Fri, Jan 09, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Groups urge using tobacco act to stub out e-cigarettes

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Several groups yesterday urged the government to reconsider its repeated refusal to bring electronic cigarettes under the control of the Tobacco Hazards Act (菸害防制法), which it said has only fueled the illegal sale and use of the nicotine-dispensing product.

John Tung Foundation chief executive officer Yau Sea-wain (姚思遠) said that while smoking rates among adults dropped slightly from 20 percent in 2009 to 18 percent in 2013 after the government banned smoking in all indoor public areas, the number of cigarette-related complaints it received has surged from 647 in 2011 to 1,188 last year.

“With electronic cigarettes inundating the Internet, we have also observed a noticeable increase in the number of complaints over the illegal sale or use of e-cigarettes, with the amount rising from 39 in 2011 to 670 last year, before surging to 1,446 in the first week of this year alone,” Yau said.

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

Taiwan International Medical Alliance secretary-general Huang Sung-li (黃嵩立) said that a recent Japanese study found that e-cigarettes contain 10 times more formaldehyde and acetaldehyde — both potential carcinogens — than normal cigarettes, disproving the common misconception that the former are risk-free and conducive to reducing the use of tobacco.

“The government’s policy of regulating e-cigarettes — in place since March 2009 — as a drug is impractical and ineffective, as evidenced by the widespread presence of the product in online shops, night markets and street stalls,” Huang said.

Consumers’ Foundation deputy secretary-general You Kai-hsiung (游開雄) said e-cigarettes have become a popular choice for new smokers and only bringing the product under the regulation of the Tobacco Hazards Act will curb its popularity.

“Inclusion in the act would prohibit advertising and online sales of e-cigarettes, and ban their use in indoor public areas. It would also require health warnings to be placed on e-cigarette packaging and impose age restrictions for purchasing the product,” You said.

Health Promotion Administration Deputy Director-General Yu Li-hui (游麗惠) said that treating e-cigarettes as a regulated drug is a policy that has been adopted by several European countries, such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria, because it subjects the product to the strictest regulations.

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