The Project 21.658 bill was debated for the second time last week in the Costa Rican parliament. The bill contains measures to prohibit the use of ban all kinds of vaping equipment in public areas as well as opening up the route to place punitive levels of taxation onto ecigs, e-liquids and anything else used for vaping.
The bill was passed with a massive 33 votes to 7, with 16 officials not taking part in the vote.
Using the Covid pandemic as an excuse to ignore tobacco harm reduction evidence, a representative of the Ministry for Health said: “I think this project is extremely important for the country. It has the full support of the Ministry of Health. It is completely in line with the health alert we already issued regarding the use of vaping devices, where we have even been very clear that there is no study that can show e-cigarettes are a smoking cessation therapy. On the contrary, we have to disincentivise the use of cigarettes and the use of vaporisers.”
Luis Aiza, one of the figures responsible for constructing the bill, told journalists: “The use of these vaporisers or electronic cigarettes with or without nicotine represents a considerable health risk.”
Currently, 13.4% of men, 4.4% of women in Costa Rica smoke. With 5 million residents, this equates to 445,000 smokers. Annually, it is estimated that more than 1100 Costa Rican die due to smoking-related illnesses.
Nydia Amador, president of the nation’s anti-smoking group Red Nacional Antitabaco welcomed the move to crush support for tobacco harm reduction: “It is important to consider the vulnerability of all consumers of tobacco products, including electronic devices or vapers, to any disease of the respiratory system, since the first studies on the effects of the use of vaporisers and heated tobacco products show negative consequences for the lungs and the immune and cardiovascular systems.”
Amador poured scorn on advocates who attempted to get the politicians to look at the evidence amassed in the United Kingdom, going so far as to deny Public Health England’s statement that vaping is “at least 95% safer than smoking”.
Costa Rican smokers and vapers must be wondering what evidence their policymakers are basing opinions on if they aren’t going to take the UK experience seriously.