China is the world’s largest producer of electronic cigarettes, making roughly 80 percent of ecig products on the global market today. With Big Tobacco getting involved in the ecig industry, global health experts are putting pressure on China to implement new regulations through State management to ensure that ecigs are manufactured in a safe environment.
Li Baojiang, the deputy director of the Chinese economic research institute, said lawmakers are concerned with consumer safety. “Regulating e-cigarettes, like traditional tobacco products under the State monopoly, is highly feasible,” Baojiang said. “And that helps with consumer safety and rights, product quality control and the government coffers.”
The World Health Organization has historically taken a harsh approach towards the vaping industry and they have continuously put mounting pressure on China to enact new regulations for ecig manufacturers and exporters. Bernhard Schwartlander, the WHO representative for China, said the ecig industry is growing at an unprecedented rate and safety measures need to be enacted immediately to protect consumers. “The WHO is calling for stronger regulation of e-cigarettes and similar devices,” he admitted.
China is lagging behind many other countries around the world that have already jumped on the regulation bandwagon. The United States is currently mulling over regulations through the Food and Drug Administration. In Brazil, electronic cigarettes were completely banned in 2009 and Spain has banned vaping in public places, treating them much like tobacco products. The UK insisted on a different approach, classifying electronic cigarettes as medications and regulating them as pharmaceutical products.
Schwartlander worries that ecigs could pose a public health risk and hopes that vaping products will be regulated as tobacco products in China. Li agreed, saying that treating ecigs as tobacco products would be the most effective way to insure fair policies and product safety for consumers. “If it’s regulated as a tobacco product, it will thereafter be subject to existing smoking control policies,” he said.
There is a lot at stake with these regulations as China currently has over 900 ecig manufacturers. From 2012 to 2013, the industry grew by 200 percent and in 2013, they exported $560 million worth of ecig products. Experts estimate that the Chinese ecig industry is worth around $3 billion.
Do you think China should move forward with ecig regulations or is it best to let manufacturers determine their own quality standards?