Mexico fights electronic cigarettes as their sales increase

Published January 19, 2015


Health authorities have seized the biggest shipment of electronic cigarettes in Mexico's history, more than 9,000 units of a product whose use is banned in this country but which, according to experts, is increasing due to the unproved belief that they help people quit smoking.

"They are products that have not been confirmed anywhere in the world to have the necessary safety, quality and effectiveness to replace the use of tobacco, but unfortunately people believe they are a viable means to stop smoking when no evidence for that exists," Alvaro Perez Vega, commissioner of the Cofrepis Health Operation, told Efe.

Last week the Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks, or Cofrepis, closed two establishments in the Mexican capital for selling such products, which are banned by health legislation, and seized 9,455 e-cigarettes and accessories.

Counting these, over the past two years a total of 11,700 e-cigarettes and accessories have been confiscated, Perez Vega said, adding that most of those items are "smuggled" into Mexico from China.

The General Tobacco Control Law bans importing, selling, distributing, displaying, promoting or producing any object that is not a tobacco product but which displays some elements of a tobacco brand or some design or audio effect that identifies it with tobacco products.

And since e-cigarettes have the same shape as traditional cigarettes, they are subject to that prohibition.

But it's not just their similarity to real cigarettes nor their possibly false promise that concerns health authorities - the ban is, above all, because in the liquid that e-cigarettes contain "there are unregulated chemical components that could be damaging and dangerous."

Dr. Guadalupe Ponciano Rodriguez, a specialist in treating addictions, said that many e-cigarette brands actually contain nicotine, but the makers never say how much, and people have the mistaken idea that what they're smoking is "just water vapor."

"That smoke really isn't water vapor. The makers include propylene and diethylene glycol, which are highly irritating types of alcohol," she said.

In her opinion, other treatments are much more effective like "nicotine patches, inhalers, chewing gum," which really do help people quit smoking while getting rid of habits related to that practice. EFE