Big tobacco firms plan launch of vaping products in UAE

British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International set to roll out non-combustible smoking alternatives this year

Big tobacco firms are planing to launch smoke free products in the UAE following a relaxing of restrictions on sales of e-cigarettes. Phil Noble / Reuters
Big tobacco firms are planing to launch smoke free products in the UAE following a relaxing of restrictions on sales of e-cigarettes. Phil Noble / Reuters

Tobacco giants are planning a full-scale assault on the UAE’s emerging e-cigarette market after authorities agreed to permit their sale.

British American Tobacco and Philip Morris International - two of the biggest cigarette producers in the world - are both now set to launch products in the country.

Their move comes as the UAE government announced plans to lift a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes and related smoking paraphernalia next month.

Experts believe other brands may soon follow, cashing in on a market now worth some US$26bn (Dh95bn) per year globally.

“In the UAE specifically, regulators have long looked at the e-cigarette and vapour category,” said Julian Prynn, marketing director at BAT Middle East.

“With more evidence-based scientific research emphasising the potential harm reduction of these products, it was only a matter of time until they became legal in the country.”

Tobacco companies around the world are keen to be seen promoting a more smoke-free future.

They say the phasing out of more traditional combustible products, proven to cause lung and other cancers, is one way to help cut smoking-related disease.

Liquid nicotine ‘vaping’ devices and heat-not-burn products - where tobacco leaves are heated via an electronic device at lower temperatures than conventional cigarettes - are central to those plans.

In 2018, tobacco heating products and vapour revenue at BAT increased by 95 per cent to £901m (Dh4.3bn).

And by 2023-24, the company aims to secure revenue worth £5bn (Dh24bn) from smoking alternatives.

Investment in BAT’s ‘transforming tobacco’ project and the development of new smoke-free products has been significant - about US$2.5bn (Dh9.1bn) since 2013.

PMI has also invested heavily, pumping more than US$4.5bn (Dh16.5bn) into research and development of new products, including its iQOS nicotine delivery system.

Rival BAT is also due to launch its smoke free alternative, the Vype ePen 3, later this year.

“PMI has made a commitment to a smoke-free world and IQOS has already helped nearly six million adult smokers stop using cigarettes and switch to smoke-free alternatives,” said Rami Maktabi, regional director of external affairs at PMI Duty Free.

“Tens of thousands of adult smokers per day globally make the change and switch from cigarettes to IQOS.”

Anti-tobacco lobbyists, meanwhile, have continued to stress their concerns over e-cigarette products.

Parents too have also expressed fears that children will be tempted to use the devices, while some countries have banned products altogether.

Juul, one vaping firm selling a USB-sized inhaler which delivers a nicotine hit, has proved hugely successful among young smokers in the US.

But campaigners claim their fruit infused flavours amount to a cynical marketing ploy aimed at targeting younger consumers.

A 2016 study published by Tobacco Atlas report, an anti-smoking campaign group, revealed the full impact of smoking in the Emirates.

It said over that year, tobacco smoking was responsible for more than 2,900 deaths, costing the UAE US$569m (Dh2bn) in lost productivity and healthcare costs.

In India, estimated to have around 120 million smokers, health authorities have blocked Juul products from entering the market.

A letter from the Indian health secretary Preeti Sudan claimed young people would be particularly vulnerable to Juul products, which would undermine tobacco control.

A clinical study comparing the health impacts on users of Juul products with conventional smokers was presented at the US Society for Research on Nicotine & Tobacco (SRNT) 2019 Annual Meeting in San Francisco in February.

The firm’s scientists claimed carcinogens observed in the use of combustible cigarettes were significantly lower in abstainers and Juul users, compared with smokers.

“The more that can be done to eliminate cigarettes, the greater the impact will be on the public health,” said Kevin Burns, chief executive officer at Juul Labs.

Updated: March 22, 2019 03:13 PM


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