Electronic cigarettes have been placed under specialized legal supervision for the first time, as China regulators prepare to tighten rules.
The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration recommended bringing e-cigarettes in line with current tobacco product rules in a draft amendment to China's Detailed Rules for the Implementation of the Tobacco Patent Sales Law.
According to the Ministry's report, vaping goods, such as e-cigarettes, share fundamental similarities in their nature and mode of consumption with traditional tobacco products.
A report by China's National Health Commission on the health hazards of smoking in the country came to the conclusion that "all flavors and brands of e-cigarettes are cytotoxic."
"Enforcement on ID requirements has really gotten strict since last year," a RELX shop worker told Nikkei Asia. "The government is really cracking down.
With a market share of more than 60%, RELX leads China's vaping market.
According to iiMedia Research, China's e-cigarette market will be worth 8.4 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) in 2020, more than eight times what it was in 2015. However, the presence of low-quality products and an increase in underage vaping prompted regulators to impose a ban on online sales in 2018.
The announcement of impending regulations shook the country's e-cigarette industry, sending investors scrambling for the exits. Some of the largest vaping firms' stocks have dropped.
According to the World Health Organization, China is still the world's largest producer and consumer of tobacco. There are about 300 million smokers in the country, accounting for 27% of adults. It is home to almost one-third of the world's smokers.
Much of China's vast e-cigarette manufacturing industry is based in Shenzhen, a city just north of Hong Kong known as the "vaping capital of the world."