Two Singaporeans and a Malaysian have been fined about $100,000 in all for selling illegal electronic cigarettes, or battery-operated gadgets that simulate tobacco smoking, said the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on Monday.
The authority seized 490 sets of electronic cigarettes worth about $25,000 from the three peddlers, who were convicted separately this year.
The trio had separately bought the cigarettes, which are also called e-cigarettes, from suppliers in China, Italy and the United States. They had put the gadgets up for sale here through websites, but their illegal trade was discovered in 2012 through HSA's online surveillance and enforcement efforts.
Malaysian Boo Yee Fong, 32, received the highest fine of $64,500 on April 17; Singaporean Chew Yew Yee, 36, was fined $10,000 on Feb 13 and another Singaporean Lew Ying Ying, 29, fined $21,000 on March 10.
Since 2011, HSA has prosecuted eight persons for selling e-cigarettes, which simulate the real thing by heating and atomising liquid nicotine kept in a small replaceable cartridge.
In its statement, HSA said there is no conclusive scientific proof that e-cigarettes are effective in helping smokers quit smoking, though they are marketed as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes and a way to quit smoking. A 2011 study conducted by HSA also found poor correlation between the actual nicotine content and the labelled amount among different e-cigarette products.
Anyone who is convicted of importing, distributing and selling e-cigarettes may be fined up to $5,000 for a first offence. Second or subsequent offenders may be fined up to $10,000.