In Colombia there is a reality that is going unnoticed or that wants to be ignored. From various sectors of society there is talk of the urgency of advancing in measures that regulate electronic cigarettes, tobacco imitators, including those that contain nicotine and those that do not.
For several years, companies in the tobacco industry have been creating new devices that are offered as an option to quit smoking more easily and with fewer health risks. The new generation of cigarettes are called: electronic cigarettes or vapers. These products that are promoted with attractive colors, flavors and smells are becoming a public health problem in Colombia.
In an interview with Infobae Colombia, Andrés Vélez, a partner at Edulegal and advisor on legal matters at Red PaPaz, warned that in the country about 200,000 children and adolescents are consumers of this type of cigarettes.
“The problem is that despite the fact that the supply and consumption of these products is increasing, the State has not adopted any effective control measures,” explained the spokesperson for the Red PaPaz corporation, whose purpose is to advocate for the protection of the rights of children and adolescents in Colombia and strengthen the capacities of the relevant actors to guarantee their effective fulfillment.
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Despite the fact that electronic cigarettes are advertised as products that prevent lung diseases associated with smoking, do not give off smoke or other chemicals like traditional cigarettes that can cause lung cancer, or do not cause heart and cardiovascular diseases, the Colombian Ministry of Health has expressed that vapers or electronic cigarettes “are not harmless to health, nor do they allow you to quit smoking.”
From the Ministry of Health, Nubia Bautista, deputy director of Non-Communicable Diseases, reiterated at the end of last year that in Colombia “we are implementing comprehensive measures for tobacco control, with excellent results, which we must extend to new products.”
On this point, the lawyer Andrés Vélez agrees. “Colombia had already taken very important steps in terms of tobacco control to prevent new generations from falling into cigarette consumption.”
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Specifically, Red PaPaz asks the Colombian state to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), to protect children and adolescents from diseases caused by the consumption of these products.
The provisions established in the Framework for Tobacco Control include measures such as the total ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products, health warnings about the risk of their consumption, protection from exposure to smoke in all places closed and measures to reduce illegal trade, among others.
“It is very discouraging to see how, despite the achievements that have been made and the warnings from the Ministry of Health, no measures have been adopted to regulate this type of cigarette. A proliferation of consumption in girls, boys and adolescents is proven”.
Currently in the country there are no effective control measures for the sale of vapers, in home applications there is a category with these products that can be purchased without the need to prove the age of majority. On WhatsApp, some of the electronic cigarette marketers sell their products without the rigor they deserve, since they are harmful to health.
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According to a national smoking survey, in Colombia 15.4% of schoolchildren between the ages of 12 and 15 have had experience with electronic cigarettes. That is why the need to Papaz Network so that the regulation of vapers is a priority and from this organization they highlight the importance of having smoke-free and aerosol-free spaces to protect non-consumers.
“We need a rule that makes it clear that electronic cigarettes cannot be sold to minors, due to the damage they cause to health. The rules must be clear to marketers of these products. In many cases, the right to consumer protection is violated”, explained Vélez in his talk with Infobae Colombia.
For protecting the children and adolescents of the country, Red Papaz has been pointed out as prohibitionists of the freedoms of people to consume electronic cigarettes. “Nobody here wants to ban anything. The freedoms of adults to consume them are recognized, but subject to the control measures that cigarettes count. This is a theme of public health and we must be protectionist so that children’s rights prevail,” said the organization’s spokesperson.
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To advance in the protection of this population, in the coming days, 46 Colombian congressmen will present a bill that seeks to extend the measures to electronic cigarettes. Once the project has been exposed, it will be the Seventh Commission of the House of Representatives the one that debates in the first instance the measure proposed by the representative Julián Peinado.
Andrés Vélez concluded his interview with Infobae Colombia by asking a question: What is the problem of adopting measures (WHO FCTC) that have already shown that they are effective, for what reason do they oppose the application of these measures?