Ministry to consult with public on e-cigarette ban
Health Ministry requests public feedback on electronic cigarettes before deciding whether to ban them.
A MAN smokes in Duesseldorf Photo: Ina Fassbender/Reuters
Although the use of electronic cigarettes – with or without nicotine – has been
prohibited in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand, restricted in
the UK, Finland, Malaysia and Singapore and is soon to be barred in New York
State and Russia – the Health Ministry in Jerusalem is only now asking the
public its opinion on the product.
While a ministry committee has
recommended that the marketing, import and use of e-cigarettes be prohibited for
five years, after which the question would be assessed, the ministry has decided
to make a decision on e-cigs only after consulting with the public.
ministry said on Thursday that in recent years, e-cigs – first available abroad
in 2004 – have become very popular among smokers and former smokers. The
electronic devices run on batteries, produce steam that looks like smoke and is
inhaled, use solutions with taste and odor, and some contain addictive
The ministry noted that although e-cigs are widely sold in
Israel, they have never received the required ministry approval, and “there is
no supervision of their content and [of] the potential health risks of the
“E-cigs are presented in a misleading way, as a supposed safe
alternative to regular cigarettes and a supposed means to help people kick the
habit,” the ministry said.
“They are sold in shops or via the Internet,
taking advantage of the fact that they have never been studied in depth,” it
As a result, limitations in many countries have not yet been set
down, unlike those relating to tobacco products, their use, sale and where
smoking is still permitted.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post to comment on the
ministry statement, Israel Council for the Prevention of Smoking chairman Amos
Hausner said that “Russia has just shown determination to completely prohibit
use of any kind of e-cig. This move was praised at the recent conference
of the Harvard School of Public Health that I just attended.
also prohibited all advertising, which has not happened in Israel because [of]
the powerful tobacco lobby. According to a new survey, two-thirds of
Israelis are exposed to tobacco smoke against their will, compared to only 10
percent of Canadians.”
Hausner, a lawyer who has fought cigarettes for
decades, said that the “Israeli hesitation on e-cigs is not a good
This product has penetrated the market with claims it is less
dangerous than cigarettes and even beneficial‚ but its short- and long-term
effects have not yet been studied. The government is gambling on the
“Every medication that reaches the human digestive system, for
example, has to pass fundamental checks before being approved. This [product]
involves smoke or steam passing directly into the respiratory system – much more
sensitive and less protected from danger than the digestive system – and these
substances flow directly into the brain.”
The national council chairman
continued that “millions and even billions of dollars are invested into the
study of the effects of medications and [many of these] are barred from sale
after years of use, when their long-term effects on humans are found to be
Here we have a product after cheap development that has not
been tested for their effects at all,” Hausner concluded.
In 2009, the US
Food and Drug Administration issued a severe warning against e-cigs, because a
number of brands were found to contain carcinogenic substances and because they
were not proven to help in giving up smoking.
The ministry here has
issued warnings against the use of ecigs, but nevertheless, their advertising,
sale and use have skyrocketed. In 2010, the ministry decided to include, in the
health services basket, a number of drugs and other proven technologies to help
smokers quit, and these did not include e-cigs.
The ministry said that
children have also been using them, and that a black market of e-cigs containing
psychoactive substances that affect the brain has arisen.
As a result,
the ministry last year set up a multidisciplinary committee to investigate the
subject from all angles. It has not yet issued a report, but said that the
committee “has great doubts about the safety, efficacy and characteristics of
use, thus there is doubt about their safety – whether they contain nicotine or
The committee also decided that there is no scientific proof that
e-cigs are effective in stopping smoking, or that their “steam” does not expose
bystanders to health dangers against their will, the ministry said.
ministry committee thus recommended the prohibition of the manufacture, import
and marketing of e-cigarettes in Israel and that the issue be assessed after
five years of prohibition. Alternatively, the ministry could decide to regard
e-cigs as tobacco products and require them to meet all restrictions that exist
on cigarettes made from tobacco, including the prohibition of smoking them in
In the meantime, the ministry said it would continue to “follow
scientific developments around the world regarding the risks, or safety, of the
use of e-cigs, and their efficacy, or lack of it, in stopping smoking,” and then
would decide what to do.
As a result, the ministry has decided to solicit
public views of the matter via the website www.shituf.gov.il until March 25,
2013. It will announce its decision over the summer.