A prominent tobacco control group has accused Mexico’s health regulators of colluding with tobacco giant Philip Morris International (PMI).
The complaint was made by the Inter-American Heart Foundation (FIC Mexico) on the eve of a public forum on harm reduction commemorating the tenth anniversary of Mexico’s Tobacco Law.
The forum brought together pro-vaping activists with anti-tobacco groups, lawmakers, health experts and regulators Cofepris (Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk).
FIC Mexico argued that PMI should not be allowed to participate in any forum held by lawmakers, as it violated the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and created possible conflicts of interest. It presented documents received though a freedom of information request confirming that Cofepris officials met PMI representatives last year but classified the matters discussed between them as confidential.
Despite the protest, PMI representatives attended the forum, which came as Mexican legislators consider four new bills, all of which would legalise e-cigarettes and bring clarity to a confused legal situation.
Pro-vaping organisations also took part in the event to put their case that any new legislation should be based on scientific evidence.
They said the weight of published studies would prove vaping helps nicotine addicts to reduce their intake of harmful chemicals and stop smoking cigarettes entirely. They left with the impression that Cofepris had changed its position from favouring a complete ban to favouring some form of legalisation and regulation.
Roberto Sussman, a nuclear physicist and president of Pro Vapeo Mexico, said: “About four months ago, Cofepris’s position was still to ban e-cigs altogether. Now, in the forum, it became clear that what they want is to regulate them like cigarettes.”
Even so, Cofepris has been increasing its visits to vape shops and demanding owners’ names, according to two sources, who chose to remain anonymous.
One told ECigIntelligence Cofepris was still highly hostile towards them, even threatening to confiscate all their product. The other said Cofepris had refused to help with licensing queries.
Despite the ongoing difficulties, Mexican vape shop owners are optimistic, claiming the market is booming and they look forward to being able to advertise openly in the future.
“The physical stores may be few, but if [e-cigarettes were] regulated, there would be one in every neighbourhood,” pro-vaping activist and lawyer Juan José Cirón told ECigIntelligence.
– Isabella Cota ECigIntelligence contributing writer
Photo: Darvin Santos