Sun, Sep 11, 2016 - Page 3 News List

HPA to push for change to e-cigarette regulation

FALSE ADVERTISING:The director of an anti-smoking foundation said it had received reports that ‘vitamin water’ e-cigarettes were being marketed as healthy

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Health Promotion Administration (HPA) officials yesterday promised to push for amendments to the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (菸害防制法) to regulate e-cigarettes and increase taxes on ordinary cigarettes in response to the demands of ant-smoking lobbyists.

Introducing new regulations for e-cigarettes is warranted given the sharp increase in their usage among young people, with agency surveys showing that use of the products roughly doubled between 2014 and last year to 3 percent of junior-high school students and 4 percent of high-school students, HPA Director-General Wang Ying-wei (王英偉) said.

“If we do not do something to stifle this trend, the results will be frightening,” he said, promising to propose amendments along with other measures by the end of next month to discourage smoking, following public hearings and discussions with other agencies.

While the details have yet to be determined, the amendments would be a first in regulating e-cigarette products that do not contain nicotine, he said.

“Smoking is a behavior — not just the addictive drug nicotine — and after someone starts the behavior, the probability that it will develop and progress becomes higher,” he said.

Nicotine-containing versions of the devices are not permitted under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法), but are still widely available, and Wang said that the agency had not ruled out a partial legalization under the new regulatory framework.

He said that raising cigarette taxes would be part of the overall package.

The WHO recommends that taxes comprise 70 percent of cigarette costs, but the level is only 47 percent in Taiwan, HPA officials said, adding that the amount or percentage of the tax hike has yet to be decided.

Several civic groups agreed on the need for new regulations.

Consumers’ Foundation vice chairman Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) said that while producers and vendors of e-cigarette products could be prosecuted if the devices were found to contain nicotine, look like cigarettes or are marketed as an aid to quit smoking, the restrictions do not encompass all e-cigarette products.

“There are some models that look nothing like cigarettes, with manufacturers taking advantage of this loophole because there is no way to regulate them,” he said.

Yao Shi-yuan (姚思遠), chief executive of the anti-smoking John Tung Foundation, said his organization received many reports of “vitamin water” e-cigarettes, which are marketed as healthy because they do not contain nicotine.

The widespread availability of different forms of e-cigarettes shows the failure of the regulations, he said.

“If we could regulate this with just the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act, there would not be stores selling the products,” he said, adding that there are also e-cigarette bars that allow users to try different varieties, in addition to widespread availability online and at night markets.

Taiwan International Medical Alliance secretary-general Huang Song-lih (黃嵩立) said the “fillers” used for the e-cigarette “e-liquid” are unregulated due to the absence of application procedures under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Acts, creating a situation in which users cannot be sure of what they are inhaling.

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