67 nabbed for vaping
Number caught since February last year when it became illegal to buy, use or possess harmful or imitation tobacco products
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.
“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.