Health Ministry to Ban Import of Electronic Cigarettes

The Health Ministry will ban the import of electronic cigarettes, including those that do not contain nicotine, in the wake of a warning issued last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding the health danger posed by the devices.

The ministry also issued an express warning regarding e-cigarettes imported previously into Israel.

In its press release the FDA said that electronic cigarettes contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals but did not go so far as to prohibit their sale and use. E-cigarettes have been manufactured since 2004, mainly in China, and are sold around the world. Recently they have been showing up in stores across Israel and are also available over the Internet.

They are marketed as an aid to help people stop smoking.

They are available with nicotine or without, and in different flavors, such as chocolate or mint.

Laboratory tests carried out by the FDA on samples made by two different companies revealed carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze.

Public health experts expressed concern that electronic cigarettes could increase nicotine addiction and tobacco use in young people.

Electronic cigarettes were imported into Israel in recent months as "medical devices," with the approval of the Health Ministry's drugs department. About two months ago the department instructed importers to submit documentation showing that all components of the e-cigarettes being imported were safe to inhale and to smoke, together with the expert opinion of an Israeli toxicologist.