Smoke-free Alternatives Seek to be Considered in Efforts to Reduce Tobacco-Related Illnesses in Costa Rica

    A strong debate is still being carried out about the options available

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    Various smoke-free alternatives for smokers – such as e-cigarettes – want to be recognized for their efforts to help reduce tobacco-associated diseases, including lung cancer. However, its manufacturers and users consider that the policies and campaigns against it are increasing. Hence, they ask for a space in the country to be heard from existing scientific information and not from the signaling or obstacles.

    Local concern

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    For example, in our country, project 21.658 is being processed in the Legislative Assembly. This aims to establish a 40% tax on the tax base of products related to vapers and electronic cigarettes. But the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Industries of Costa Rica publicly spoke out against this project.

    Danger of contraband products

    “A price hike derived from this type of tax will unleash an attractive environment for contraband products of this category to enter the market with unknown quality standards and security problems,” explained Jairo Mena, executive director of the Illicit Trade Observatory of the Chamber of Commerce of Costa Rica.

    This position is supported by Erick Ulate, President of the Consumers Association of Costa Rica. “We support the application of public policies that aim to reduce the number of illnesses and deaths related to tobacco and the role that smoke-free products can play in the health of smokers.”

    He added: “In this sense, consumers must be an integral part of the development and application of these public policies. At no time should they rely on actions as harmful as the application of new taxes”.

    Less obstacles and more access ask manufacturers

    There are tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris, that promote non-combustion electronic devices, that is, they do not burn tobacco, but only heat it. These are devices that mimic the appearance, taste, and sensory experience of a cigarette, but significantly reduce exposure to harmful and potentially harmful chemicals. These products are for smokers, not to attract new consumers.

    A study by the UK-based independent public health agency Knowledge Action Change (KAC) revealed that currently only 9 out of 100 smokers are accessing these alternatives. The research is called (Burning Issues: The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction 2020. It is available at this link

    More users

    Burning Issues estimates that 98 million people use these products, of which 68 million are vapers, primarily in the US, China, Russia, the UK, France, Japan, Germany and Mexico. Another 20 million are users of heated tobacco products (HTP). They are mostly in Japan, where cigarette sales have decreased by 32% since 2016, when these devices were launched. However, numerous public policies limit information and access through the imposition of taxes.

    KAC indicates that the use of so-called safer nicotine products (SNPs), including vaping devices, “helps reduce the damage caused by cigarette smoke, which improves health and reduces the number of deaths ”.

    Fight between two views

    However, reducing the harm caused by tobacco is still viewed as a threat by many in the global health and tobacco control arena. And not as an opportunity for public health, the company points out.

    The International Association for Tobacco Control and Harm Reduction notes that scientists around the world believe that tobacco control strategies must be reformed. This to include harm reduction through the use of alternative products with lower potential risk, in addition to other traditional smoking cessation and tobacco prevention measures.

    This association brings together independent experts in tobacco control and harm reduction.

    “A constructive dialogue is required to discuss concerns and challenges, as well as leverage the strong expertise that already exists in many countries,” the company said.

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