67 nabbed for va­p­ing

Num­ber caught since Fe­bru­ary last year when it be­came il­le­gal to buy, use or pos­sess harm­ful or im­i­ta­tion to­bacco prod­ucts

The Straits Times - - BRIEFING - Theresa Tan Se­nior So­cial Af­fairs Cor­re­spon­dent there­[email protected]

Since elec­tronic va­por­is­ers (e-va­por­is­ers) were out­lawed in Fe­bru­ary last year, 67 peo­ple have been caught us­ing the de­vices. In the last five years, an­other 245 have been nabbed for sell­ing them.

Sixty-seven peo­ple were caught us­ing elec­tronic va­por­is­ers (e-va­por­is­ers) in the 10 months since they were out­lawed last Fe­bru­ary, new fig­ures re­veal.

An­other 245 have been nabbed for sell­ing the de­vices in the last five years, the Health Sciences Au­thor­ity (HSA) has told The Straits Times.

E-va­por­is­ers – which in­clude eci­garettes and e-cigars –are bat­tery-pow­ered de­vices that heat a liq­uid (called vape juice) con­tain­ing nico­tine, pro­duc­ing a vapour that is in­haled.

From Feb 1 last year, it be­came il­le­gal to buy, use or pos­sess harm­ful or im­i­ta­tion to­bacco prod­ucts like e-va­por­is­ers with of­fend­ers fac­ing fines of up to $2,000.

How­ever, the ban on the sale of such prod­ucts started way back.

Since 1993, it has been an of­fence to sell, dis­trib­ute or im­port im­i­ta­tion to­bacco prod­ucts.

Those con­victed face fines of up to $10,000 or jail sen­tences up to six months, or both, for the first of­fence. Penal­ties dou­ble for the sec­ond or sub­se­quent of­fence.

How­ever health and so­cial work­ers be­lieve the num­ber of peo­ple caught va­p­ing does not re­flect the true scale of the prob­lem here.

Ms Lena Teo, deputy di­rec­tor of ther­apy and men­tal well­ness ser­vices at Care Sin­ga­pore, which helps youths at risk, said: “Va­p­ing is pop­u­lar among youth as they think it is cool and odour­less. There are so many dif­fer­ent flavours (of the vape juice) and you can cre­ate smoke cir­cles.”

Dr Tan Kok Kuan of Dr Tan & Part­ners says that some smok­ers vape – as a sub­sti­tute for smok­ing cig­a­rettes – as they be­lieve that va­p­ing is less harm­ful than smok­ing.

He said: “It is now ac­cepted by most na­tional and in­ter­na­tional health au­thor­i­ties that e-cig­a­rettes ex­pose the user to much fewer tox­ins com­pared to cig­a­rettes.”

How­ever, he stressed that the vape juice used in e-cig­a­rettes con­tains nico­tine, which is highly ad­dic­tive when it is in­haled, and other harm­ful chem­i­cals.

Sin­ga­pore’s move to out­law va­p­ing has had some ef­fect in curb­ing the habit, coun­sel­lors and vapers in­ter­viewed say, due to dif­fi­culty in ob­tain­ing the vape juice and the fear of be­ing caught.

Many users bought their va­p­ing prod­ucts from Johor Baru in Malaysia or on­line.

Adam (not his real name), a 34year-old IT pro­fes­sional, stopped va­p­ing last year for fear of be­ing caught. He said: “We had to sneak the (vape) juices in from Johor Baru but it be­came too much of a has­sle. And you can’t smoke it openly as you don’t know who is watch­ing you. So I have be­come a bit para­noid.”

A 32-year-old busi­ness­man who only wanted to be known as Mr Tan was fined $5,000 for im­port­ing eci­garettes from the United States a few years ago but has not given up the habit.

He says va­p­ing is much cheaper than his $1,000-a-month cig­a­rette habit and buys bot­tles of vape juice from Johor Baru that costs less than $17 a bot­tle and lasts him a month each.

“I vape once in a while at home for the sh­iok­ness of it,” he said. “The ban does not re­ally de­ter me and I have not seen any­one die from va­p­ing yet.”

Among those caught break­ing the law was Mo­hammed Fauzan Sarip, 41, who was found with six sets of evap­or­is­ers at Wood­lands Check­points by Im­mi­gra­tion and Check­points Au­thor­ity of­fi­cers. He bought them in Johor Baru and tried to smug­gle them into Sin­ga­pore, claim­ing it was for his own use. He was fined $2,000 last Oc­to­ber.

In Sin­ga­pore, the Health Min­istry con­sid­ers e-va­por­is­ers as gate­way prod­ucts that will get users hooked on nico­tine.

Last Novem­ber, the United States’ Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion im­posed sharp re­stric­tions on where flavoured e-cig­a­rettes can be sold, to curb their use among teenagers, which it said had reached “epi­demic” lev­els.

How­ever United King­dom gov­ern­ment agency Pub­lic Health Eng­land said that e-cig­a­rettes are 95 per cent less harm­ful than to­bacco and en­cour­ages smok­ers to quit cig­a­rettes by switch­ing to e-cig­a­rettes.

The HSA spokesman ad­vised the pub­lic not to buy e-va­por­is­ers, ei­ther from the In­ter­net or from over­seas. They should also dis­card those in their pos­ses­sion.

PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

“Nico­tine Con­tain­ing Prod­ucts” shown at an e-cig­a­rette meet at the Royal Academy in Lon­don in 2013. The HSA ad­vised the pub­lic not to buy e-va­por­is­ers, ei­ther from the In­ter­net or from over­seas. They should also dis­card those in their pos­ses­sion.

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