Panama Ban Challenged

Posted 9th October 2023 by Dave Cross
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Panama's vape ban has been challenged by the Panamanian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and accepted by the Panamanian Supreme Court of Justice. The consumer advocacy organisation contends that the prohibition is unconstitutional and regional experts are hoping that the weight of evidence in favour of vaping and tobacco harm reduction will win the day.

The Panamanian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ARDTP) says: “Panama's Supreme Court of Justice accepts the unconstitutionality lawsuit against Law 315 of 2022 that banned the use, importation and commercialisation of electronic nicotine delivery systems, such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, in Panama.

“The lawsuit was filed by the ARDTP and joined by the Association of Smokers and Family Members for a Smoke-Free Panama (AFFP) and the Medical Cannabis Association of Panama (ACAPAN).

“Through the lawsuit, the associations requested the declaration of Law 315 as unconstitutional for violating the right to health of smokers in the country. Already in March, ARDTP presented an alternative regulatory proposal to modify Law 315 of 2022 and allow the use of safer nicotine products for the more than 170,000 smokers in the country.

“The lawsuit is now in the hands of the Supreme Court of Justice, which will have to verify whether it "violates articles 109 and 110 of the Constitution of Panama, by not effectively ensuring the preservation and protection of the health of the Panamanian population, by banning products that are demonstrably less harmful to adult smokers and the people around them.”

Alberto Gómez Hernández, Community Manager for Spain and Latin America of the World Vapers' Alliance, commented: "We hope the Supreme Court of Panama will review the scientific evidence on vaping, listen to users and declare Law 315 of 2022 unconstitutional. Justice must protect the right to health of smokers and vapers.

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“Vaping is the most effective method to quit smoking, and its ban has condemned vapers to the black market and all smokers to continue smoking. The ban is clearly not working. It needs to be overturned by the Supreme Court and the government needs to adopt an open approach towards alternative nicotine products, as the UK and Sweden have done with great success.”

The lawsuit also alleges that constitutional provisions were breached during the approval process of Law 315, stating that the number of votes in favour by the National Assembly deputies in the third debate approval of the Bill did not reach the minimum number established in the Panamanian Constitution. Since its approval, all trade of smoke-free devices has shifted to the black market.

Tomás Sánchez, president of the Panamanian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association, added: “The ban violates our right to health and forces us to buy the products on the black market, where they do not pass safety and quality controls and sellers are not liable for dangerous or defective products. Moreover, the black market does not restrict the sale of the products to minors. The ban is not only unconstitutional, but it is also damaging the public health of the country. It needs to be overturned by the Supreme Court of Justice and the Panamanian government needs to pass a risk-based regulation of alternative nicotine products."

ARDTP adds that nearly 1,000 people die each year in Panama from tobacco-related diseases.

It concludes: “The ban on vaping and other reduced-risk products is increasing this number by forcing thousands of vapers to return to tobacco or resort to black market products. The Supreme Court of Justice must redress the situation as soon as possible.”

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 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, salad destroyer and live culture convert.