President VS Supreme Court: The Mexican Vape War

September 25, 2022

This isn’t how it’s supposed to work, but the world certainly isn’t a perfect place. Most governments have a legislative branch, a presidential branch, and a judicial branch, and these separate branches are meant to balance each other out. They also hold and maintain power in different ways. Right now, a war is going on in Mexico between the president and the court system over the legality of vape products. This Mexican vape war highlights what happens when different arms of government, don’t respect each other.

The Mexican vape war is heating up as President Obrador has now acted in complete violation of the Supreme Court of Mexico. We’re a news platform based in the cannabis and psychedelics industries of today. Sign up for our Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter to receive regular news updates, along with deals on a variety of goods from vapes and smoking devices, to edibles, other cannabis paraphernalia, and super popular cannabinoid compounds like Delta 8 & HHC. Check out our ‘best of’ lists for more details, and please make purchases for products you’re fully comfortable with.


Government is complicated…

Part of the reason the current Mexican vape war is interesting, is because of the implications it has to government at large. Indeed, government is complicated, as very few governments are made up of one ruling party. It used to be that way when the world was primarily run by monarchies, and dictators, but these days, we have multi-part governments that are meant to balance out power. Our experience with monarchies and dictators tells us it isn’t good to have all the power in one set of hands, and these multifaceted governmental structures, create systems of checks and balances. Or at least, they’re supposed to.

This doesn’t mean every country has the same government structure, and there are still plenty of nations that employ more dictator-like set-ups. One can even question how much of a difference it really makes, and how far off the actual politics are of countries ruled by dictators and those ruled by elected governments; but that’s an article for another time (and another publication).

What we tend to see a lot of, is a government structure made up of three parts, though exactly how much power each part has, is relevant to the local structure. It’s common to have a legislative branch, a presidential branch, and a judicial branch. In the US, we call the legislative branch ‘Congress’, and its split between the ‘Senate’, and the ‘House of Representatives’. This structure holds representatives from each state in both parts, and is meant to be a representative structure of the population of the country. Congress is usually where bills are created and passed into law.

Government structures
Government structures

However, before passing into law, a bill generally goes through one more step, and that involves another part of government, the president. Sometimes there’s a president and a prime minister, though one is more ceremonial in such cases. Other terms for this position vary by country, and include Premiere, and Chancellor, among others. Sometimes the president is thought of as the most powerful part of government, but this isn’t necessarily true, especially since there’s another part of government, that can technically override both congress and the president.

That’s the Supreme Court, known in some countries as a constitutional court, or a high court. This court is a federal court and is the highest-level court in a country. This court is meant to uphold the constitution of a country, and makes judgements based on whether an issue breaks with the constitution or not. Because of this, it can overturn laws passed by congress, as well as presidential decrees. If a supreme court ruling is binding, it means case law is created (law that comes from the courts and not the legislative branch) and lower courts can’t rule against it.

This basic setup is relatively consistent among the countries that employ this power structure. And though it usually works pretty well, sometimes problems come up. Right now, Mexico is a great example of what happens when these different branches of government, go up against each other. With a recent presidential decree, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador went directly against Supreme Court rulings, making for an escalation in the Mexican vape war.

President Obrador, what was your latest move?

On May 31st, which apparently is World Tobacco Day (yup, that exists), President Obrador announced a decree banning the marketing and sale of 1) electronic nicotine administration systems, 2) similar systems that don’t contain nicotine, 3) any other device for the consumption of nicotine, 4) electronic cigarettes, 5) vaporizing devices with similar uses, and 6) all solutions and mixtures used in these devices. He did this after receiving an award from the WHO.

The decree went on to stipulate: “Whoever fails to comply with what is stated in the first article will be subject to the sanctions indicated in the applicable legal provisions.” This creates a full-blown prohibition of these actions. What exactly happens to those in violation, isn’t known, but there is a decent expectation of fines, product seizures, operation closures, and other measures for those who don’t comply.

After the announcement of this decree, the Federal Commission for the Protection Against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) put out a maximum alert for using ecigs, saying the devices and fluids are harmful to health, especially if they have vitamin E acetate. This isn’t a legal mandate of any kind, but a sort of follow-up to the presidential decree, as if to give it more power and legitimacy.

Mexican vape laws
Mexican vape laws

But that’s not what the Supreme Court said…

Besides the fact there’s literally no basis for any move like this, especially considering the dangers of smoking, and how these products can cut down on smoking related deaths (scroll down for that); it also goes directly in contrast to a Mexican Supreme Court ruling on the vape issue last year. In fact, it goes against two of them. As in, the president of a country, just flagrantly ignored and insulted their own system of government, and pulled a dictator-like move by going against a judgment made by a constitutional court.

You see, this isn’t Obrador’s first move when it comes to the Mexican vape war. On February 20th, 2020, Obrador issued a separate decree which banned the import of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS products), along with non-nicotine vape products, from entering Mexico. This included all hardware and vape juices involved. This ban, in general, was an extension of article 16 of the Mexican General Law for Tobacco Control, originally instituted in 2005.

However, the Supreme Court of Mexico did not agree. And in two separate rulings, knocked down this ban, and then went even further. On July 16th, 2021, the court struck down the ban on imports for “heat-not-burn” products, as unconstitutional. This took these products out of oversight from article 16. Then it stepped it up a notch on October 19th, 2021, with another ruling. The new judgement stated that article 16 (specifically section VI) of the General Law for the Control of Tobacco (the law which banned the commercialization of vape products in the first place), is unconstitutional, as it damages free trade. And this judgement is binding, meaning lower courts can’t rule against it.

This second judgement came in a 4-2 vote over the violation of constitutional rights to equality, brought to the court by Juan Luis Gónzalez Alcantara Carrancá, the Minister of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation. Such decrees are also in violation of Mexico’s freedom of trade, and freedom for personality development.

The thing is, a supreme court ruling can set a law, but it doesn’t create the full written text with all stipulations and regulations. That’s for the legislative branch to do. Much like with cannabis, the ruling creates a discrepancy between a supreme court ruling, and written laws. This means Obrador just put out a new decree encouraging law enforcement to go after these actions, while the highest court already ruled that going after such actions, is unconstitutional.

Don’t tons of people die from smoking?

Yes, yes they do. Like, far too many. Like, a gross amount, considering none of it has to happen. In the US, approximately 480,000 people die a year from smoking damage, with a breakdown of approximately 163,700 dead from cancer, 113,100 dead from respiratory illnesses, and 160,000 dead from cardiovascular disease. 41,000 are from secondhand smoke. In England, its 78,000 deaths a year. And in Mexico? According to Tobacco Free Kids, 63,200 people die a year from smoking-related damage, which totals 9.7% of all the country’s yearly deaths.

Vape vs smoke in Mexico
Vape vs smoke in Mexico

How many from vapes? None, technically. All reported vape injury so far is 100% related to additives, like vitamin E acetate, or other factors. Such additives have nothing to do with either tobacco or cannabis compounds, so it’s not either of these plants, or the direct products of the plants, that are hurting people when it comes to vaping. In fact, though the US just banned many Juul products, and essentially forced the company into a payout to end a ridiculous and senseless, ongoing probe, there’s not one story of an actual medical incident concerning the products. The closest is a wrongful death suit, which technically isn’t related to Juul, but a mother angry her son got addicted to nicotine in general, and who subsequently died of other lung issues. Yet their products were removed from shelves, as cigarettes stayed untouched.

Blaming the whole idea of vaping, because of a couple contaminated products, is like banning cows after an outbreak of E.coli in milk or meat products. Not only is it as dumb as that idea, but it means generalizing one bad product, to all products in an industry. If there was an outbreak of E.coli in milk, maybe a specific brand would get banned if it couldn’t get up to regulation, but its not like all milk would be demonized. Yet, that’s 100%, precisely what’s happening in Mexico, and in America, and a lot of other countries.

Why the discrepancy? Why are there constant smear campaigns and bans against products which aren’t associated with health issues, and which are associated with getting people away from health issues? And why do these smear campaigns and bans come out without mentioning one word about the detriments of cigarettes, or the reality that if alternatives are taken away, people will go back to smoking? While vaping could come with issues in the future, they haven’t made themselves apparent yet, so besides the use of additives which can be ruled out with regulation, there isn’t a problem to speak of. And while all this is happening to ban vapes, cigarettes are still sold. Even though their death toll is very much a part of the known world.

Why? It’s not for me to say, because I don’t know for sure, but I can put together enough to make sense of it. The US collected $12.5 billion in revenue just from the Federal Tobacco Excise Tax in 2019, according to Taxpolicycenter.org. These numbers stayed consistent enough through 2021, which saw $12.14 billion in cigarette tax revenue for the federal government, according to Statista. How much is the US expected to bring in, in 2027? $11.28 billion. Which kind of makes it seem like there isn’t much expectation that anyone is stopping. Plus, that’s just federal taxes, let’s not forget all the revenue made by individual states through their cigarette taxes too. Can you think of a country without exorbitant cigarette taxes? Mexico surely isn’t it, as 70% of the price of them, is indeed taxes.

Conclusion

Maybe the biggest hindrance to the general public getting laws that make sense and are in conjunction with good health, is the money that nearly every government makes off of people doing unhealthy things. The Mexican vape war goes along with the US vape war, and they both exemplify the pushing of nonsensical laws, that take away healthier options, and push consumers toward unhealthy ones.

In the case of the Mexican vape issue, the implications go far beyond the fight of smoking vs vaping, and into the heart of government structures. If Obrador’s decree is upheld, it weakens the Supreme Court, and every judgement it has made, and will make in the future.

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