Residents in the UAE are confused over the rules surrounding the personal use of e-cigarettes, both in public places and at home, and are calling for clearer rules on the issue. However, the Dubai Municipality has made it clear that e-cigarettes are treated like any other cigarettes in Dubai.
Despite a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes in the UAE, many residents are still unclear as to whether they can legally smoke the device in designated public areas.
According to Federal Law No.15 of 2009, the sale of e-cigarettes and e-shishas are prohibited in the country. And to date, there is no law stating that smoking e-cigarettes here is illegal.
However, many residents say there is a blurred line when it comes to its use. And many wonder if they will incur a warning or fine if caught vaping (the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device), in public areas where smoking is allowed.
"If something is illegal to buy and to import or bring into the country, that would lead me to believe that the item itself is illegal to use. Yet people tell me e-cigarettes are okay for personal use. I get mixed feedback, but nothing is concrete. The law doesn't seem to say that you can't smoke it, so I honestly don't know if it is allowed or not," said C.V, a Canadian expatriate.
Meanwhile, Indian expat Nitin Chand said his understanding on the use of e-cigarettes for personal use is unclear. "I'm not sure of the status of its legality, because of that I won't take it out in public places and I'll only use it at home."
Like Chand, M.S. said the issue surrounding the personal use of e-cigarettes is "such a grey area".
"The selling part is illegal, I know that. But to my knowledge, I don't think vaping is illegal, but that's a big 'but'. I do exercise caution when smoking my e-cigarette in public, even in designated smoking areas. I worry if I would be pulled out for using it because there is no set law on whether we can smoke it or not."
Helping to clear up the confusion, Redha Salman, director of health and safety department at the Dubai Municipality, confirmed that the civic body regulates the sale of vapes and e-cigarettes.
"Outlets that sell vapes and electronic cigarettes have their goods confiscated and are issued a warning for the first offence."
For public use, however, he said vapes are treated like normal cigarettes. They must not be smoked in public places like cinemas and shopping malls.
"If people have vapes or e-cigarettes, they can smoke it only in designated areas. However, we make sure that people don't get access to such products locally."
In a photo shared with Khaleej Times, a reader pointed out that one of the Business Class lounges at Dubai International Airport (DXB) had recently installed new signs throughout the lounge, which read: "No smoking. E-cigarettes are also not allowed."
This is just one of the many steps introduced over the last few years to reduce the burden of smoking on the UAE public, including the use of e-cigarettes.
In 2017, the Dubai Municipality also announced that it was imposing a Dh2,000 fine on people caught smoking electronic cigarettes inside shopping malls, and other closed public places. It stressed that penalities will mirror that of violations caught involving tobacco cigarettes.
Don't travel to UAE with e-cigarette
Dubai Customs prohibited goods: Any goods the import or export of which is prohibited under the provisions of the Common Customs Law or any other regulation or law applicable in the State. Some prohibited items include: E-cigarettes and electronic hookah.
Reducing consumption of cigarettes and tobacco products
This is one of the key performance indicators of the pillar of world-class healthcare of the UAE National Agenda. 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.
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