SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Wednesday strongly advised people not to use flavored e-cigarettes, joining a wave of nations around the world that have imposed tougher regulations amid growing health risks linked to vaping.
South Korea's Health and Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said the government also immediately banned teenagers from using flavored e-cigarettes, or e-liquid, warning that such vaping products could cause serious lung illness or death.
Park said recent incidents of deaths and illnesses in the United States added urgency to its review of policies against vaping and e-cigarettes.
"As several serious respiratory illnesses and deaths have been reported in the United States and South Korea, (the government) strongly warns against usage of e-cigarettes until their link to the (the diseases) are clearly identified," Park told reporters. "As (e-cigarettes) are directly related to public health, stronger regulations on tobacco products need to be promptly approved in the parliament, and the government will make a concerted effort for its passage."
The measures follow the government recommendations regarding the use of flavored e-cigarettes after concerns over e-cigarette use among young people led to a backlash against vaping in the U.S.
In May, leading e-cigarette company Juul Labs launched its product in South Korea to target the growing number of vaping device users in the country. South Korean tobacco manufacturer KT&G soon after rolled out its e-cigarette, Lil Vapor, to counter competition with the U.S. startup.
The ministry strongly warned against usage of e-cigarettes, especially among youth, pregnant women, patients with lung disease and non-smokers, and recommended teachers and their parents to closely monitor e-cigarette usage among adolescents.
It advised vape users who have respiratory problems and other health issues to visit hospitals to check on their lungs.
Public health officials also warned against arbitrary changes in the e-cigarette devices and components in cartridges as well as usage of tobacco products sold on the black market.
The guidance came as countries around the world move to ban devices that have been linked to deaths and youth addictions.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against using e-cigarettes after an outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries that has sickened more than 1,400 people and killed 33 was reported in the United States.
Walmart has stopped selling e-cigarettes, and several retailers have announced plans to restrict the sale of flavored vaping products, with critics saying the flavors target young people and get youth hooked on nicotine.
In South Korea, a suspected case of vaping-related respiratory illness was reported earlier this month. The patient had smoked combustible cigarettes before recently switching to e-cigarettes, according to health officials.
The global market for e-cigarettes was worth $15.7 billion in 2018 and is projected to more than double to $40 billion in 2023, according to market researcher Euromonitor International.