The Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (“ESMA“) issued a new set of standards, which came into effect from mid-April 2019, legalizing the sale and use of electronic smoking devices. Manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers are now allowed to import and sell e-cigarettes, nicotine delivery systems and e-liquid refills. The new standards are aligned with the best international practices and had been based on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) framework convention on tobacco control.

ESMA has implemented Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme, a product certification scheme which is a mandatory program for all regulated products. ECAS certificate is valid for one year and subject to annual renewal. Further, Emirates Quality Mark is a mark of conformity granted to the products that comply with the relevant UAE National Standards, Regional and/or International Standards and are manufactured by an organization implementing an effective quality management system to ensure continuous compliance. The electronic cigarette devices and the liquids will need to be registered with ESMA. Further, ESMA also requires the labeling of the package for electronic cigarettes to be registered and approved. Once the products, devices and the packaging labels for the electronic cigarettes are registered with ESMA, in order to be able to import the products and devices for trading, approval from the Health and Safety Department of the Dubai Municipality and the Dubai Health Authority/Ministry of Health may also be required.

The Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) has recently introduced a new activity called “Electronic cigarettes & accessories trading” under “Tobacco and Smoking accessories trading” group. This activity is available for mainland LLCs and will allow the investors to legally engage in e-cigarettes trading in the local market. It is important to note that the direct and indirect advertising, promotion, and sponsorship of e-cigarettes or any tobacco products is prohibited under Federal Law No. 15 of 2009 regarding Tobacco control (and its implementing regulations).

The UAE Ministry of Finance has recently provided further clarification on the proposed amendment of Cabinet Resolution No. 38 of 2017 regarding excise goods, excise tax rates and the formula to calculate the excise price. It was confirmed that a 100% excise tax is applied to electronic smoking devices regardless of whether they have nicotine or tobacco and the liquids for electronic smoking devices.

The introduction of ESMA’s high standards could not be better timed for the vaping industry. After the impact of the flavor bans in the US and controversial headlines, ESMA presents e-liquid companies with an opportunity to demonstrate a proactive stance on health and safety. Only the most reputable and trusted brands are applying for ESMA approval in the UAE. This sign of high-quality, backed by the WHO framework, marks an important step in building trust between manufacturers, retailers and consumers.

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