RIYADH: While more Saudis are ditching their cigarettes and joining the vaping trend sweeping the world, the laws surrounding the activity in the Kingdom are shrouded in a fruit-scented haze.
There is no explicit law banning vaping in Saudi Arabia, and vapers are free to publicly indulge in the activity — but there are no legal ways to get a vape module, vape juice or any of the equipment needed to vape.
The Ministry of Commerce and Investment officially banned the sale of all e-cigarette or vaping products in September, 2015.
Saudi law forbids the sale of such items and considers anyone bringing them in from abroad to be smuggling and, therefore, liable to be fined and have the items confiscated.
The sales ban has forced vapers in the Kingdom to seek alternative methods of buying supplies, although the legality of these are doubtful, leaving vapers unsure if they are breaking the law.
The legal grey area means that people who spoke to Arab News for this article requested anonymity and their names have been changed.
Saudi Arabia has a high smoking rate, even though the practice is considered taboo. The Saudi Diabetes and Endocrine Association estimates the number of smokers is almost 6 million. This is expected to rise to 10 million by 2020, or roughly 30 percent of the population.
Is vaping better for your health than cigarettes? The healthiest way to smoke is to not smoke at all, but vaping is often presented as an alternative to the traditional cigarette.
Vapes can still deliver a dose of nicotine to the body without the toxins and smoke damage. Nevertheless, vape products on the market come with a warning that is all but identical to those on cigarette packs: Adults only, no health benefits and a significant risk to health.
But vaping is shown to be less damaging overall than cigarettes, according to a long-term study published in the US medical journal “Annals of Internal Medicine.”
“There is almost no doubt that they expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes,” according to Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. “But people need to understand that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to your health. You’re exposing yourself to all kinds of chemicals that we don’t yet understand and that are probably not safe.”
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