FOUNEX Many health and education experts feel that current regulations in Switzerland regarding electronic cigarettes do not go far enough, especially when it comes to protecting children under the age of 18.
Last month, David Woods, headmaster at La Chataignerie international school in Founex (VD), sent a newsletter to parents warning about the easy availability of electronic cigarettes. Woods said that such items are not appropriate for a school environment and that students found using them “on campus, on buses or on an official off-site school activity will be treated as if they have been smoking normal cigarettes.”
There are two types of e-cigarettes sold in Switzerland. One version is an inexpensive, plastic, disposable unit in various flavours to attract adolescents. However, it is illegal if it contains nicotine. Another rechargeable device can be purchased with up to 40 nicotine-filled replacement cartridges on a one time basis for personal use.
The battery-powered devices simulate smoking by heating and vaporizing a liquid containing an average 6–24mg of nicotine and other chemicals. In a 2013 statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that e-cigarettes are “sometimes made to look like everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks.”
The Federal Office of Public Health has also expressed concern that the consumption of e-cigarettes in on the rise among young people. And although the EU resisted calls for an EU wide ban in December, the UK is seeking its own ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18.
The ban on smoking what are commonly referred to as ‘vapoteurs’ on all Swiss trains, buses and trams went into effect on 15 December 2013. It wasn’t provoked by passenger complaints but rather by transport inspectors who had found it difficult to distinguish between real cigarettes and their electronic version.
Devotees believe measures such as the public-transport ban are too heavy-handed since e-cigarettes help people stop smoking tobacco. This is a good reason, say health officials, to regulate them like other medicines.