Brazil has postponed until next year a decision on the possible legalisation of e-cigarettes amid a “reorientation” of health priorities to contain the expansion of the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Health Surveillance Agency (Agencia Nacional de Vigilancia Sanitaria, ANVISA), which is responsible for the regulation of tobacco products in Brazil, was expected reach a conclusion on e-cigs by autumn 2020, but the date has been now moved back to the first quarter of 2021.
Officials told ECigIntelligence the extra time was necessary “due to the amount and diversity of evidence received as a result of public hearings, and due to the complexity of evaluating all the documents”.
The agency also launched a public consultation to gather the views of policy experts, representatives of the tobacco industry and the scientific community on the possible legalisation of tobacco-alternative products.
The Brazilian Association of the Tobacco Industry (Abifumo), which represents the largest tobacco companies in the country, said it had not been informed or consulted about the postponement of the decision.
In a note sent to ECigIntelligence, Abifumo reiterated its position on the importance of creating regulation for e-cigarettes, to enable the development of a legal market.
“There is already sufficient scientific evidence, as well as experience in dozens of countries, which attest to the potentially reduced risk of electronic devices for smoking compared to combustible cigarettes,” it said.
However, Alberto Jose de Araujo, president of the Committee to Fight Tobacco Use at the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) welcomed ANVISA’S decision.
“The postponement is correct due to the sanitary urgency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. On the other hand, there are still important stages in the regulatory process that need to be followed,” said Araujo.
“In defense of the population’s life and health, there is consistent evidence that tobacco increases the risk of smoking-related diseases, in addition to being a serious COVID-19 aggravating factor.”
For the Brazilian Medical Association, COVID-19 pandemic must reinforce the “precautionary principle” regarding any legalisation of vaping.
What This Means: Aside from the effects of the current pandemic, ANVISA seems to need some more time to assess all the evidence it has gathered in order to come to a final decision on e-cigs.
It is not known whether the agency plans to organise any more hearings or meetings with interested parties before delivering its final word on such a sensitive topic.
According to ECigIntelligence estimates, Brazil has 400,000 e-cigarette users, with only limited enforcement of the ban on sales, import and production.
– Natália Scarabotto ECigIntelligence contributing writer
Photo: Fabio Wanderley