Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) welcomes the decision of the House Committee of the Legislative Council to continue considering the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill 2019 (the Bill) on 6 November 2020. The amendment proposed prohibiting the import, manufacture, sale, distribution and advertisement of alternative smoking products including electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), heat-not-burn (HNB) tobacco products and herbal cigarettes. COSH urges the Legislative Council and Bills Committee to consider protecting public health as the top priority in passing the Bill decisively and pragmatically.
Reviewing the legislative progress in last year, the Bills Committee conducted nine meetings to review the Bill from March 2019 to June 2020, over 270 organizations and individuals across different sectors attended to express their views at three deputations. Mr Henry TONG, COSH Chairman said, “COSH urges the Bills Committee to take decisive consideration of the Bill from the current status to expedite the legislative process and push forward the implementation. There are particular members suggested to split passing the ban on e-cigarettes and only regulate the HNB tobacco products, COSH stressed that this act is tantamount to admitting the HNB tobacco products and the public will misinterpret the products are safe to use. In other words, it will be allowing alternative smoking products to enter the market and target the youth as well as non-smokers. COSH advocates the Government and Members of the Legislative Council to accord priority to public health and impose a total ban on alternative smoking products promptly, in order to curb its epidemic in Hong Kong for safeguarding public interests and health.”
The current smoking rate in Hong Kong is 10.2%, representing around 90% of citizens are non-smokers. If a regulatory approach is adopted for HNB tobacco products which allowed them to enter the Hong Kong market, tempt the non-smokers and harm public health, it would be a devastating move on tobacco control, similar to the tobacco epidemic of conventional cigarettes in the 1980s bringing heavy burden on the public healthcare system in the future.
The situation in the US has proved that regulatory approach is not sufficient to prevent the widespread of alternative smoking products. It would become more challenging in considering a total ban from scratch by then. COSH emphasizes that all forms of tobacco use are harmful. Some of the toxins and carcinogens produced by alternative smoking products do not have a safety level. Besides, World Health Organization reiterates that the use of HNB tobacco products and conventional cigarettes also harm human’s health, and some toxins are present at higher levels in HNB tobacco products than in conventional cigarettes.
The reduction in smoking prevalence has slowed down in Hong Kong over the decade, and even rebounded in the past two years. Therefore, tobacco control measures shall be strengthened by adopting multi-pronged approach to contain the proliferation of tobacco use. COSH urges the Government and the Legislative Council to pass the Bill to enact a total ban on the alternative smoking products promptly and prevent the smoking rate to rise further.

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