The restrictions would consider vaping products, heat-not-burn products and herbal cigarettes to be the same as traditional tobacco cigarettes. This means the sale to under-18s would be banned, health warnings would be required on all packaging, and the advertising of vape products would end. Items would also be taxed at a rate dependent on the tobacco content, which is odd considering that is ‘zero’ in the case of atomisers, mods and juices.
The Secretary for Food and Health said: “Other than the health impact, I am worried that e-cigarettes and other new tobacco products will begin to become the smoking gateway for youths. Once they have a habit of using these products, it is possible that they will turn to smoking.”
Surprisingly, vaping is already banned (as we reported in 2015). In 2009, the maximum penalty for possessing or selling e-cigarettes was a HK$100,000 fine and two years in prison. At the time the authorities announced that a single refill contained more nicotine than could be found in an entire pack of cigarettes. It wasn’t enforced and the situation degraded to the point where vape pens are openly sold to children.
It is a shame the secretary doesn’t appear to have read the wealth of evidence proving that there is no gateway to smoking, just one from it. But the Hong Kong administration has been sponsoring poor quality anti-vape research with a view to justifying a ban or strict regulation.
In 2015, JAMA Pediatrics (a committed anti-vape journal) published a paper that claimed vaping caused respiratory problems for Hong Kong children, and led them into smoking. We pointed out: “These are children in Hong Kong. This is looking at children living in one of the most polluted cities on the planet - a city laden with smog, heavy metals and carcinogenic gases. The smog is such an issue that Hong Kong is almost the darkest city in the world.”
A year later another study concluded: “Electronic cigarettes were found to contain one million times more cancer-causing substances than outdoors air.” These were the words of The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health - who are demanding the Legislative Council imposes an outright ban on all vape products.
The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health were at it again in 2016. This time they claimed to have detected by-products of burning petroleum, “a type of flame retardant”, and repeated the laughable ‘one million’ lie.
Nav Lalji, chairman of the Asian Vape Association cautioned that while some of the proposals were needed it was imperative that they remain sensible.
Peter Shiu represents the retail and wholesale sector in the Legislative Council. He is quoted as saying that 10% of Hong Kong's 600,000 smokers have already switched to healthier alternatives.
Vape activists in Hong Kong have delivered a petition with 10,000 signatures.