Photo/IllutrationThe Shiga prefectural police headquarters in Otsu (Koichi Fujimaki)

OTSU--A business operator was arrested Jan. 10 on suspicion of attempting to murder an acquaintance by offering him heat-not-burn (HNB) tobacco products laced with mercury.

Takashi Miyawaki, 36, head of a facility management company in Otsu, has admitted to the allegations, Shiga prefectural police said.

According to police, Miyawaki handed a 20-cartridge box of HNB tobacco containing metallic mercury to the acquaintance in Ritto, also in Shiga Prefecture, on June 3, 2017.

The acquaintance smoked 14 of the cartridges at a pachinko parlor and elsewhere on that day and the following day.

He was taken to a hospital after suffering from headaches and difficulties in speaking.

Police examined the remaining six cartridges and found the mercury.

Metallic mercury is used in thermometers and can easily be converted into gas. Inhalation of the gas can damage the brain and internal organs.

The acquaintance was an employee of a mobile phone repair company previously operated by Miyawaki.

HNB products have spread among smokers because they produce less smoke and odor than conventional cigarettes.