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NEWS!Gov't to analyze contents of JUUL e-cigarettes

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By Lee Suh-yoon

In a move to warn the public of the potential health risks of e-cigarettes, the health ministry is planning to conduct an independent assessment of the chemical components in JUUL products with the consumer safety watchdog.

"As we did when heat-not-burn (HNB) IQOS e-cigarettes were first introduced, we will soon request the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to conduct a study of JUUL e-cigarettes," Jung Young-gi, a ministry official, confirmed over the phone on Sunday. "We will check for the different types and levels of toxic substances present in these products."

The substance breakdown, as well as product assessments on toxicity and dependency, will be made open to the public to raise awareness of possible risks.

Currently, cigarette packages in Korea only specify the levels of tar and nicotine content. The World Health Organization advises companies to reveal the detailed components of tobacco products to government authorities, but this has yet to be enforced in Korea.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it would come up with its own assessment methods for cigarette products, planning to evaluate 20 substances for e-cigarettes.

JUUL's e-cigarettes come with plug-in liquid "pods" in flavors like cucumber and mango. Shaped like a thin USB flash drive, it's known for delivering effective nicotine hits. JUUL dominates close to three-quarters of the e-cigarette market in the U.S.

JUUL was released in stores across Korea last Friday and is likely to gain a firm foothold as consumer trends shift from smoking to vaping. According to a recent survey of smokers by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, 37 percent of 3,221 respondents said they switched to e-cigarettes over the past year for odor and health reasons.

Though nicotine intake is comparable between vaping and smoking, some studies have shown e-cigarettes expose one to fewer toxic chemicals and carcinogens than smoking conventional cigarettes.

Still, the increased use of e-cigarettes raises new public health issues.

JUUL was roundly bashed in the U.S. last year for spreading vaping among teenagers ― attracting minors with its sleek design, fruity flavors and addictive nicotine punch. The resulting crackdown by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) forced the company to pull some flavors off store shelves and shut down social media promotion accounts.

To address such concerns, the ministry said it will crack down on stores selling e-cigarettes to minors starting this month, as well as boost monitoring of illegal online sale channels.

"The use of these new types of cigarettes by teenagers can lead to nicotine addiction and health hazards, as well as habitual smoking," Jung said. "It's important that we prevent teenagers from using any kind of cigarette in the first place."

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