HONG Kong plans to impose a total ban on e-cigarettes, it has been announced – because they are too tempting to young people.
Chief executive Carrie Lam said in a policy address on Wednesday (October 11) that all alternative smoking devices, from e-cigarettes to heat-not-burn tobacco products, will be made illegal, including their sale, manufacture and import.
Cigarettes and conventional tobacco products, however, will remain available.
Hong Kong had ruled out a ban earlier this year and outlined in legislative proposal in June how it intended to regulate e-cigarettes by prohibiting advertising and restricting its sale to minors, as it does with traditional tobacco products.
But in a dramatic U-turn, Lan announced that due to its attractiveness to young people and that there was “a lack of sufficient evidence to prove the products can help quit smoking” the government favored an outright ban instead.
Lam said at a briefing after her address: "Without doubt, the tobacco industry is p at lobbying," adding further that she had received 3 000 letters this year against an e-cigarette ban.
"But we have to do what’s right for young people’s health."
Public health advocates and tobacco industry players vowed to oppose the ban and criticized the move, saying it will take away e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool for smokers wanting to quit and warned black market sales would rise.
Philip Morris Asia, which sells conventional cigarettes as well as heat-not-burn products, said it was an unfortunate move and it would have fully supported restricting sales to minors and educating young people.
It said in a statement about the ban: “It’s unfortunate that the government decided to reverse its earlier balanced decision to allow and regulate these products in line with the international trend.
“We firmly believe that concerns regarding youth access can be better addressed through appropriate regulation and education.”
Joe Lo, convenor of a group that supports the use of heat-not-burn products, told the South China Morning Post newspaper that he felt angry with the government’s proposal and was currently deciding on their next course of action.
He said: "We will resist till the end. The resistance is not for ourselves, but for all Hongkongers.
“The government has ignored scientific evidence and social problems brought about by a total ban.
The Coalition on Tobacco Affairs, an industry group, said in a statement: “A full ban of e-cigarettes will only make black market business more popular, not help to protect teenagers under 18 years old and consumers.”