SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea's health minister on Wednesday (Oct 23) "strongly advised" the public to stop using liquid e-cigarettes as growing health concerns fuel a global backlash against vaping.
Countries around the world have been pulling electronic cigarette products from markets and restricting advertising as vaping faces increased scrutiny.
"The current situation is considered a grave threat to public health," South Korea's health minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing, citing cases of lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use in the United States.
Mr Park said the government would expedite its own studies to determine if there was a scientific basis to ban sales of liquid e-cigarettes.
US health officials have so far reported 33 deaths and 1,479 confirmed and probable cases from a mysterious respiratory illness tied to vaping.
A case of a South Korean e-cigarette user with pneumonia was reported this month, the health ministry said.
The US has announced plans to remove flavoured e-cigarettes from stores, citing alarming growth in teenage use of the products. India also discontinued the sale of e-cigarettes in September.
South Korea's health ministry has vowed to tighten regulations on vaping products such as strengthening customs procedures for imported liquid of e-cigarettes.
Following the government's decision, the Korea office of US e-cigarette maker Juul Labs said in a statement that its products had no harmful substances. Juul began sales in South Korea in May.
E-cigarettes - both liquid and the heat-not-burn types - are widely available in South Korea, accounting for 13 per cent of its tobacco market by sales as of June, according to government data.