SINGAPORE - Singaporeans are defying a ban on electronic cigarettes despite stiff fines for distributors and smugglers, health authorities said Friday.
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said it confiscated 5,356 of the devices, known as e-cigarettes or "vapers", last year, almost three times the seizures in 2012.
This compared with only 10 such seizures in 2009.
The battery-powered devices deliver a puff of nicotine vapour in a variety of possible flavours, minus many of the toxic chemicals present in a cigarette.
HSA said there was no conclusive scientific evidence to show that e-cigarettes help smokers quit tobacco use.
It added that health authorities are "concerned that e-cigarettes could potentially be a gateway to developing a smoking habit".
The agency says it watches websites and forums to monitor the illegal trade of e-cigarettes inside Singapore.
It said eight people have been prosecuted since 2011 for selling them.
Their import, distribution or sale is punishable by fines of up to S$10,000.
Singapore is one of the costliest cities to buy conventional cigarettes, with a pack of Marlboros costing around S$13.