The Union welcomes China’s plans to regulate e-cigarettes

The Union welcomes the news that China is planning to regulate e-cigarettes to prevent young people and non-smokers from taking up vaping.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday 22 July, Mao Qunan, head of the National Health Commission's (NHC) planning department, said that the NHC "is working with relevant departments to conduct research on electronic cigarette supervision and we plan to regulate electronic cigarettes through legislation."

There is an urgent need for the regulation of e-cigarettes globally because research has shown that vaping is increasing dramatically among young people. The 2018 United States (US) National Youth Tobacco Survey conducted by the Centres for Disease Control showed that the number of US high school students who reported current e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018, and the study authors suggested that this could be due to the recent popularity of certain types of e-cigarettes, such as JUUL.

“Recent evidence has shown that the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents is likely to lead them to go on to smoking tobacco products,” said Dr Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union. “The regulation of e-cigarettes in China is urgently needed to ensure that young people are protected.”

“We would recommend that e-cigarettes be regulated in China as pharmaceutical products, which would require manufacturers to provide evidence that the sale of the product will bring public health benefits. It is also important that the use of e-cigarettes is banned in public places; that all e-cigarette advertisements are banned; and that health warnings are printed on packages.”

The Union has made further recommendations on the regulation of e-cigarettes to protect public health in a summary position statement on e-cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery systems.

Over the past decade, substantial progress has been made in China, which has the highest rate of tobacco use in the world, in protecting non-smokers from exposure to second-hand smoke. A relaxed regulation on e-cigarettes, or a lack of regulation altogether, could potentially roll back the progress made in social norm change on smoking, and endanger the effectiveness and efficiency of smoke-free law enforcement.

The unique situation of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) being part of the government in China warrants the need for the STMA to be distanced from tobacco control policy making, as it poses a conflict of interest and a violation of Article 5.3 (on tobacco industry interference) of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This principle should also be applied to the development of e-cigarette regulation.

Dr Gan Quan said: “It is crucial that the regulatory authority over e-cigarettes reside with the China Food and Drug Administration, and that STMA is not involved in the regulation of e-cigarettes or any discussions about it.”

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