Controversies Surrounding SKE: UK's Second-Largest E-cigarette Manufacturer
Chinese government-owned SKE, the UK's second-largest e-cigarette manufacturer has deleted multiple social media accounts after a BBC reporter found it failed to verify whether participants in a giveaway were of legal age to smoke. SKE, known for the rapid growth in sales of its disposable e-cigarette brand Crystal Bar, has received criticism for potentially appealing to underage users.
Serge Davies, SKE's marketing director, stated in an exclusive interview with BBC, that the company's social media accounts had been deleted for scrutiny. SKE also apologized for not being part of the government's recycling program, which mandates companies, due to the costly nature of disposable e-cigarette recycling process, to register and bear the cost of recycling themselves.
The latest data from market analytics company, NielsenIQ indicates that SKE, partly state-owned, is now the UK's second-largest e-cigarette vendor with sales last year exceeding 30 million units. The actual total is believed to exceed 100 million, as Nielsen's data does not account for independent retailers and e-cigarette stores.
Despite the controversy, the brand is dedicated to continuing its e-cigarette giveaways. Davies said, "It does indeed seem to generate a lot of interest in the brand and gets everyone excited."
UK's House Parliament Health Select Committee Chairman Steve Brine voiced concerns, stating, "There's a worrying ease with which e-cigarettes can fall into the hands of children, due to the lack of proper checks."
The overwhelming variety and flavors of e-cigarettes sold in the UK by SKE is another point of contention. Some of their offerings are named after sweets, such as gummy bears, which have been criticized for potentially attracting minors. However, Davies stated that SKE intends to continue selling these flavors, as "A lot of gummy bears are sold to adults."
Parallelly, SKE has come under criticism for not being part of the UK government's recycling scheme, a legal requirement for electronic product manufacturers, up until this month. The company has since apologized and blamed the conflict on 'communication problems', but has signed up for the scheme now.
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