E-cigarette regulators in the US have challenged authorities around the world to develop new approaches towards the way nicotine is consumed by smokers.
Speaking at a global e-cigarette summit in Washington DC, experts from science, regulation and public health gave their views on how the industry should develop to help reduce the number of conventional smokers around the world.
The UAE aims to reduce tobacco consumption from 21.6 per cent to 15.7 per cent among men and from 1.9 per cent to 1.66 per cent among women by the year 2021.
Read more from the e-Cigarette Summit in Washington DC
The UAE's National Tobacco Control Committee intends to bring a complete ban on smoking in public areas, but it remains illegal to sell or distribute e-cigarette devices or fluid refills.
In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the regulatory authority responsible for all tobacco products and electronic nicotine delivery systems.
Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA Centre for Tobacco Products in Silver Spring, Maryland, said regulators and authorities are at a crossroads in how they look to reduce global tobacco use.
“The question now is how can we use the tools of product regulation to have the greatest impact,” he said.
“To improve public health, we need to take a long look at the current approach, as smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the US.
“If we get this right, this will decrease the likelihood of future generations of kids becoming addicted to cigarettes, allow more addicted smokers to quit and enable adults to access nicotine through less harmful products.
“As regulators the challenge now is to strike the appropriate balance that encourages innovation but also protects consumers.”
Reducing consumption of cigarettes and tobacco products is one of the key performance indicators of the pillar of world-class healthcare ambitions of the UAE National Agenda.
Although the sale of e-cigarettes and e-shisha pipes is prohibited in the UAE, vaping is rising in popularity with users reliant on an unregulated black market to feed their habit.
Shops selling vapes, e-cigs and refill liquids can have their goods confiscated and face fines up to Dh500,000 for serial offenders.
The FDA has also vowed to come down hard on e-cig vendors targeting children, and has worked with EBay to shut down illegal on-line sales to under age vapers.
Enforcement alone is not enough, Mr Zeller said, as education methods remain critically important.
“There needs to be a sustained public dialogue on nicotine delivery, as there remains many misconceptions,” Mr Zeller said.
“If we are bold enough to envision a world where cigarettes are no longer capable of sustaining an addiction, then the alternative products need to be out there when smokers need them.
“Kids should not be using any nicotine delivery product, and that should also be part of the discussion.”
On March 15, the FDA issued the Tobacco Product Standard for Nicotine Level of Combusted Cigarettes, an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
One possible nicotine product standard policy under review by the FDA estimates more than 33 million potential smokers will be deterred from taking up cigarettes by 2100, with smoking rates reducing from current levels of about 15 per cent in the US to just 1.4 per cent.
The policy estimates more than 8 million smoking related deaths in the country will be avoided as a result.
The FDA issued further regulation of flavours in tobacco products and is seeking more research on the role flavours play in consumer behaviours, young people and their associated health risks.
Professor Eric Donny, professor of physiology and pharmacology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, said smoking declined when people used reduced nicotine cigarettes.
“In order to drive down smoking levels, you have to come up with a substitute for it,” he said.
“A product may address withdrawal systems, but they are not always a valid substitute for cigarettes themselves.
“We’ve seen patches increase the rate of compliance, but people were still smoking cigarettes.
“In many consumer studies, we’ve seen the most common alternative products used are e-cigarettes.”