Two arrested in crackdown on `electronic cigarettes’

March 5th, 2009 - 1:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Hong Kong, March 5 (DPA) Two men have been arrested in Hong Kong for selling unregistered “electronic cigarettes” that promoters claim can help smokers quit the habit, health officials said Thursday.
The arrests came after Hong Kong’s Department of Health found the devices which atomise nicotine into an aerosol with no burning involved on sale in a shop in the city’s Sham Shui Po district.

The men, aged 52 and 60, were arrested in a raid Wednesday and were later released on bail and ordered to report back to police in May, a department spokesman said.

Officials seized atomisers and smoke cartridges which are widely touted on Internet sites as a safe alternative to normal cigarettes.

The spokesman warned shopkeepers not to sell them and said the maximum penalty for selling the unregistered products was two years in jail and a fine of up to $13,000.

So-called electronic cigarettes are made in mainland China and are legal in some countries but have not been approved for sale in Hong Kong where all products containing nicotine must be registered.

One website advertising the products describes them as consisting of a battery, an atomiser and a cartridge chamber that holds a small amount of nicotine and water.

It described the electronic cigarettes as an alternative to cigarettes that satisfy smokers’ cravings without damaging their health.

The Hong Kong government doubled the tax on cigarettes in its annual budget in February. Around 13 percent of adults in the city of seven million are smokers.

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