On Wednesday, South Korea warned people to stop using e-cigarettes filled with liquids citing growing health concerns, declaring to speed up an investigation into whether or not to ban sales of vape products in the country. This move is without an iota of doubt likely to make major manufacturers such as Juul uneasy.
While researchers have still not been able to determine the long-term health effects vaping has on the body, e-cigarettes were touted as a safer alternative to smoking a traditional, tobacco-based cigarette. Moreover, it was marketed as a healthier cessation tool to those who were struggling to kick the conventional butt.
As vaping comes under increased scrutiny from health officials, several countries including the United States and India have implemented bans on the sale of electronic cigarette products. Aside from that, vape products are no longer advertised in several countries across the world.
Talking about cases of vaping-linked lung injuries in the United States at a briefing, Korea’s health minister Park Neung-hoo said, “the current situation is considered as a serious risk to public health.”
As of now, 33 people have died and 1,479 confirmed and probable cases of mysterial respiratory illness linked to vaping have been reported by US health officials. The health minister pointed out that a pneumonia case of a 30-year-old South Korean vaper was reported earlier this month.
“Children, juveniles, pregnant women, and people with pulmonary diseases, never use liquid e-cigarettes. Non-smokers, too, never use liquid e-cigarettes from now,” Park said.
According to Park, the government is gearing up to expedite its research to figure out if the ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes had a scientific basis. These vaping devices usually vaporize the e-juice filled inside them. More often than not, this liquid contains nicotine.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has authorized a rival technology, wherein the tobacco is not burnt, but just heated. The agency has avoided most of the recently surfaced regulatory crackdown worldwide.
South Korea’s health minister assured that the regulations on vaping products such as strengthening customs procedures for imported e-juice or e-cigarettes will be tightened. In a statement, Juul Labs South Korea-based office said their products do not contain any harmful substances. Juul, which is 35% owned by Altria Group made its foray in the South Korean market back in May this year.
South Korean tobacco maker KT&G, which makes Lil Vapor e-cigarettes said it will completely cooperate with the government’s policies once the results of the ongoing research are out. After banning smoking inside public places such as restaurants, and cafes in 2015, South Korea came up with stricter rules for smoking.
Despite that, e-cigarettes have been garnering huge popularity in South Korea’s US$16 billion tobacco market for the past couple of years. A noteworthy 13% of the country’s tobacco market comes from the sale of e-cigarettes as of June, according to government data.
As far as heated vape products, South Korea is the world’s no. 2 market after Japan, worth a whopping US$1.7 billion, according to Euromonitor. Nevertheless, liquid e-cigarettes aren’t very popular.
Amid upsurge in adolescent usage of e-cigarettes, the United States is gearing up to take out flavored e-cigarettes from stores. Aside from that, India also banned the sale of e-cigarettes in September, citing alarming growth in teen use of the devices.