Five major electronic cigarette companies in the city have formed a new association to block the government's plan to ban the sale of their products in the city, the Post has learned.
Nav Lalji, one founder of the Asian Vape Association formed last week, said the group contained major players in the e-cigarette industry - including sellers, distributors and manufacturers - who make up about 70 per cent of the local market.
"It is irresponsible for the government to prohibit personal vaporisers with no scientific basis," he said. "If they are worried about harmful substances, they should regulate them instead of banning them."
Health officials believed the manufacturers were targeting young people and marketing the e-cigarettes as trendy products. But Lalji, who is the founder and manufacturer of the e-cigarette brand Mist, rejected such claims.
He said the members of the association sold their products to adults at hotels, restaurants and bars as an alternative to tobacco.
None of their products contain nicotine and all were up to the international safety standards set by the US Food and Drug Administration, he said.
E-cigarettes can be sold legally in Hong Kong with no age limit if the product does not contain nicotine. Any product with more than 0.1 per cent nicotine must be registered as a pharmacy product with the Department of Health.
Lalji said many low-quality e-cigarettes were being marketed as candies and sold in small shopping malls, a popular haunt of young people, and that these products should be regulated.
He said these were non-mainstream products, usually ordered by individuals through the internet, and that the seller might not have full knowledge of the vapours' content.
"The government should regulate the content of e-cigarettes and ban them for those under the age of 18," he said. "But it is a free market and adults should be able to choose whether or not to use e-cigarettes.
"If the government is worried about the safety of the public, how come they do not ban the consumption of tobacco first? It is a known fact tobacco poses many health risks to smokers and the public."
He hoped the association could negotiate with the government over a proposed citywide ban, expected to be presented in the Legislative Council later this year, according to Undersecretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee.
Chan said many battery-powered vaporisers contained substances that were addictive and hazardous to health, and that there was little evidence to show they reduced the consumption of tobacco.