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E-Cigs banned in the other China

The health department of the city of Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, the other China (the one that didn't invent e-cigarettes) has issued its first report on vaping products, which are illegal under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act, according to Commissioner Lin Chi-hung.

No products containing nicotine may be marketed in the country without a license. It would appear that combustible tobacco cigarettes may be sold in Taiwan if one has a license. However, the commissioner added that it is not legal to market nicotine-free [vaping] products as aids to quit smoking. Thus it is legal to kill yourself by smoking, but the effort to stop doing so is severely restricted. One wonders facetiously whether these policies are aimed at population control.

The health department's investigation found 318 vaping products available online to Taiwanese customers, on facebook and other online sites. The report also mentioned something of a black market in electronic cigarettes. Although mainstream stores seldom sell them openly, the study cites two instances of their sale by "night vendors" that sell cigarette accessories. But the study notes that it had "difficulties in locating such vendors."

The director of the food and drug division of the Department of Health, Ms. Chiu Hsiu-yi, noted that there have been problems tracking down the identities and locations of vendors, but the department was able to track five addresses to Taipei. However, she adds that it is "beyond the department's prerogative" to prosecute them.

As might be expected, given such a regulatory mishmash, the policies are based on considerable misinformation. A researcher with the National Health Research Institute, Wen Chi-bang, claims that "there is no solid evidence" of the effectiveness of vaping in attempts to quit smoking. Clearly the department has not read anything of the growing body of evidence to the contrary.

The research official continues by claiming that e-cig liquid contains "heavy metals" (environmentally harmful metals), apparently thinking of recent reports that trace amounts of fine particulate matter (metal) has been found in some e-cig vapor. He says that these metals expose users to "carcinogenic substances". In fact, both nano-particles and carcinogens are present at trace levels that pose no danger to users, although this does not stop vape-bashers from mentioning them frequently as a scare tactic.

He claims that "high concentrations of nicotine used in the devices create a risk of poisoning," appearing to be unaware of the fact that poisoning occurs only when people (usually toddlers or attempted suicides) drink the e-liquid, in which case the concentration is irrelevant. And of course they vomit it up anyway.

He also claims that the nicotine concentrations "make them volatile and likely to explode."

This is of course complete nonsense. Liquid nicotine is not a substance noted for flammability, and when explosions involving e-cigs occur, it has to do with their batteries being recharged, usually improperly.

Policies based on such misinformation are widespread, but one may hope that education about vaping will gradually improve the situation.

And let's hope they don't prosecute those five brave merchants in Taipei who sell electronic cigarettes.