selling, importing or even using such products.

Ban Includes Non-Nicotine E-Cigarettes

Notably, the prohibition also includes vaping products that contain zero nicotine. Venezuela’s ban makes no distinction between nicotine and non-nicotine e-cigarettes or heated tobacco items. The entire category is comprehensively outlawed under the resolution.

The health ministry provided a rationale pointing to contested studies allegedly showing e-cigarettes contain “totally toxic” substances that are addictive and increase the risk of various diseases like heart disorders and lung problems. However, many medical experts globally dispute these claims, considering vaping to be far less dangerous and hazardous compared to regular tobacco smoking.

No Limits Imposed on Deadly Cigarettes

While citing these controversial health concerns to impose a complete ban on vaping, the government has taken no action to prohibit traditional combustible cigarettes in Venezuela. Yet cigarettes are undisputably proven to cause the very same health conditions that were used as a rationale by the health ministry to ban e-cigarettes. Cigarettes lead to diseases like cancer, heart disease, lung disorders and emphysema through their tar, carbon monoxide and thousands of chemicals created when burned.

Venezuela did not explain why cigarettes remain legal if health motivations were behind the vaping prohibition. According to data, around 14 percent of Venezuelan adults smoke daily, leading to over 17,000 deaths annually from conditions directly caused by cigarette smoking. But no limits or prohibitions have been discussed for this far deadlier product that kills so many Venezuelans each year.

The contradiction between banning all vaping products based on health concerns while leaving infinitely more harmful cigarettes perfectly legal has raised skepticism from health experts focused on tobacco harm reduction strategies. They consider prohibiting or limiting access to low-risk alternatives like e-cigarettes while keeping cigarettes readily available to likely be counterproductive for public health goals.

Harsh Enforcement Threatened for Ban Violations

Venezuelan authorities have threatened strict punishment for anyone violating the comprehensive prohibition on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco items. Sellers of vaping products face potential jail time, confiscation of goods or even physical violence at the hands of police and security forces. In response to these threats, Venezuela’s legal vape stores have shut down their operations indefinitely until more is known.

Public health observers expect a substantial illicit market for vaping products to emerge in Venezuela given the sweeping ban coupled with threats of harsh enforcement. This could make access to vaping products more dangerous compared to a regulated market. The public health impacts of the ban remain to be seen, but limiting safer nicotine sources while the deadly cigarette market continues unfettered could have consequences for Venezuela’s smoking-related disease and death rates.

Matthew Ma