According to Hong Kong’s Xingdao daily, a study by the University of Hong Kong shows that the proportion of young people aged 25 or below using new tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco has reached a new high, reaching 85.9% from 2019 to 2020, an increase of 13 percentage points over the previous year, and it is the third year in a row. The situation is worrying.
According to the survey conducted by the youth smoking cessation hotline of the University of Hong Kong, 51.3% of the respondents said that curiosity was the main reason for using new tobacco products, followed by peer influence (37.3%), and hope to use new tobacco products to quit smoking or reduce smoking (21.6%). Respondents generally believe that new tobacco products are “healthy” than traditional tobacco products, mistaking them for helping them quit smoking. As a result, they are encouraged to use more new tobacco products in disguise. In addition, the interviewees also said that they would be attracted by all kinds of publicity, fashionable packaging and design on the Internet, and friends would recommend and share with each other.
The control of traditional paper tobacco in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan is very strict, but e-cigarette, as a new thing rising in recent years, has been in a vague area. In October 2018, when the chief executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, delivered her second policy address during her term of office, she announced that e-cigarettes would be banned in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government then formally introduced a bill to the Legislative Council proposing to prohibit the import, manufacture, sale, distribution and promotion of products such as e-cigarettes or heated tobacco. Upon conviction, the government will be fined HK $50000 and imprisoned for half a year. The medical community in Hong Kong believes that e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes also contain nicotine, various heavy metals, formaldehyde and other potentially harmful compounds, which are seriously harmful to health. However, the public generally misunderstood it, underestimated the impact of e-cigarettes on health, and mistakenly believed that e-cigarettes can help to quit smoking. However, the ban on e-cigarettes has been opposed and resisted by many Hong Kong legislators and some groups. They think that the research data cited in the legislation is untrue, and the research object is the obsolete “simulated cigarette” e-cigarettes, rather than the mainstream products in the current market. After a protracted struggle, the smoking Bills Committee of the Hong Kong Legislative Council announced in June last year that it would stop discussing the ban and temporarily abandon the plan to ban new tobacco and steam electronic cigarette products.
Lin Daqing, a professor of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said the latest findings warned of the need for immediate action and urged the Legislative Council to pass as soon as possible the government’s draft on a comprehensive ban on new tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.