This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
E-cigarettes may be trendy but the Singapore government is not here for it. In fact, using and selling them is banned in the country. A 35-year-old man learned how serious this law is when he was fined SG$99,000 (US$71,715) yesterday for selling electronic vaporisers online.
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) caught the man, identified as Chong Weisheng in March 2015, The Straits Times reported. Twenty people have been prosecuted for selling e-cigarettes and e-cigars in Singapore in the last five years but his fine was by far the biggest.
The Singapore government has implemented strict policies against “emerging and imitation tobacco products” since February 2018. In a statement posted in last year, the HSA reminded the public that it is illegal to sell, import, possess for sale, or distribute e-vaporisers. This includes shisha, oral snuff, smokeless cigars, and loose-leaf chewing tobacco.
Upon further investigation, the HSA found that Chong illegally purchased e-vaporisers from online sellers around the world. He then re-sold his purchases on the website huntersbrew.net. When the offender learned that the HSA was conducting island-wide raids, he began taking precautions.
Chong changed the website domain name twice to hide his activities. The third website he created ensured that shoppers used a password. All of his transactions were labeled as “computer IT services.” His business pursuits can be traced back to March 2015, when HSA inspectors raided his apartment.
The debate on e-cigarettes has divided parties in Singapore. In April, Member of Parliament Melvin Yong asked parliament to review the ban on e-cigarettes. Those who agree with him believe regulating e-cigarettes is more beneficial than banning them altogether as it would ensure no illegal sales.
However, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong argued that e-cigarettes have long-lasting health effects and that the use of such devices should not be a trend in Singapore. Recent reports show that vaping-related lung illnesses have surged in the United States.
Singapore joins other countries in Asia such as Thailand and Taiwan, which have also banned e-cigarettes entirely. Hong Kong has placed restrictions on the sale of such devices, as did India, which is now considering classifying the products as “drugs.”