The Korea Herald

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Govt. to regulate synthetic nicotine as tobacco through legislation

By Yonhap

Published : May 15, 2024 - 10:27

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This photo taken shows an e-cigarette vending machine in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap) This photo taken shows an e-cigarette vending machine in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The government plans to amend tobacco-related laws to designate synthetic nicotine as a type of tobacco in order to regulate the product category seeing growing popularity among young smokers, according to officials Wednesday.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of Economy and Finance plan to push for a revision of the law to include synthetic nicotine in the definition of tobacco under the Tobacco Business Act, according to officials.

In South Korea, tobacco-related laws are mandated under the National Health Promotion Act, under the jurisdiction of the health ministry, and the Tobacco Business Act governed by the finance ministry.

They stipulate a tobacco product is "what is manufactured in a state suitable for smoking, sucking, inhaling steam, chewing or smelling, by using tobacco leaves as all or any part of the raw materials."

According to such language, the liquid of synthetic nicotine e-cigarettes is not classified as tobacco. As such, synthetic nicotine is currently not subject to oversight measures, such as requiring warnings labels of potential health issues.

There are also currently no legal grounds for punishment for selling it to minors and it is not subject to tobacco-related taxes.

The decision for the law revision comes amid British American Tobacco's recent announcement that it was considering launching a new synthetic nicotine product in the country. South Korea is the only nation in the world where the global tobacco giant is reviewing launching a synthetic nicotine product.

"We have decided to push for the revision of the Tobacco Business Act when the 22nd National Assembly opens," an official at the health ministry said, adding, "We will provide necessary materials to the finance ministry and there is already an abundance of evidence proving that synthetic nicotine is tobacco."

The proportion of e-cigarettes within the overall domestic tobacco market has been on a constant increase, reaching 16.9 percent of the total sales in 2023. (Yonhap)