Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Call to change laws regulating e-cigarettes

WHO REPORT:The UN agency issued a report on Tuesday calling for a ban on the use of the product indoors and sales to minors. E-cigarettes cannot be legally sold in Taiwan

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

A set of electronic cigarette lies on a table in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: EPA

A number of anti-smoking advocates yesterday urged the government to regulate electronic cigarettes as a tobacco product rather than a controlled drug to address rampant illegal sales of the device.

The call came one day after the WHO report called for tighter regulation of e-cigarettes, including their use in public places and outlawing tactics to lure young users.

“Electronic cigarettes are a type of cigarette, but some manufacturers market the devices as a healthier alternative to conventional tobacco, which has misled young people into thinking that it is okay to use the product,” Lin Ching-li (林清麗), director of the John Tung Foundation, the nation’s most prominent anti-smoking group, said in a telephone interview.

The government categorizes e-cigarettes containing nicotine as a regulated drug subject to the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法). Due to the stringent requirements for getting a permit to manufacture or sell a drug, no e-cigarettes can be sold in Taiwan.

However, the act only targets manufacturers, importers and sellers of the device, not consumers. The illegal manufacture, import or sale of e-cigarettes is punishable by a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine not exceeding NT$10 million (US$330,000).

Nicotine-free e-cigarettes are covered by the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法), which prohibits the unlicensed manufacture, import and sale of any “candies, snacks, toys or any other object shaped like cigarettes.” Violators could face fines ranging from NT$10,000 to NT$50,000.

Lin said categorizing e-cigarettes as a regulated drug has only prevented them from entering the country legally, because people can still purchase them online, on the street or in night markets.

Foundation chief executive officer Yao Shi-yuan (姚思遠) said the group has received 939 complaints about illegal e-cigarettes over the past five years and he urged the government to stop turning a blind eye to the problem.

“Products that contain nicotine that are not designed for medical purposes should be regulated under the same law as tobacco products. That is the only way to prevent people from selling e-cigarettes, marketing them online, or using them indoors or in public places,” Yao said.

Since the manufacturers would also be required to comply with the packaging and labeling regulations covering conventional cigarettes, people would stop thinking that e-cigarettes are safe to use, he said.

Consumers’ Foundation chairman Mark Chang (張智剛) said categorizing e-cigarettes as a tobacco product is the only way to address the problem.

Wu Ming-mei (吳明美), section head of the Food and Drug Administration’s Northern Center, said the listing of e-cigarettes as a regulated drug in 2009 was meant to prevent them from entering the country.

According to the New York Times, the WHO report expressed “grave concern” about the growing role of the tobacco industry in the e-cigarette market and said the devices should be banned from indoor use “until exhaled vapor is proven to be not harmful to bystanders.”

The report also called for regulation to ensure the products contain a standard dose of nicotine, bans on sales to minors and that fruity, candy-type flavorings be prohibited, the Times said.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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