DUBAI // Potentially harmful e cigarettes are still being sold in a Dubai mall, despite a ban from the Ministry of Health.

Several retailers at the Chinese themed Dragon Mart were found by The National to be selling the devices, which are marketed as a smoking cessation tool. The store owners seemed oblivious to a ban.

The battery powered e cigarettes are &#x201c smoked&#x201d like normal cigarettes, except instead of tobacco smoke, users breathe in a fine mist of vaporised nicotine.

However, the World Health Organisation has warned the chemicals in the vapour have not been properly identified or tested for safety, and urge people not to use them.

In 2011, the UAE joined other GCC countries in implementing a blanket ban on the sale of e cigarettes and similar devices.

Dr Wedad Al Maidoor, head of the National Tobacco Control Programme at the Ministry of Health, said the ban was unequivocal.

&#x201c This is illegal,&#x201d she said. &#x201c Now and then we hear of these e cigarettes being sold in malls. The decision to ban them was clear, but sometimes the enforcement is a little weak.&#x201d

However, she said municipalities across the country had fined retailers on a number of occasions over the last three years for continuing to sell the devices.

Dragon Mart, as a freezone, is monitored and regulated by Trakhees. A spokesman for Trakhees said the authority is pursuing a crackdown on the devices.

&#x201c Electronic cigarettes are being sold illegally throughout the emirate of Dubai including International City and Dragon Mart, where a number of electronics shops have been found selling those products and clearly violating the law,&#x201d the spokesman said.

&#x201c We started a campaign earlier this month in line with the federal tobacco control law to inspect all outlets within our jurisdiction ensuring that they are free and in compliance. We found large quantities in various electronic stores, but all have been confiscated with a final warning notice and imposition of fines issued against all offenders.

&#x201c As part of our routine inspections we ascertain a strict compliance within our areas and take all the necessary remedial actions against offenders. Furthermore , if violation of any sort is brought to our attention, we take immediate action to rectify the situation.&#x201d

A spokesman for Nakheel Retail, which operates Dragon Mart, said it did not condone the action of retailers.

&#x201c Tenants are always required to be in compliance with the applicable rules and regulations,&#x201d the spokesman said.

&#x201c Any instances of non compliance brought to the attention of the mall management is dealt with in accordance with the tenancy contract, including advising the appropriate officials of the law enforcing agencies.&#x201d

Dr Al Maidoor said that although there was no definitive proof that smoking e cigarettes was worse than tobacco, part of the problem was a lack of regulation over what chemicals are included in the vapour. For those imported from China, the problem was compounded, she added.

&#x201c There should be a standardisation and specification which protect the customers,&#x201d she said. &#x201c We don&#x2019 t know what is in the vapour, it might be toxic. Sometimes we hear of e cigarettes exploding in people&#x2019 s mouths and giving them hideous burns.&#x201d

Dr Al Maidoor said there were fears that smoking e cigarettes, known as &#x201c vaping&#x201d , could act as a gateway to smoking.

&#x201c They produce them in all different flavours, and claim to be more healthy than tobacco,&#x201d she said. &#x201c That makes it more attractive to teenagers, and might get them addicted to nicotine. That could start them smoking tobacco later on.&#x201d


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