Dialogue with AsoVape Argentina: On the Country's Vaping Status Quo
For a long time, Argentina has had a stringent prohibition on e-cigarettes. As early as 2011, the Argentine National Administration of Drugs, Food, and Medical Technology (ANMAT) had already banned the import, distribution, promotion, and advertising of e-vapor products. On March 28, 2023, the Argentine Ministry of Health issued new regulations on e-cigarettes, banning the use of heated tobacco products. With such a firm stance of the Argentine government against vaping, what is the current state of the vape industry in Argentina? How are the e-cigarette market and its users in Argentina presently? And does vaping still have a future in the Argentine market?
On August 21, Juan Facundo Teme, the president of the Argentine Vaping Association (AsoVape Argentina), was interviewed by 2FIRSTS. He shared the current situation of the Argentine e-cigarette market and analyzed and forecasted its future.
Exponential Growth of E-cigarette Users in Argentina
Juan mentioned that before Argentina's fourth national risk factor survey in 2019, there were no market studies or official statistics on e-cigarettes. By synthesizing existing official data and data from other scientific institutions and online surveys conducted by the Argentine Vaping Association, it's estimated that there are about 1 million e-cigarette users in Argentina. Most of these users primarily use open systems, but disposables are gradually becoming popular.
Due to the ban, Argentine e-cigarette users can only purchase from the informal market or through mail orders. They still buy through traditional channels such as shops, social platforms, or online platforms. Vape users are very aware of the risks of buying through informal channels, resulting in a strong collective consciousness.
Experienced vapers are not deterred by the lack of formal channels. However, newcomers to vaping often don't know where to purchase quality vaping devices. Fortunately, the Argentine vaping community is very cohesive. Veteran vapers guide and share experiences with newcomers, helping them navigate the vaping world, leading to exponential annual growth in the number of vape users.
Unique Stable Development of the Local Vape Market
Despite the ban, many vape sellers are still involved in the sale of e-cigarettes. While many have left the industry, many new entrepreneurs see the potential and enter the sector.
The Argentine vape market is distinctive; there isn't a collective preference in flavors. Juan stated, "Vapers have diverse preferences; it's very hard to pinpoint one or a few flavors."
However, he affirmed that Argentina boasts high-quality e-liquids and flavors that can compete with any in the world. Although the Argentine e-cigarette market is informal, it self-regulates uniquely. Users and sellers support each other, maintaining a healthy market evolution.
Prohibition Opens the Box of Worms
Juan believes that vaping and tobacco are unrelated, and therefore, should not be treated the same. He thinks that instead of a ban, there should be wise regulation, which would protect young people and allow adults to make informed decisions.
Juan feels the current ban doesn't protect anyone. By merely prohibiting without education and guidance, it piques the curiosity of minors and deprives adult vapers of choice.
Independent Regulation Brings Multiple Benefits
Juan claims that proper regulation, rather than outright banning, would be beneficial for public health and society at large. Such regulations would set quality and safety standards, protect minors, generate revenue, and create job opportunities.
Juan remains optimistic about the Argentine vape market's future, suggesting that the industry can bring considerable profits and tax revenues, especially if manufacturers can export their products.
Need for a Diverse Voice on Local E-cigarettes
E-cigarettes in Argentina have been demonized, often portrayed as causing illness, death, and brain stimulation. Juan believes Argentina should approach vaping as European and American countries do: objectively and with thorough research.
As the president of the Argentine Vaping Association, Juan has defended independent regulation for e-cigarettes in over 20 pieces of legislation. The association works closely with the local vaping community, advocating and participating in all legislation involving e-cigarettes, whether in favor or against.
"We have been featured in many documentaries showing the country's vaping situation. We promote open debates with all segments of society willing to hear our voice," says Juan.
Every new thing faces challenges, and we believes that with collective efforts, the government's ban will be lifted sooner rather than later.
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