On the evening of November 26, China amended its tobacco monopoly law to include e-cigarettes, stepping up regulation of the fast-growing vaping industry in the world’s largest tobacco market. The order, published on the State Council’s website, comes into effect immediately.
Many e-cigarette brands in the industry have expressed their firm support for the revision of regulations, including market leader RLX Technology Inc.
The E-Cigarette Industry Committee under China Electronic Chamber of Commerce believes that the supervision of e-cigarettes is very necessary and timely. The committee hopes that the new national mandatory standards for e-cigarettes can be launched as soon as possible, so as to effectively regulate the production and operation activities of e-cigarettes, solve the product quality and safety risks, and protect the legitimate rights and interests of consumers.
In fact, as early as March 22, the website of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued a draft calling for strengthening the supervision of new tobacco products such as e-cigarettes. Now, the formal implementation of this regulation means that e-cigarettes have exited from a regulatory grey area.
Being included in the supervision is closely related to the rapid expansion of the e-cigarette industry. In recent years, e-cigarettes have been sought after by many smokers because of their convenience and because they have similar smoke and taste as cigarettes. At the same time, due to the low barriers to entry and large profit margins, the industry has entered the fast lane.
According to data from iiMedia Research, the number of e-cigarette enterprises in China has increased rapidly from 45,400 in 2013 to 168,400 in 2020. As of February 4, 2021, there were more than 170,000 e-cigarette enterprises in China.
Some merchants publicize e-cigarettes under the guise that they can help quit smoking. The “fashionable and harmless” slogan has made some young people who did not smoke start to buy electronic cigarettes.
In recent years, the proportion of minors using electronic cigarettes has gradually increased. According to a report released by the Fudan Development Institute in November, among 2,405 teenagers in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, 94.3% have heard of e-cigarettes and 4.5% have tried e-cigarettes. Among them, the vast majority of people who used e-cigarettes for the first time were 10-15 years old.
In terms of protecting minors from electronic cigarettes, policies from relevant departments in China are gradually being implemented. On June 1, a new law on the protection of minors clearly states that the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is prohibited.