The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has commenced separate proceedings in the Federal Court against two e-cigarette online retailers, alleging that they made false or misleading representations and engaged in misleading conduct by making statements on their websites that their e-cigarette products did not contain toxic chemicals.
The ACCC alleges that the two companies, Social-Lites Pty Ltd (Social-Lites) and Elusion New Zealand Limited (Elusion), breached the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by making representations on their websites from at least August 2015 that the e-cigarette products being sold did not contain carcinogens or toxic chemicals, and did not contain any of the chemicals found in conventional cigarettes.
The ACCC alleges, based on independent testing it commissioned, that the e-cigarette products sold by Social-Lites and Elusion did in fact contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals found in conventional cigarettes, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein.
"It is imperative that suppliers have scientific evidence to support claims that their products do not contains carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
"This is particularly important when, as here, products are designed to be inhaled and are being differentiated from conventional tobacco cigarettes because they are claimed not to contain toxic chemicals."
"There is an increasing level of concern among international, national and state authorities regarding the composition of e-cigarettes, and the likely effects of their use. The ACCC will continue to work with its local and international counterparts to ensure consumers are receiving accurate information about these products," Mr Sims said.
The ACCC also alleges that the CEO of Social-Lites and the Director of Elusion were knowingly concerned in the alleged contraventions by Social-Lites and Elusion respectively. Pecuniary penalties, declarations, injunctions, orders for an ACL compliance program, publication orders and costs are being sought by the ACCC.
Formaldehyde is classified by the World Health Organisation International Agency for Cancer Research as a Group 1A carcinogen, meaning there is sufficient evidence to show it is carcinogenic to humans. Acetaldehyde is classified as a Group 2B carcinogen by the IARC. That classification is applied to a chemical agent that has been evaluated as being possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Acrolein is classified by the World Health Organisation as a toxic chemical. It is also listed as a dangerous poison in Schedule 7 of the Poisons Standard of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.