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E-cigarettes: health advocates welcome court action against two manufacturers

Consumer watchdog takes Social-Lites and Elusion New Zealand to court, alleging both companies’ products contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals

Health advocates have welcomed court action against two e-cigarette manufacturers, arguing it strengthens the case for proposed Victorian laws which would regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way as traditional tobacco products.

The consumer watchdog is taking two companies to the federal court after both allegedly claimed their e-cigarettes didn’t contain cancer-causing chemicals when in fact they did.

“It beggars belief that you can have a rechargeable battery device heating up a liquid of unknown composition, which you use at your mouth for hours at [sic] end, with no safety standards at all,” Quit Victoria director Dr Sarah White said on Monday.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges that the two companies, Social-Lites and Elusion New Zealand, breached Australian consumer law by making representations on their websites from at least August 2015 that the e-cigarette products being sold did not contain carcinogens or toxic chemicals, and did not contain any of the chemicals found in conventional cigarettes.

The e-cigarettes sold by the two companies do contain harmful carcinogens and toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde acetaldehyde and acrolein, the ACCC alleges.

Formaldehyde is classified by the World Health Organisation international agency for cancer research as a Group 1A carcinogen, meaning there is sufficient evidence to show it causes cancer in humans. Acetaldehyde is classified as a Group 2B carcinogen, while Acrolein is classified as a toxic chemical.

“It is imperative that suppliers have scientific evidence to support claims that their products do not contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“There is an increasing level of concern among international, national and state authorities regarding the composition of e-cigarettes, and the likely effects of their use. The ACCC will continue to work with its local and international counterparts to ensure consumers are receiving accurate information about these products,” Sims said.

The ACCC also alleges that the chief executive of Social-Lites and the director of Elusion were knowingly concerned in the alleged contraventions.

E-cigarettes are metal tubes that heat liquids typically laced with nicotine and deliver vapour when inhaled. The liquids come in thousands of flavours, from cotton candy to pizza.

Use of the devices has grown quickly in the past decade and experts fiercely debate whether they can help people give up smoking and whether they are safe, with some studies raising concerns about the toxicity of some of the ingredients.

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