Aspire Global, a Shenzhen-based e-cigarette maker that recently branched out into cannabis vaping, has applied to US regulators to pull out of a proposed listing that would have raised US$135 million as tighter rules at home make fundraising more difficult. The company filed a withdrawal request to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, without providing a reason for the decision in its filing. It had originally planned to sell 15 million shares at US$7 to US$9 each, and had applied to trade on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker “ASPG”. Aspire kicked off its Nasdaq listing application last June, and updated its draft prospectus in January this year. Its withdrawal comes as recent rules introduced in China make expansion and distribution more challenging for e-cigarette manufacturers . The State Tobacco Monopoly Administration issued regulations in April that require e-cigarette firms seeking a listing in China or abroad to seek pre-approval from the industry regulator. Beijing, which maintains a state monopoly of the tobacco industry under the China National Tobacco Corp , has in recent years imposed various rules to clamp down on the e-cigarette sector’s expansion. Other rules introduced last month include a ban on foreign investors in a sector that once attracted venture capital giants such as Sequoia Capital and IDG. Manufacturers and retailers must also get a licence before they can produce and market their products. The government banned online advertising in late 2019, and sales in shops are restricted. Beijing wants to lower the smoking rate of its population to 20 per cent by 2030 , from the current rate of 26.6 per cent. Roughly half of all Chinese males smoke. Aspire’s decision to abandon the flotation also comes amid choppy market conditions. Many investors are pulling out of risky assets such as stocks as the Federal Reserve embarks on a series of rate increases at a time when Covid-related lockdowns in China have sparked global growth concerns. The Nasdaq Composite index has dropped 25.7 per cent so far this year. The volatile market has sunk American IPOs. Deals worth US$50 million and above have dropped by 80 per cent year-on-year to just 29, data from financial services firm Renaissance Capital shows. Over half of Aspire Global’s sales in 2021 were generated from Europe, with China and the US accounting for 18.5 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, according to the company’s draft prospectus. In the US, Aspire has been marketing its cannabis vaping product, branded “Ispire”, since late 2020. “Our strategy is … directed at increasing our e-cigarette vapouriser technology products and developing our cannabis vapouriser technology products,” it said in its draft prospectus. The company faces other regulatory headwinds that have dampened US investors’ interests in Chinese issuers in the last year, bankers have said. Only two IPOs by Chinese issuers have been completed on US exchanges so far this year, raising US$49.5 million, compared with 24 deals that raised US$4.8 billion a year ago, data from Refinitiv shows. The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, signed into law by former US president Donald Trump in late 2021, seeks to force foreign companies to delist from US exchanges if they fail to turn over audit results for three straight years. The process of delisting non-compliant foreign stocks could kick off as early as March 2023.