SINGAPORE - In the largest haul of electronic vaporisers to date, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on March 18 seized more than $369,000 worth of e-vaporisers and components.
Three men are assisting with HSA investigations, including an individual who is also being probed by police for allegedly possessing several scheduled weapons in his home, said the HSA and the Singapore Police Force in a joint statement on Tuesday (March 23).
HSA had acted based on a tip-off. It first arrested two suspects - a 34-year-old and 39-year-old - who turned up at a storage facility in Tuas to purportedly collect several consignments of the prohibited e-vaporisers.
HSA officers on the same day raided the Serangoon North home of the third suspect, who is said to be involved in the peddling of the e-vaporisers.
E-vaporisers, which simulate smoking, are non-combustible. Each consists of an atomiser, a battery source and a small container for e-liquid or juice.
They have been banned in Singapore since Feb 1, 2018. Importing such items, including electronic cigarettes, has also been illegal since Aug 1, 2016.
In total, the officers seized 1,157 assorted e-vaporisers and 25,345 assorted e-vaporiser pods from the storage facility and the suspect's home.
"This is the largest seizure made by HSA thus far, with an estimated street value of about $369,150," said an HSA spokesman.
At the third suspect's home, HSA officers found two knuckledusters and a push dagger. The items were seized and police are investigating the 24-year-old suspect for possessing the scheduled weapons.
HSA's disruption of the e-vaporiser peddling syndicate comes in the wake of a rising trend in the sale and use of the banned items.
There was an increase in e-vaporiser advertisements last year on a handful of private chat groups, which were growing in size, with more joining the closed chat groups.
HSA has been dealing with more e-vaporiser cases over the last few years.
Between 2017 and 2018, it handled 1,744 e-vaporiser cases. This grew to 1,930 cases between 2018 and 2019 before spiking to 4,676 cases between 2019 and 2020.
Last month, HSA told The Straits Times that from Jan 1, 2018 to Dec 31 last year, it dealt with 9,738 cases involving the illegal importation of e-vaporisers and 196 cases involving the sale of the banned products.
Under the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act, it is illegal to import, distribute, sell harmful or imitation tobacco products which include shisha tobacco, smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco such as Gutkha, Khaini, Zarda, e-vaporisers and their accessories, HSA said.
A person found guilty of the offence can be fined up to $10,000, or jailed up to six months or both.
A repeat offender can be fined a maximum of $20,000, or imprisoned a maximum of 12 months, or both.
The police reminded the public that it is an offence for anyone to possess a scheduled weapon.
First-time offenders can face a jail term of up to five years and receive at least six strokes of the cane.