Korean War on Vaping

Posted 12th April 2015 by Dave Cross
Korea is home to one of the world’s leading mod makers, Mojo. One would therefore assume that his country welcomes vaping but this week the Korean Times carried a feature emblazoned with the heading “E-cigarettes are not safe” as authorities struggle to come to terms with how to deal with vaping. The snappily titled National Evidence-based Healthcare Collaborating Agency is buying into the Glantz-led agenda and putting out misleading, contradictory and untruths.

According to Korea Customs Service data, importation of vaping products jumped nearly seven-fold (to £3.2million), during September-November 2014 when compared with September-November 2013. This figure has continued to rise exponentially as the Korean government more than doubled the price of a pack of fags from 2,000 to 4,500 won (£1.25 to almost £2.80).

What concerns the Korean authorities is that it currently has one of the highest smoking rates in the world, especially amongst men (47.3%). They fear that vaping is going to undo any anti-smoking measures and buy into the WHO notion that “even though e-cigarettes may be less toxic than traditional tobacco, their effectiveness as a method for quitting tobacco smoking is limited.”

The Glantz “study” in 2013 of ecig use among Korean adolescents influenced them at an early stage. In it he fallaciously concluded: “E-cigarette use was strongly associated with current and heavier cigarette smoking.”

The increased level of interest in vaping has spurred two Korean shopping channels into stocking e-cigarettes and Lotte Home Shopping now has its own brand. Ruyantech’s VEIL Maxi-S sold out three days after launch – the Korean market is exploding...just not in a way the Daily Mirror likes.

Premier Ecigs

The Department of Health’s initial response was predictable; they said ecigs “contain the same carcinogens as in tobacco cigarettes,” and that “there is insufficient scientific evidence to conclude that e-cigarettes help users quit smoking.” The same department then vowed to educate the public about the harmful effect of e-cigarettes!

In February, the honest approach to public education included the announcement that “electronic cigarettes contain more carcinogenic substances than regular cigarettes,” harking back to a deeply flawed predetermined conclusion-driven study. In 2012, the ministry found “formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, tobacco-specific carcinogens and addictive nicotine,” having dry-burnt their way through a caseload of CE2s.

Ignoring all evidence being presented to them, the Korean government has vowed to get tough on shopping channels and fine vapers who use their devices outside of smoking areas. Unsurprisingly, vapers are accusing them of forcing them away from ecigs just to increase revenue from tobacco taxes rather than having than holding public health at the forefront.

Hence the article in the Korean Times stating: “Some studies also show e-cigarettes can contain harmful materials that do not exist in ordinary cigarettes, such as phthalate. Also, when the users control the amount of nicotine solution, it is difficult to predict how much nicotine the people consume. So we can't say that e-cigarettes are safe from nicotine exposure.”

The National Evidence-based Healthcare Collaborating Agency, in the style of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, polled 33 health “experts” and 1,000 members of the public. In yet another example of obtaining the evidence you were looking for, their poll concluded that 97% of the experts and almost 72% of the public believed vaping was harmful – while 88% of experts and 30% of the public believe ecigs do not help anybody to quit smoking.


These finding must surprise Kim Joon-hong, a Korean pilot and smoker for 10+ years. He said: “With the e-cigarette, I only spend around 30,000 won for the nicotine liquid, which lasts a month. There are also other benefits: I personally feel much healthier.” But what would he know – he’s not an expert.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
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