MP Wescot on Vaping and E-cigarettes: “Hopes to spur the government into action with her proposals”

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PHILISPBURG, Sint Maarten — MP Wescot for  more than a year, has been addressing  the issue of e-cigarettes and “vaping” amongst the school going population on St. Maarten, with primarily the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Health and   the Minister of Education, Drs. R. Samuel.

“One can recall my initial contact with the Minister on this topic when  the Minister of ECYS stated he had contacted or was intending to contact the Turning Point (TP) Foundation on this matter.”

“It was not made clear why this particular institution was chosen and what was expected of the TP Foundation. Nor have I been informed of the outcome of any further discussions on the matter of vaping amongst our youth”.

In any case, no concrete action or reaction was had from the ministry with respect to vaping amongst our youth, while from all indications this phenomenon is a growing one and  not only on St. Maarten, MP Wescot continued.

Just recently, the FMA on Curacao sounded the alarm regarding vaping, especially amongst youngsters. And on Aruba since the beginning of this year, strict new regulations have been introduced to limit the use of tobacco products, based on public health considerations.

In most countries, laws on tobacco use have been updated to include so-called Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS).

“In  September 2021, I established contact with the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Public Health, that responded to my queries as to the health effects of e-cigarettes, especially in adolescents and young adults.

The Inspectorate’s  conclusion was clear: THE USE OF ENDS, E-CIGARETTES AND OTHER VAPING PRODUCTS POSES A SERIOUS HEALTH RISK!”

Most E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has known negative health effects. Nicotine is addictive, it is toxic, can harm young adults’ brain development and is a  health danger for pregnant adults and their developing fetuses.

MP Wescot: “Luckily, it was also concluded that our current legislative framework provides various possibilities for amendments and updates to regulate ENDS.”

Some examples:

The Tobacco Ordinance (Lv. Beperking Tabaksgebruik)

The Commodities Act (Warenverordening)

LB Labeling regulations (LB Etikettering)

Public Health Act

In particular, the Commodities Act of St. Maarten  provides the possibility to establish regulations on e-cigarettes by LBHAM (General National Decree) in the interest of public health.  This by the way is on the level of the relevant ministries. 

These regulations can include the import, labeling and sale, such as:

  • Prohibiting the sale of vaping products including non-nicotine vape liquid and toy vaping products to anyone under the legal age.
  • Prohibiting the supply of vaping products directly or indirectly to anyone under the legal age.
  • Setting the requirements for vaping products safety standards that need to be met before the products can be sold.
  • Prohibiting smoking and vaping in schools. School management and boards must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that no person smokes or vapes in any part of the premises, whether inside or outside, at any time of day. 
  • Ensuring that  illegal products that did not submit applications to the relevant authorities  are removed from the market immediately. 
  • Instituting product standards on e-cigarettes, preventing the sale and marketing of any product that does not adhere to those standards. 
  • A permanent ban on flavored tobacco unless a manufacturer can demonstrate that the flavor will not lead non-tobacco users, such as youth, to start.

MP Wescot then went on to explain why she chose the route to liaise with the ministries, before attempting an amendment on a legislate level.

“The reason I have from the beginning chosen to liaise with the Ministries on this all important health matter is the consideration that a previous initiative draft law to amend the Tobacco Ordinance evoked from the Council of Advice the question (amongst others)  as to Government’s policy on smoking in general.”

The MP concluded her proposal to the ministers of ECYS and VSA respectively, with the following direct questions, hoping that these questions and proposals will spur the government into  action on  E-cigarettes and vaping.

  • I therefore invite you to respond to me regarding the above and address the issue as follows:
  • Do you concur that vaping is an undesirable and dangerous phenomenon, especially amongst our youth?
  • If you do, do you concur that it  can and should be addressed urgently by one of the means  mentioned above?
  • If not by one of the means above, what do you recommend be done?

What is Government’s view on smoking and on updating the ordinance limiting tobacco use (Lv. Beperking Tabaksgebruik)?

In addition to these written questions, MP Wescot also requested the ministers’  presence at a  committee meeting of Parliament to further deliberate on a course of action to reduce smoking in general and vaping in particular.

Along with her proposals, MP Wescot submitted a list of references relevant to the topic of vaping de electronic cigarettes.