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Vaping takes a hit as the government warns on use

It is also pushing for a possible ban as safety becomes an issue
Oct 24,2019
Five months after the Juul e-cigarette entered the Korea market, all such products are now in danger of being banned in the country.

On Wednesday, the Health Ministry recommended those who are using liquid e-cigarettes - vaping - to immediately stop until it can be determined whether the products are harmful to health.

“The situation is serious considering that there have been several cases of severe lung damage and some cases of death both in the United States and Korea,” said Health Minister Park Neung-hoo. “We strongly recommend they stop using the liquid e-cigarettes.”

The minister in particular warned teenagers, pregnant women and those with lung disease.

Park also urged the lawmakers to pass a bill that would strengthen safety management related to cigarettes, which includes expanding the definition of a cigarette to include any product that contains addictive nicotine. Under the current law, cigarettes are only defined as products that use tobacco leaves. Many of the liquid-form e-cigarettes use tobacco stems and the roots.

This will allow the government to tightly regulate products, including control over advertising and related postings and distribution on the internet.

The bill will also gradually ban the use of scents in e-cigarettes, as the pleasant smell has the potential to attract younger users.

“The government will actively cooperate,” Park added.

According to the government, the first case where a patient was suspected of having lung problems related to vaping was reported on Oct. 2. The government started monitoring liquid e-cigarettes on Sept. 20.

A Korean man in his 30s who previously smoked five cigarettes to as much as a full pack daily was reported to have used Juul and KT&G’s Lil Vapor for two to three months.

The patient was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 27 but was released five days later, as the patient’s health improved since he stopped vaping.

Tests of the patient showed no sign of infection, and the doctor suspected his lungs to be affected by the vaping.

Health concerns over vaping have been raised since similar cases have been reported in the United States.

According to the Korean Health Ministry 1,479 people who have used liquid e-cigarettes in the United States have suffered severe lung damage, and 33 of them have died.

Of the patients, 79 percent of the patients were 35 years old or younger, while 15 percent were 18 or younger. But 78 percent of the cases involved the use of cannabis.

The government said as of the end of 2018 about 36 liquid e-cigarette products from 11 companies, including the San Francisco-based Juul as well as KT&G, were sold here.

The Health Ministry said it will come up with stronger measures against liquid e-cigarettes in cooperation with other ministries, including the Finance Ministry and the Food and Drug Safety Ministry.

President Moon Jae-in on Oct. 18 held an emergency meeting where he ordered the government to come up with liquid e-cigarettes measures.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]