Korean trade group sues government over vaping misinformation


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  1. Agencies misinformed Koreans about vaping and “EVALI”
  2. The government has caused “economic and psychological damage”

A South Korean vaping industry organization is suing two government agencies for spreading misinformation about nicotine vaping that it says has caused financial hardship for many of its members. The group wants the government to correct the record.

The Korea Electronic Cigarette Association (KECA), which represents approximately 4,000 vaping product retailers, alleges that the Ministry of Health and Welfare of the Republic of Korea (MOHW) and the Korea Regulatory and Prevention and Control (KDCA) have damaged the reputation of small vaping companies and caused them great financial harm.

Agencies misinformed Koreans about vaping and “EVALI”

The October 23, 2019 press release urged Koreans to avoid e-liquid vaping products, based on supposed concerns about the outbreak of vaping-related lung injury in the United States called “EVALI” by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). . (We put quotation marks on the name to indicate that “EVALI” is a term created by the CDC – “e-cigarette, or vaping, lung injury associated with product use” – which itself reinforces the mistaken belief that e-cigarettes bear all responsibility (the name is believed to have been coined by former CDC employee and current director of the FDA’s Tobacco Products Center, Brian King.)

By the time the Korean press release was published, most American experts were already convinced that “EVALI” was caused by a cannabis oil thinner called vitamin E acetate, although the CDC only admitted it. in November (and never fully abandoned the claim that some “EVALI” cases may have been caused by nicotine vaping products). No case of “EVALI” has ever been linked to a nicotine vaping product.

KECA says the “false impression” created by the health agency’s press release and advertisements has caused “enormous economic and psychological damage” to vape retailers.

According to KECA, at the time of the government’s press release, “there was only one suspected case of lung injury in Korea, and even the suspected case was from a person who smoked tobacco,” according to Korea Biomedical. Review. (“EVALI” cases have been almost exclusively found in cannabis oil vapers in the United States.)

The Korean trade group‘s lawsuit cited a 2021 study in the Journal of Korean Medical Sciences which found no known cases of severe pneumonia or lung damage among vapers in South Korea. They allege that science backs up their claims about the relative safety of nicotine vaping products and that government health agencies’ refusal to withdraw their strong recommendation to quit vaping “can only be understood as a neglect of duty. “.

The government has caused “economic and psychological damage”

In fact, says KECA, the government itself has already admitted that vaping is safer than smoking. “According to Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) test results in 2017,” KECA said, “very low levels of harmful ingredients were detected in liquid e-cigarettes compared to tobacco. tar and carbon monoxide were not detected at all, and formaldehyde was only at the 1/20 level and acetaldehyde at the 1/500 level of regular cigarettes.

Yet despite the findings of the MFDS, the MOHW has created an ad campaign suggesting that smoking and vaping are equally harmful. KECA says the “false impression” created by the health agency’s press release and advertisements has caused “enormous economic and psychological damage” to vape retailers.

A survey of U.S. vape retailers found that more vape shop owners blamed U.S. media coverage of the lung injury epidemic for their huge sales losses in 2020 than the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 80% of stores reported losses that year, with an average sales drop of 18%.

Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-tobacco crusaders, and I believe vapers have a right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear and honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and misinformation brokers. I am a member of the CASAA Board of Directors, but my opinions are not necessarily those of CASAA, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy


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