Selling electronic cigarettes in pharmacies has become illegal, and violators will lose their licenses to operate, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Dr. Eyal Schwartzberg, the head of the Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical branch, sent a directive to all private and health-fund pharmacies that they must immediately stop such sales.

Starting August 1, the Health Ministry’s district health officers will visit pharmacies and enforce the regulation, taking action against violators. The very-profitable sales of e-cigs in pharmacies – including the large chain stores – is widespread, while marketing of cigarettes and other tobacco products in such establishments, which is already illegal, is less common.

Schwartzberg noted that e-cigs are not medical devices.

“There are no data or proof that they are effective [in helping users to stop or reduce smoking] or even that they are safe. As a result, they must not be sold in pharmacies,” Schwartzberg wrote.

The ministry is preparing a bill for the Knesset to bar e-cigs, and is thus following in the footsteps of the US Food and Drug Administration, which stated recently that it would extend its regulatory authority to e-cigs. The FDA will prohibit their sale to minors and supervise all e-cig products.

As increasingly stringent legislation has limited smoking in public places, causing tobacco companies to be concerned about their income and smokers to worry about when and where they can get tobacco products, companies have developed and put on the market electronic cigarettes that give users the feeling of smoking without polluting their environment.

E-cigs, which contain concentrates of nicotine or other compounds that can be carcinogenic when heated, do not produce regular smoke.

Consisting of a battery, a device that heats the chemical and a container to store it, an electronic cigarette vaporizes the powder or liquid into synthetic smoke.

Nicotine, an addictive psychoactive stimulant, releases adrenaline and dopamine. As the nicotine in e-cigs is very concentrated, it is more poisonous than nicotine in regular cigarettes. Smoking e-cig chemicals lasts longer than smoking a cigarette.

Leaks from e-cig cartridges have been reported. They pose a serious risk of toxin exposure, as its content can be swallowed or passed in the air, the Health Ministry said. In 2012, a baby died when he swallowed the content of an e-cig cartridge.

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