SINGAPORE - Three people who allegedly peddled electronic vaporisers are currently assisting the authorities with investigations after the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) conducted raids last Thursday (Jan 6).
They are believed to have used Telegram to advertise and sell e-vaporisers and vapour pods to a large number of people. Although their distribution network has been broken up, HSA noted that many other e-vaporiser sellers are increasingly using anonymous messaging apps like the encrypted WeChat and Telegram.
The three people involved are two men and a woman, who were found in a hotel in Geylang and homes in Yishun and Serangoon.
Not yet formally arrested, they could be fined up to $10,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both, if found guilty of peddling imitation tobacco products.
The maximum jail time and fine double on the second offence.
In this case, some $200,000 worth of e-vaporisers and related components were seized, including hundreds of packets of vapour pods used to flavour the tobacco.
HSA said one of the men has been referred to the Central Narcotics Bureau for investigations into suspected drug-related offences, for which he could face separate charges.
Despite e-vaporisers being banned here since 2018, more young people have braved the $2,000 fine to take up vaping, usually as an alternative to smoking conventional cigarettes.
An online survey here by research firm Milieu Insight late last year found that 3.9 per cent of more than 5,900 respondents, aged between 21 and 69, currently use e-vaporisers or heated tobacco products, a 0.9 per cent increase from a similar survey done earlier that year.
Many heavy smokers take up vaping to quit smoking conventional cigarettes.
E-vaporisers are generally cheaper, and can be puffed on anywhere - including indoors - and so are more convenient for those looking for a quick fix.
Some health authorities have said e-vaporisers are less harmful than smoking, but all agree that these are still not safe.
There has been an outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping in the United States, with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirming 60 deaths in patients with Evali (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury).
In a check last year, The Straits Times found that six major sellers posted more than 200,000 advertisements on their Telegram groups last year.
The authorities have vowed to step up enforcement efforts.