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Colombia has recently introduced new vaping regulations which have effectively equated vapes with tobacco products. In the name of reducing youth access to vapes, have the government sidelined smokers in the process? Joining us to explore this in today's episode is Francisco Ordóñez, founder and president of Asovape Colombia.


0:00 - Coming up on today's programme
0:59 - Colombia introduces new vape restrictions
2:59 - Has Colombia disregarded harm reduction with this bill?
5:12 - Youth vaping top of the agenda
7:11 - Consumers give their view
9:56 - Doubts remain over bill's efficacy


00:00:09 --> 00:02:14

Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome, I’m Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV.

Governments across Latin America are grappling with how to regulate safer nicotine products. Some are introducing outright bans, while others are imposing high taxes or other restrictions, and still others are taking little or no action at all. Recently, Colombia has approved a law regulating vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes. With the approval of the bill, Colombia joins a growing list of countries that have opted for stricter regulation of these devices.

Joining us today, to discuss the situation on smoking and vaping in Colombia, is Francisco Ordoñez, the founder and president of Asovape Colombia.

Hi Francisco, it's good to have you on the show, can you tell us what is the situation of the use of safer nicotine products in Colombia at the moment?

00:01:23 --> 00:02:58

Francisco Ordonez: Look, in Colombia at this moment a bill has just been passed. That bill includes all low-risk nicotine delivery devices in the category of tobacco products. It has not been banned, let's say, there was no ban as such, but unfortunately it was not regulated as a separate category. We always defended the idea that low-risk nicotine administration products should be regulated independently, but unfortunately in terms of regulation it remained within the anti-tobacco law. This means that all the restrictions that tobacco obviously has apply and we are waiting for the president to sign, let us say, this law, which is already, let us say, the last step for the law to be implemented. There is a term of one year to simply, especially in what has to do with the industry, all the changes that are required precisely for the category, but we still depend on the President for it to be signed. That is what is happening. There is a prohibition, but we are regulated or the products are regulated within the tobacco category.

00:02:59 --> 00:03:04 Joanna Junak: Why did the government decide to introduce this regulation?

00:03:09 --> 00:05:11

Francisco Ordonez: There is a need that is important and I do not think it is the determining factor, let us say, in this whole matter of regulation, but, let us say, it was like the excuse that obviously we should not ignore, obviously, that problem and that is the access of this type of low-risk nicotine administration products in minors. That, let us say, was the driving force that led to the regulation of this category and therefore, let us say that within the law that is being approved at this moment and that is still pending presidential approval, what we are going to guarantee and what is good, let us say, of this law is obviously to try to protect minors in the first instance, but unfortunately it does not recognize the reduction of risks and damages that this type of devices bring with them for the adult smoking population. So, by putting it in the same category as tobacco products, what we are going to generate, let us say, is that people do not understand that an alternative can be made to reduce the risks and damages caused by smoking. So, let us say, the initial purpose of access to minors is fulfilled with this law, but also, let us say, it does not take into account the reduction of risks and damages as a public policy that this government... Promoting, it is not the government party that leads this project, or this law that has just been approved, but those are the opposition parties. There is no recognition of the reduction of risks and damages that we believe is extremely important and that we will obviously continue to seek that this path is achieved through the reduction of risks and damages caused by tobacco with alternatives such as nicotine administration products.

00:05:12 --> 00:05:17

Joanna Junak: So, what key points can we find within this new law?

00:05:18 --> 00:07:10

Francisco Ordonez: The most important points, as I mentioned before, and we are in total agreement on this, is to limit and prohibit access to low-risk nicotine delivery products to minors. That is extremely important, we always agreed on that point. Advertising and promotion of this type of products is restricted. Also, let's say, restrictions on the use, for example, of the devices in enclosed areas, in closed spaces, are applied. All this is the smoke-free policy. Let us say that is, in general terms, a little bit of what this law intended, it does not talk about taxes because taxes are discussed separately, taxes are discussed in another commission and at this moment several bills are being discussed, let us say, regarding taxes, which obviously would end up hitting the sector even more, since there are proposals that, for example, want to implement a one hundred and fifty percent tax on taxes, but there are other proposals, let us say, a little more reasonable and we hope that these proposals will be able to move forward in Congress and that they will be able to move forward. There is a tax that is reasonable and what we really believe is that this tax has to be proportional to the risk. We cannot impose the same tax on products that are, like tobacco, a very high tax, to products that substantially reduce the risk, such as low-risk nicotine administration products.

00:07:12 --> 00:07:18

Joanna Junak: How do consumer organizations in Colombia perceive the new regulations?

00:07:19 --> 00:12:11

Francisco Ordonez: Well, look, I am the person in charge of Asovape Colombia, which is the association that gathers users and defends the rights of users and consumers. We expressed our support as soon as the law was passed in Congress and we are in total agreement, as I mentioned a moment ago, that minors should not have access to this type of products, unfortunately we regret that risk reduction has not been included in this law because we believe it is a very important health policy that we have to start promoting. The national government has already been working with other organizations in the reduction of risks and damages of drugs, which is a step that I believe is very important within the country, but we consider that it is also important to consider the reduction of risks and damages of smoking. We believe that this is very important and we believe that the law may fulfill part of the purpose but we are making a much more conscious evaluation of what this implementation or this modification to the anti-smoking law is, we believe that it is not going to solve many problems. We consider that this is going to generate, for example, and depending on what happens with taxes, it is going to generate a lot of smuggling in Colombia and in general in Latin America smuggling is a very complex problem and very difficult to manage by the State because it does not have enough infrastructure to cover all the gaps through which goods from other countries enter and this law will surely generate a black market of smuggling of sweet quality products. When we proposed a bill we said that it had to be regulated independently and that this differentiated regulation should have very clear rules regarding the entry of the merchandise of nicotine administration products under risk, some regulations under some registers, under some controls, even taking a little bit the example of some things that we consider that they could adapt from England here to Colombia. But unfortunately the project did not advance because when we tried, well, we did not try, but what we really did was a joint work with a representative of the Chamber here in Colombia, who listened to us and heard our points and took them into account at the time of the project, some could be materialized in that project and others unfortunately in this you cannot win them all, but at least he took several points into account of those that we proposed and unfortunately that project did not advance due to time, But it was a proposal that differentiated tobacco from nicotine administration products, as is the case of vaping, even considering nicotine as a substance more than the products, because we consider that it does not only have to do with vaping, which is, let us say, the current situation, but also how to administer nicotine to adults who need it to quit smoking. So, like the opposition in general, we are waiting for the presidential transition of what is going to happen and the next steps, which would be the regulation by the Superintendence of Chamber and Commerce, which is the one that establishes a regulation now for these products and wait what happens also with the law of taxes and, well, obviously, Colombia will continue to educate people about the reduction of risks and damages, promoting education campaigns so that people understand why risk and harm reduction is important, that they make informed decisions regarding their health and that they contemplate low-risk nicotine administration products, such as vaping, snus, heated tobacco, other harm reduction alternatives within the range of possibilities without clearly discarding those that already exist such as patches, chewing gum and inhalers. We consider that the overall purpose is to reduce the risks and harm caused by tobacco, which is.

00:12:12 --> 00;12:27

Joanna Junak: Thank you very much, Francisco

That’s all for today. Tune in next time, here on GFN TV or on our podcast. You can also find transcriptions of each episode on the GFN TV website.

Thanks for watching - or listening! See you next time.