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E-cigarette mix-up - Customs, health ministry at odds over import 'ban'

Published:Friday | September 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM

The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) and the Ministry of Health appear to be at odds over the status of a reported ban on the importation of e-cigarettes.

On Monday, the JCA advised the public, through the media, that there would be an immediate ban on the importation of e-cigarettes, following a directive from the ministry.

However, the ministry has responded that at no time did it issue any instructions to Customs to effect such a ban.

In a letter to the editor, Dr Kevin Harvey, acting permanent secretary in the health ministry, said a statement was issued from his office as soon as it became aware of the reports of a ban.

"In the statement, we indicated that there is no ban on the product and the correspondence to the Customs Department was simply to issue a reminder that under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations there is a requirement for such products to be registered and a permit granted before they can be imported into Jamaica".

He also noted: "At present, no entity [in Jamaica] is registered to import e-cigarettes."

JULY LETTER FROM MINISTRY

An official from the Customs Department, who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, told The Gleaner that the agency received a letter from the ministry on July 15 that clearly stated there was a ban on the importation of the product.

The official said the letter was posted on July 7 and that Customs has since sought further instruction from the ministry, which has not been forthcoming.

"We made communication with the Ministry of Health and said that we would like a further letter instructing us to do other than what this letter is instructing us to do, but we have not received it as yet," the official said.

According to the official, the July letter from the ministry requests that the clearance of e-cigarettes at the ports not be allowed.

sheldon.williams@gleanerjm.com