JUUL, a famous vape brand was just recently banned by the government of Israel. This would include sales and importation of the said company due to its high nicotine content levels that pose danger to public health. Since earlier this year, JUUL has been selling vape products in Israel and the ban will start to take effect on September 3. According to the report of the Times of Israel, the order was signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the country’s health minister, last Monday, August 22. The order was requested by Yaakov Litzman, the Deputy Health Minister.
The American, San Francisco-based product is sold now in 33 and 59 mg/ml. The Health Ministry strictly prohibits selling vape products with a high nicotine concentration level which is higher than 20 mg/ml, like JUUL products sold in Israel. However, this will apparently leave a good opportunity for JUUL Labs because they can still sell their U.K. Version. The EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) imposed restrictions on the exact level of nicotine and now JUUL as been selling its most-sought-after e-cigarette in the United Kingdom since last month. It is unclear though if the order to ban JUUL sales only prohibits this particular company, and not other vape brands. Just early this month, Haaretz, an Israeli news site, reported that the Health Ministry tried to ban all vapes or vaporizers containing a nicotine concentration content of above 20 mg/ml. According to the report of Reuters, the Health Ministry foresee and considers JUUL as a grave risk to the health of the public.
However, banning JUUL products based on this statement is a vague risk. At the moment, Israel has no laws or codified regulations restricting vape or vapor products, Based on the article of June Haaretz. In fact, Israel does not even have any age restrictions. JUUL is insisting to retailers to only sell to customers age 18 and above. The company has threatened to take legal action against the Israeli government through its Israeli lawyer, Joseph Ashkenazi. Last June, he told the government that putting a ban would be illegal. He suggested that JUUL Labs can sue the government for this action.
Smoking Rates and Status in Israel
According to the report of Ronny Linder-Ganz of Haaretz March last year, the smoking rates in the country increased for the very first time in 5 years. The Israeli anti-smoking advocates put the blame on the imposed tax policy that reduced the price of tobacco as compared to commercial cigarettes. Cigarette imports data show the loose tobacco jumped 21% to 696 tons in 2016 which is equal to 49.6 million packs of cigarettes and nearly 20 times the number of imported loose tobacco in 2011. The surge in the sales of loose tobacco was attributed to cigarette taxes.
The low tax on loose tobacco and the shifting of Israeli smokers from commercial cigarettes to self-rolled cigarettes is indicative that the treasury is losing a huge amount of tax revenue. According to the Health Ministry report, the lost revenues reached 130 million Shekels in the year 2013 alone and it increased to 300 million shekels last 2015. Vaping is a better alternative than smoking but there could be a risk of the Israeli government losing more revenue if the vaping industry penetrates the market. However, it will open doors for greater government revenues if they are more open to selling vape products. Most importantly, Israeli smokers can shift to a better option which is less harmful to their health and possibly quit smoking through vaping.
Vaping Is a Healthier Option Than Smoking
With the increasing smoking rates in Israel, there’s no doubt that the health risks associated with tobacco use will increase. Now, banning vape products is not a viable option to resolve this health concern. More so, it can worsen the public health because taxes imposed on loose tobacco or rolling tobacco make it more affordable and accessible. While there are concerns about the dangers of high nicotine level among JUUL vapes or vaporizers, vape pens or e-cigarettes, e-juices or e-liquids, tobacco smoking is still a more dangerous habit. Besides, the nicotine level on vape products can help a smoker quit the bad habit until he shifts to a lower nicotine level to zero.
Vapes or vaporizers create vapor and not tar or ash like tobacco smoking. Combustion is very dangerous most especially in the respiratory tract. Tobacco has over 4,000 chemicals that are harmful to health and combustion may lead to inhalation of these toxic substances directly affecting breathing and overall health. Would the Israeli government ban tobacco smoking as well? Why not? If vapes will be banned, why will the government keep the tobacco industry alive which poses a grave danger to public health as well? Indeed, the reasons are clear. Now, it’s about time to think twice about banning vaping because it is a healthier alternative compared to smoking.
Suggested Best Course of Action
The best thing to do rather than imposing bans or restrictions to vapes is proper information dissemination or public health education. It is the role of the health sector to educate the public about the real score or impacts of vaping and smoking on health. At least, the people have two options without compromising the revenues the country can collect both from vape and tobacco products. Having two options is better than one. Vaping can actually become a tool for smokers to quit smoking for good. Those who still want the nicotine kick can stick to vaping without the danger of inhaling the byproducts of combustion.
It is about time to enlighten the people about the advantages of vaping over tobacco smoking. There are real dangers to smoking, whereas vaping leaves us a good option towards achieving better health. The Israeli government is concerned about public health, and this is a good matter to discuss, but banning vape products should be carefully thought and decided because it could be the solution to the increasing smoking health risks in the country.