Muscat: A bootleg trade in electronic cigarettes is operating across Oman, despite a ban on ‘vaping’ and e-cigarettes introduced in December. People returning from abroad are bringing in electronic cigarettes and feeding the market, according to a Ministry of Health official.
Read here: E-cigarettes, e-shisha banned in Oman
Anyone bringing vaping devices or e-cigarettes into the country is breaking Omani law and faces a fine of OMR500. The same applies to anyone selling them here.
The Royal Oman Police (ROP) has said it does not arrest people for smoking e-cigarettes while the Ministry of Health has announced it is to study the volume of users in the Sultanate. A senior official at the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP) also confirmed that they don’t target individuals but prevent people from selling or distributing it for health reasons. “It is not a crime to vape here,” the official asserted.
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The official, however, said that it is illegal to sell them in stores and PACP does seize whenever they spot them. It is eight months since the government introduced a ban on the import and sale of electronic cigarettes, however Muscat residents continue to vape.
Under the new ruling which came into effect in December 2015, a fine of OMR500 is slapped on violators who trade in illegal cigarettes. “The fine is doubled in case of a repeat violation,” the decision read.
Dr Jawad Al Lawati, senior consultant and rapporteur at the National Tobacco Control of the Ministry of Health, said that electronic cigarettes make their way into Oman in two main ways.
Sale on internet
“One is through the internet and the other is when people go abroad they bring two or three pieces with them,” he said, adding that the customs hold them whenever they spot them.
“It is not commercially or legally available in Oman. Yet people...you know...it’s called bootlegging. They bring it with them. You can’t screen everybody at airports. People do get away with it...,” he said.
e-cigarette users said that they bought the cigarettes when they went abroad. “Since they can be disassembled, I split them up and put them in two separate bags to bring them in,” said a resident, who asked to remain anonymous. “I don’t see how vaping is worse than conventional cigarettes - it is helping me quit smoking,” she added.
Dr Lawati also confirmed that electronic cigarettes and electronic shisha (hookah) have been banned in Oman in keeping with a decision taken by the Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP) and Ministry of Commerce (MOC).
The decision 698/2015 was issued by the PACP regarding prevention of distribution of e-cigarettes and e-shishas in the interest of safeguarding public health on December 1, 2015.
Dr Lawati added that many cases of deadly explosions were reported due to people smoking e-cigarettes.
“Sometimes it blows up in faces and pockets,” he said.
Doctors also advised caution. “They contain cartridges filled with nicotine and other chemicals which are harmful for health,” Dr Pradeep Maheswari, specialist of internal medicine at Atlas Hospital, said.
The Ministry of Health, however, says it does not yet have figures on how many people uses e-cigarettes in Oman.
“We plan to do a study on this,” Lawati added