Two men and a woman have been fined a total of almost $100,000 for selling electronic cigarettes online, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) revealed yesterday.
The battery-powered gadgets, which manufacturers claim are a safer alternative to real tobacco, are illegal in Singapore.
In three separate cases, the HSA seized 490 sets of them, worth $25,000, from the homes of the trio - two Singaporeans and a Malaysian.
The latter, Boo Yee Fong, 32, received the highest fine of $64,500 last Thursday.
Investigations found that the permanent resident set up the website sgjuices.com in February 2012, using it to sell e-cigarettes to 82 buyers before sending them out via SingPost. He made an estimated profit of about $12,000.
Singaporean Chew Yew Yee - fined $10,000 on Feb 13 this year - was caught in a sting operation on Sept 3, 2012, when an HSA officer purchased a set of e-cigarettes from him for $138.
Chew, 36, arranged for a taxi to deliver the package to the officer. The cabby then led the officer back to where Chew had hailed his taxi. HSA officers later found Chew in the vicinity of Block 43 in Marine Crescent. He took them to his home where they seized e-cigarettes and related paraphernalia.
On March 10, Singaporean Lew Ying Ying, 29, was fined $21,000 for selling e-cigarettes to 32 people via a website called theraliquids.net that she set up in October 2011.
The websites used by all three peddlers have been shut down. They bought their stock from suppliers in China, Italy and the United States but were caught, thanks to the HSA's online surveillance and enforcement efforts.
The authority said it has prosecuted eight people for selling e-cigarettes since 2011.
They simulate the real thing by heating and atomising liquid nicotine kept in a small replaceable cartridge, but the HSA said in a statement that there is no conclusive scientific proof to back up makers' claims that they are effective in helping smokers quit.
A 2011 HSA study also found poor correlation between the actual nicotine content and the labelled amount among different types of e-cigarette.
Anyone who is convicted of importing, distributing and selling e-cigarettes may be fined up to $5,000 for a first offence. Second or subsequent offenders may be fined up to $10,000.
This article was published on April 22 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.