The 2022 Football World Cup in Qatar is the opportunity to take a look at a country that has banned vaping altogether from its soil.
Qatar is a small country in the Persian Gulf with a population of less than 3 million, 90% of whom are not citizens, but just indentured labourers whose deaths on construction sites do not inspire much emotion.
The Qatari authorities nevertheless expect to see nearly 1.5 million visitors arrive on their territory for this great global event.
If the ban on alcohol is not a big shock in a conservative Muslim country, the ban on electronic cigarettes is more surprising.
SMOKING YES, VAPING NO
The decision to ban vaping altogether in Qatar was taken by Doha in 2014 on an order from the Health Ministry, supported by the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), a regional political and economic union of the Persian Gulf countries, standing united on this issue.
The reason given at the time : a lack of safety evidence on some liquid components and insufficient regulation of the vape industry.
The WHO and its unconscious rejection policy on electronic cigarettes, could only welcome this decision and support it fully.
Eight years later, has Qatar changed its position ?
The vape industry is increasingly regulated and now meets rigorous standards. There’s an abundance of scientific literature demonstrating the minimal harmfulness of vaping compared to smoking, and the electronic cigarette is officially recognised by some countries as the most effective way to quit smoking.
But no, Qatar has not reconsidered and continues to stick to its original position.
And the same goes for the WHO, which, in a recent press conference on the health measures taken for the World Cup, once again assimilated vaping with smoking, putting them in the same basket, and reinforcing its support for Doha's strict policy.
However, we should remind the WHO that conventional cigarettes are legal in Qatar and that 25% of men are smokers (statistics do not consider the negligible part of the population…).
QATARI LAW IMPLEMENTATION
In a country where the rules governing offences and penalties oscillate between Western modernity and Islamic tradition, there are still today specific penalties provided for by Sharia law in derogation of Common Law.
Therefore, in a country that so openly abuses human rights with penalties that can go as far as flogging, amputation, or stoning, it is preferable to be a heterosexual male, travelling alone, who likes water and does not vape.
A tobacco police force has been deployed to ensure strict compliance with the vaping ban. The fines are dissuasive and the penalty for this offence can be up to 3 months in prison.
This has even prompted a British e-liquid brand to pledge to pay the fines of vapers caught vaping.
The ban is not limited to public places, but to the whole country. No pods or juices can enter the country.
A word of advice : the police promise a rigorous application of penalties for unscrupulous vapers, so it is strongly advised not to test the Qatari customs officers by trying to smuggle your vape equipment into the country.
A BITTER CONCLUSION
If the basic rule applies : "In Qatar, do as the Qataris do," it is no less distressing that for lack of reflection and dialogue about electronic cigarettes in this country with an authoritarian regime, the health policy of Qatar has not evolved and does not seem likely to do so soon.
The fear is that, to pursue their passion for the game, some vapers may decide to turn to smoking during their stay, jeopardising months or even years of smoking cessation.
Thank you for reading.
The Sweetch team