Taipei eyes e-cig vendors

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Oct 21, 2014 - Page 4

Illegal e-cigarettes are widely available via online vendors, according to an investigation published yesterday by the Taipei City Government’s Department of Health.

The department’s first probe into e-cigarette availability found 318 different models or related products available online through Facebook, Line or auction sites.

The department said that while e-cigarettes are rarely sold openly in stores, they are sometimes available from night market vendors operating under the cover of selling cigarette lighters and other products. However, because of difficulties in locating such vendors, only two specific cases were mentioned in the report.

E-cigarettes are illegal under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法), Department of Health Commissioner Lin Chi-hung (林奇宏) said.

The unlicensed distribution and production of all products containing nicotine is prohibited under the act, he said, adding that marketing nicotine-free products as aids to quit smoking is also illegal.

Lin said that the department has turned over to judicial authorities cases involving five vendors whose addresses were tracked to Taipei.

However, in many others, vendors’ identities and locations could not be determined, said Chiu Hsiu-yi (邱秀移), the director of the department’s food and drug division. Whether the cases can be effectively prosecuted is beyond the department’s prerogative, she added.

While e-cigarettes are often marketed as an aid to stop smoking, there is no solid evidence of their efficacy, National Health Research Institute researcher Wen Chi-bang (溫啟邦) said.

He added that many e-cigarettes contain heavy metals, exposing users to carcinogenic substances when they inhale. In addition, the high concentrations of nicotine used in the devices create a risk of poisoning and make them volatile and liable to explode, he said.