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China's e-cigarette boom lacks oversight for safety

Chinese factories working faster, hoping to build profits and market share before regulatory scrutiny

Published Sun, Dec 14, 2014 · 09:50 PM
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Shenzhen

IN a grimy workshop, among boiling vats of chemicals, factory workers are busy turning stainless steel rods into slender tube casings, a crucial component of electronic cigarettes. Not long ago, Skorite Electronics was a tiny firm struggling to produce pen parts. Today, it is part of an enormous - and virtually unregulated - supply chain centred here that produces about 90 per cent of the world's e-cigarettes.

This year, Chinese manufacturers are expected to ship more than 300 million e-cigarettes to the United States and Europe, where they will reach the shelves of Walmarts, 7-Eleven stores, gas station outlets and vaping shops.

The devices have become increasingly popular, particularly among young adults, and yet hundreds of e-cigarette manufacturers in China operate with little oversight. Experts say flawed or sloppy manufacturing could account for some of the heavy metals, carcinogens and other dangerous compounds, such as lead, tin…

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