In a letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the expert advisory group of the Asia Pacific Alliance of tobacco harm reduction advocates (caphra) stressed that the recent media reports on a comprehensive ban on smoking were very worrying. “We have recently seen media reports emphasizing that Hong Kong will promote a bill seeking to prohibit the import and sale of all nicotine substitutes such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products,” the group wrote.
Last August, the Council on smoking and health of Hong Kong said that government statistics showed that teenagers used e-cigarettes more frequently than adults. Tang Shaoqi, chairman of the committee, added that the public generally agreed to a comprehensive ban on e-cigarettes. “However, it has been almost three years since the policy report first announced a ban on alternative smoking products,” he said
The congressman claimed that the health hazards of using heated tobacco products have been confirmed by scientists all over the world. However, he did not emphasize that numerous independent studies have shown that they are substantially safer than ordinary cigarettes.
Hong Kong’s largest political party supports the ban
Subsequent news reports showed that the Democratic Alliance for betterment of Hong Kong, the largest political party in Hong Kong, also expressed support for this measure. Huang dingguang, a member of the Democratic Alliance for betterment of Hong Kong and chairman of the smoking bill Committee, said that he had been asked to preside over the meeting so that the government could determine its position and decide whether to ban the product
Nancy loucas, executive coordinator of caphra, said that the CGE was willing to share their expert opinions and stressed that local governments should consider other suggestions already put forward. These proposals propose reasonable regulation rather than a comprehensive ban on safer alternatives.
He said: “Hong Kong has set a goal to reduce the smoking rate from the current 10.2% to 7.8% by 2025, which is very commendable.” they wrote: “we firmly believe that through appropriate control of heated tobacco products and taking harm reduction measures, combined with Hong Kong’s existing strong tobacco control policy, Hong Kong can significantly reduce the smoking rate and improve public health.”
They cited the research of global scientific peer review and stressed that the international scientific community has increasingly reached a consensus that e-cigarettes are safer than cigarettes and are a means to reduce the harm of tobacco. They referred to Japan’s significant success in reducing smoking rates after regulating heated tobacco products.
Data from Australia show that the ban did not work
Similarly, a recent article in the South China Post pointed out that given that Australia’s e-cigarette ban has failed to effectively reduce the smoking rate, Hong Kong should think twice when implementing the ban.
Between 2013 and 2016, the smoking rate in Australia increased by more than 21000 to 2.4 million. Colin Mendelssohn, a famous public health expert, said in 2017: “this is the first time in history that the smoking rate has not decreased significantly, while the number of smokers in Australia is increasing.”
The public health expert who advocates the use of e-cigarettes to reduce harm pointed out that it is clear that the “punitive and mandatory” approach adopted by China has not worked. Data from the UK supported his view. The UK took the opposite approach and the smoking rate reached an all-time low.