Saying that more than 100 types of electronic cigarette are being sold online without clear details of their content, the John Tung Foundation said sellers are misleading smokers into believing that e-cigarettes can help them stop smoking.
Vendors are capitalizing on the lack of government regulations on these relatively new products by vaguely stating that they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes and can be used to effectively quit smoking, the foundation said.
According to John Tung Foundation chief executive officer Yau Sea-wain (姚思遠), e-cigarette manufacturers around the globe have been sponsoring research, paying Hollywood celebrities to endorse their products and trying to influence government regulations on tobacco control.
He said the WHO made a public announcement as early as 2008 on e-cigarettes, warning users that there is no evidence that they can be used as an effective and safe way to give up smoking.
“The Canadian, Cuban and Singaporean governments have banned the sale, advertising and import of e-cigarettes, while in the US and New Zealand e-cigarettes are considered as a medical product that needs to be approved by their Food and Drug administrations before going on the market,” Yau said.
Lai Chih-kuan (賴志冠), a physician working in the Family Medicine Department at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, said that although e-cigarettes look like real cigarettes and produce simulated vapor smoke, they are actually battery-operated and consist of an atomizer and a cartridge of refillable liquid nicotine.
“E-cigarettes are marketed as a replacement for traditional cigarettes or as being of benefit to smokers trying to break their tobacco addiction, but they are not legitimate nicotine-containing medicine and have not been subject to proper safety evaluations.
Since e-cigarette users can choose the amount of nicotine they inhale, it is very possible that they can develop an addiction to such products, which may also contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals,” Lai said.
The foundation urged the government to rein in online e-cigarette sellers and advised those who want help to quit smoking to try the safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy offered by medical institutions.