In theory, from 2012, smoking became prohibited in various places. Hospitals, schools, government offices and sports venues should all be smoke-free but visitors to the country will probably see cigarettes still being used. In fact, it seems to be almost compulsory in popular pubs, bars, lounges and cafes.
Electronic cigarettes have been banned in Egypt since … well, this is where the grey area begins. Theoretically, vaping was banned in Egypt in 2015. Except it wasn’t really banned – instead, politicians decided that a ruling by the Technical Committee of Drugs in 2011. The committee decreed that all potentially toxic products couldn’t be imported or sold, so the politicians decided no new law was needed.
Consequently, The Daily Mail and the Sun have both told their readers that the nation ranks up there with others where you run the risk of fines or prison for using your vaping device. And both of them are wrong.
Egypt signed up to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on May 26, 2005, and followed the World Health Organisation’s lead on vaping – but it isn’t reflected in police enforcement or the behaviour of the public. Online trading is prolific on Souq (an Amazon trading company) and through many companies advertising themselves on Facebook in Egypt. Many bricks and mortar vape stores can be found through an online search, and vendors like Egypt eSmokers have a strong online presence.
So, the vaping message is creeping out despite the half-hearted efforts of politicians to oppose harm reduction. Electronic Smoking Developers is a Facebook group for Egyptian vapers, it now has over 74,000 members who share information about products and techniques. Also, Electronic Smoking Developers organises vape meets in public parks where members can meet up and swap tales and experiences. Hossam Hegazi, one of the group’s founders, said: “Nearly 80 percent of people on our page who started vaping have completely quit smoking.”
Ahmed Salem runs a smoking store, an establishment that broadened its product range to include vape mods and cigalikes: “The vaping business was introduced in Egypt individually and on a relatively narrow scale in 2007, but we did not expect that vape products sales would reach this level over the past two years. At some points, we could not sustain the level of supply due to the increasing number of customers.”
“Initially, choosing to vape could be a costly decision for some people, as they need between EGP 1,500 and 3,500 to buy a vape, depending on its brand, durability and specs.”
Placing this in perspective, cigarettes have steadily increased from EGP 7 to EGP 35 (£1.49) – a fivefold increase in cost per pack, yet still very cheap when compared to a vape kit.
For British vapers planning on visiting Egypt during 2018, it will be worth contacting forum members to see what their experience was. Over the recent past nobody seems to have experienced anything worse than having juice confiscated at the airport before the return flight.