Bottled fresh air selling for as much as $40 in smog-hit China

Bottled fresh air from New Zealand is bring imported to China which suffers from an air pollution problem. SCREENGRAB: PURENEWZEALANDAIR.COM

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Stop, don't breathe. Hold it! OK, first pay 1.2 yuan (S$0.25) if you want fresh air to reach your lungs.

The most precious, but free, thing in the world - air - is now being bottled and sold on some e-commerce platforms in China. The air comes from both China and abroad, and is priced from 5 yuan to more than 200 yuan (S$40).

"Want to breathe the most pure and fresh air? Then take a bottle of air from Weihai. No pollutants, absolutely pure. Either from seashore, or from mountain," an advertisement on an online store claims.

It has become a "thriving business" as residents in China struggle with choking smog in the northern areas of the country this winter, the Beijing Youth Daily reported.

A bottle of fresh air from Weihai, in East China's Shandong province, is priced 5 yuan at an online outlet called "Weihai Hongyu Diaoju".

Imported air is more expensive. For example, the bottled air branded Vitality Air from Canada costs 108 yuan for a bottle of 7.2 litres, and air from New Zealand costs 219 yuan for a bottle of 7.7 litres.

How to use the bottled air? Open the bottle and take a deep breath. Vitality Air of Canada provides buyers masks, and the bottle of New Zealand air has an injector.

A bottle of New Zealand air can be used around 180 times, which works out to 1.2 yuan a breath.

What about the shelf life? Sellers of Weihai air claim it has a long shelf life, Vitality Air has one year and the New Zealand air has no expiration if the bottle is not opened.

Are there buyers? The owner of "Weihai Hongyu Diaoju" said that no one has yet bought the air, and it was only a gimmick to pique people's curiosity.

A seller of the Vitality Air said that it is a novel product, but "useless". The seller still made five transactions in a month.

The Vitality Air said on its official WeChat account, a Twitter-like service, the company has sold 10,000 bottles in eight months since May 2015.

So far, there are no regulations, or standards on the bottled air in China, and it's not clear what type of product bottled air should be classified under. The seller of New Zealand air said that he did not know either.

An official from the commerce and industry authority said that China has no special laws and regulations to ban such products from entering the country.

Mr Zhang Xueming, a Beijing lawyer on product quality and safety, said the imported air is related to safety problems because of the pressure container. The imported pressure container should get registered and approved by authorities.

Some experts said people should not buy such products without production date and quality certificates. They added that the products are just hype.

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