EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A group of Mexican lawmakers want to close legal loopholes they say make e-cigarettes easily available to teenagers.
The way the laws are written, it’s illegal to import this product to Mexico, but it’s not unlawful to sell it or manufacture alternative methods of nicotine delivery, lawmakers from the MORENA Party said.
“The consumption of tobacco products is down, but the development of nicotine delivery technology is strongly positioned in our society. We must update our legal framework to include newly commercialized products,” Sen. Eduardo Perez Astorga said in a publicly broadcast forum earlier this month.
E-cigarettes are devices that use a battery to heat up liquid into an aerosol that users inhale. The cartridges usually contain nicotine, propylene glycol, flavorings and other chemicals.
Perez and other lawmakers expressed concern about an increase in the use of e-cigarettes by minors. The senator quoted a study stating that 1.2% of teenagers in Mexico consume e-cigarettes.
Such changes would impact younger residents of U.S. cities bordering Mexico who may be habitually skirting more stringent laws. For instance, the sale of tobacco and alcoholic beverages is restricted to those 21 and older in the United States, but the legal age for both is 18 across the border in cities like Juarez, Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo.
Some Juarez residents say they are starting to see all over their city the vaporizers that deliver the product.
“Minors are using it a lot. Since commercial stores are not allowed to sell tobacco to minors, they use e-cigarettes, which are even sold at flea markets,” said Lidia Montellano, a Juarez resident.
“They should ban it because it’s harmful. It’s not good for your health, and now it has become a trend among young people,” added Luis Tarin, another resident.
But e-cigarette vendors say it’s hypocritical to focus on only one sector of the tobacco industry or restrict some products on health grounds while allowing unbridled sales in others, such as alcohol.
“Many people use this to cut down on smoking tobacco. It’s more harmful to smoke cigarettes than this because you can smoke (e-cigarettes) with nicotine or without,” said Angel Roberto Hernandez, who runs an e-cigarette and vape shop in Juarez.
He claims acquaintances have cut down or even stopped smoking tobacco because of e-cigarettes.
“If they’re going to ban e-cigarettes, they should also ban (real) cigarettes and alcohol and all those things” lawmakers say are harmful to people’s health, he said.
According to the Texas State Department of Health Service, vaping devices emit an aerosol that includes at least 31 chemicals and compounds that affect different parts of the body.
It says the use of nicotine in adolescence can permanently harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control. And flavoring chemicals such as diacetyl can permanently injure the lungs. Heavy metals in the vapor can also build up in the blood and organs and cause damage, DSHS said.
Sen. Perez, a leader in the same political party as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said he’s looking forward to a “wide public consultation” involving medical, legal and government experts, as well as social leaders, before unveiling e-cigarette restrictions.