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Business trends

Blow to China's e-cigarette makers as online sales banned

Decision follows more than 37 deaths and 1,800 cases of lung injury in US

A saleswoman demonstrates vaping at a shop selling e-cigarette products in Beijing.    © Reuters

BEIJING -- China's State Administration for Market Regulation and the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration has jointly issued a circular asking all makers and distributors of electric cigarettes to shut their sales websites and apps to protect teenagers from harm related to use of the devices.

The authorities also demanded that e-commerce platforms shut down e-cigarette stores and urged makers and distributors to recall associated online advertisements.

In an explanation to the memo, the two government bodies said they would also ban illegal e-cigarette production activities, but stopped short of defining which companies were considered illegal.

The circular was issued following the deaths of 37 people and 1,800 case of lung injury related to the use of e-cigarettes in the United States, according to the explanatory note.

The sudden announcement could deal a destructive blow to e-cigarette makers and their investors.

RELX, one of the largest e-cigarette makers in China, responded to the circular quickly, saying via its WeChat public account on Friday that it would strictly follow the new demand, while adding that it has never promoted its products to teenagers.

The company said it would also withdraw its online ads as required, adding that it would monitor its offline sales channels, such as brick-and-mortar stores and vending machines, to make sure they only serve adults by adopting technologies such as AI-powered identity recognition.

KrASIA is a digital media company focused on technology-driven businesses and trends across the Asia-Pacific region. It is part of 36Kr, a tech news portal based in Beijing. Nikkei has a minority stake in 36Kr.

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