Treatment Of E-Cigarettes Under Vietnamese Law

After years of existence, it is still arguable whether e-cigarette (thuốc lá điện tử) should be regarded as actual tobacco (thuốc lá). Accordingly, it is not clear how e-cigarette business should be regulated under Vietnamese law.

Under the Law on Tobacco Prevention 2012, tobacco is defined to be “a product wholly or partly manufactured from tobacco ingredients, processed in the form of cigarettes, cigars, tobacco shreds, pipe tobacco and other forms”. The word “other forms” could broadly cover many forms of product. However, from the definition, the key when identifying whether a product is a tobacco product is not its form, but its ingredients.

In most cases, e-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that work by heating a liquid solution (e-liquid), from which vapor is then produced. This e-liquid usually contains nicotine – a stimulant typically made from tobacco plants. Meanwhile, the definition of tobacco ingredients under the Law on Tobacco Prevention 2012 includes multiple forms of tobacco leaves, tobacco shreds, tobacco stalks and other substitute ingredients used for tobacco production.

As a result, if an e-cigarette product is using e-liquid which contains nicotine made or derived from tobacco plants, then this e-liquid will be considered to be one type of tobacco ingredients, and such product would fall under the definition of tobacco as one of its “other form”. If the e-liquid is sold separately from the e-cigarette, then it is arguable that the e-liqui is a tobacco product but not the e-ciggarette which is similar to a smoking pipe.

In less frequent cases, an e-cigarette product might be actually tobacco-free. That is the event when it uses e-liquid not containing nicotine but other chemicals, or when the nicotine being used in such product is not made from tobacco plants but other chemicals. However, these other chemicals might still be referred to as substitute ingredients used for tobacco production. This again makes the e-liquid a tobacco ingredient and makes the relevant product an “other form” of tobacco.

This post is written by Nguyen Duy Hieu and edited by Nguyen Quang Vu