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Electronic Cigarettes Are Ruled Illegal

Two arrested at Sham Shui Po shop for selling unregistered ‘quit-smoking’ products

Amy Nip and Agnes Lam – Mar 05, 2009 – SCMP

Electronic Cigars

Electronic cigarettes are an unregistered pharmaceutical product and it is illegal for the public to possess them, the Health Department warns.

Two people were arrested for selling electronic cigarettes, Health Department director Lam Ping-yan said at a press conference yesterday.

The items in question are cigarette-shaped electronic devices that atomise nicotine into an aerosol. No burning is involved in the process.

The Health Department and police raided an appliance shop yesterday in Apliu Street, Sham Shui Po, arrested two people and seized nine types of products. They included atomisers and “smoke cartridges”, which are refill products.

The two people arrested were a manager and a store employee.

Under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, electronic cigarettes containing nicotine and marketed as products to help people quit smoking are pharmaceutical items that require registration with the Health Department.

None of the electronic cigarettes sold in the city are registered and it is illegal to sell or possess the product. Anyone who sells or possesses the products is liable to a HK$100,000 fine and two years in prison.

“Keeping such products at home is not allowed,” Dr Lam said. “Anybody who has them should dump them quickly. If they don’t know how to deal with them, they can hand them to the Health Department. Department staff will dispose them.”

Using the unregistered product was dangerous, he warned.

“It is hard to predict how asthma patients or people with respiratory illnesses would react” to using them, Dr Lam said. “We found a high level of nicotine in the electronic cigarettes. There is 36 milligrams of nicotine in one smoke cartridge, higher than in one pack of cigarettes.”

A pack of cigarettes had an average 14 to 15 milligrams of nicotine.

It was difficult to ban Net ads for electronic cigarettes, Dr Lam said. They cost about 200 yuan (HK$230) on one mainland website.

Mr Chiu, whose shop was raided two days ago, said the Health Department had seized his stock of electronic cigarettes.

“The electronic cigarettes have been quite popular recently,” he said. “Health Department officers came to my shop and seized all my stocks after I was interviewed by reporters.

“The officers said all electronic cigarettes had to undergo examination. I don’t understand why. These products are helping smokers. I want to help smokers.”

He said most electronic cigarettes were made on the mainland and the products were very popular in Europe. “I don’t see why the government has to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes. How can these products be bad for people when they help people quit smoking?”

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