E-cigarettes have nicotine, other chemicals, FDA says

NASTY NICOTINE::As well as nicotine, some products were also found to contain formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which can irritate the eyes and lead to respiratory diseases

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Mar 24, 2015 - Page 3

More than 80 percent of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) tested last year were found to contain nicotine, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said yesterday.

E-cigarettes are marketed by some vendors as aids to quit smoking, but e-cigarettes containing nicotine are illegal in Taiwan.

According to FDA section chief Lin Mei-chih (林美智), of the 395 seizures of e-cigarettes by local health officials, police and customs officers last year, 324 — or 82 percent — tested positive for nicotine.

“The number of confiscated e-cigarettes has increased more than 10-fold over the past two years, from only 36 in 2013, at which time the percentage of products found to contain nicotine was also more than 80 percent; 86 percent to be exact,” Lin said.

Nicotine has a stimulating effect on the central nervous system and can produce addiction and dependence. Long-term exposure to the substance can drive up blood pressure, accelerate the heart rate and suppress appetite, Lin added.

The administration also recently tested 31 e-cigarette refill liquid products seized by local health bureaus for the presence of nicotine and other toxic chemicals.

Seven of them were discovered to contain nicotine, as well as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde at levels ranging from 0.9 to 3.6 parts per million (ppm) and 0.7 to 2.5ppm respectively, the FDA said in a press release issued yesterday.

“The other 24 tested samples were free of nicotine, but all contained between 0.6 and 3.2ppm of formaldehyde,” the agency said, adding that exposure to formaldehyde or acetaldehyde can irritate the eyes and the respiratory system and lead to chronic respiratory diseases with long-term contact.

E-cigarettes that contain nicotine are classified as a regulated drug subjected to the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法). Since the classification in March 2009, no such product has been granted a sales permit by the government due to the act’s relatively stringent regulations.

Under the law, manufacturing or importing electronic cigarettes carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine of up to NT$10 million (US$317,400), while sellers of the product can face a seven-year jail sentence and a NT$5 million fine.

As for nicotine-free e-cigarettes, those claiming to be able to assist smokers to stop or reduce their habits, or assuage nicotine withdrawal symptoms, may be subject to a fine of between NT$600,000 and NT$25 million.