According to vaping360 and the South China Morning Post, the Hong Kong Legislative Council has abandoned plans to ban the use of electronic atomization products, at least for now. E-cigarettes and injury reduction advocates have been battling the proposed ban since Hong Kong's chief executive spoke 19 months ago.
The Legislative Council Bills Committee last week concluded discussions on a bill banning electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTP), also known as heated non combustible products. According to Manila standards, the Commission has been studying the bill since March 2019, holding six meetings and three public hearings.
Some members of the Council strongly opposed the ban on the grounds that it was unfair to refuse to provide smokers with low-risk nicotine products.
Nancy loucas, executive coordinator of the Asia Pacific Alliance of tobacco disaster reduction advocates, a regional consumer rights group, said lawmakers such as Peter Shui, Raymond Chan and Cheng Chung Tai have repeatedly argued that the ban is neither logical nor feasible.
Dr Fung Ying, director of tobacco and alcohol control, told the South China Morning Post that the government would propose another bill at the next legislative session to ban the use of electronic cigarettes.
'at this stage, our most urgent task is to educate the public about the risks of heated tobacco products and to prevent misleading claims that they bring lower risks and observe trends,' Feng said.
The original bill would ban the sale, manufacture, import, distribution or promotion of steam and HTP products, and impose up to six months' imprisonment and a fine of HK $50000 (US $6370) on violators. Hong Kong even plans to seize products brought into Hong Kong by tourists.
The stated purpose of the ban is to prevent the use of combustible tobacco products by young people.
In October 2018, smoke control activists of the Hong Kong smoking and Health Council (COSH) opposed the control plan and demanded a total ban or levy of such a high product tax, which would be as difficult to obtain as cigarettes.
In a statement in June, cosh said that if products are sold on the market, they should be taxed in the same way as tobacco. Their price should not be lower than that of cigarettes, so as not to attract the public to use cigarettes because of their low price. In Hong Kong, the price of cigarettes is about HK $57 (US $7.30).
In February 2019, Yuan Huixian, Deputy Secretary for food and health of Hong Kong, said that we hope these alternative products will not be so easily available on the market until they are truly popular. " We are worried that young people who may not be regular tobacco users at present will be attracted by these cool looking alternatives and become smokers by smoking electronic cigarettes. We want to solve the problem in the bud.
Many electronic cigarette products produced in Shenzhen are transported to all parts of the world through large transport facilities in Hong Kong.
As reported last year, law enforcement agencies will have more power to regulate e-cigarettes than to those who violate public smoking laws. The act does not impose any restrictions on the sale or import of cigarettes.
Last year, the new nicotine Alliance (NNA) estimated that 35000 UK e-cigarette users visited Hong Kong every year. British advocacy groups have urged UK tourists who use e-cigarettes to think twice before going to Hong Kong if the ban is passed.
According to the South China times, Hong Kong officials said that while the use of a study found that smoking rates in Hong Kong had remained stable in recent years, the number of people using heated tobacco products was expected to surge.
According to a study by the tobacco and alcohol control bureau, the daily use of such products is about 13100, accounting for 0.2% of all residents aged 15 or over. For the first time, it surveyed statistics on heated tobacco products.
These products are electronic devices that use technology to heat tobacco, rather than lighting and burning it like traditional cigarettes.
'heated tobacco products are expected to be used in the future because we have not banned them,' said Dr. Feng Ying, head of the office, on Monday.
Her remarks came after the Legislative Council Bills Committee concluded its review of an amendment that proposed banning alternative smoking products, such as non combustible heating devices, at the current legislative session.
Feng said she was disappointed with the results and vowed to introduce another bill at the next session of the Legislative Council.
'at this stage, our most urgent task is to educate the public about the risks of heated tobacco products and to prevent misleading claims that they pose lower risks and to observe trends,' she said.
The office's latest household survey of smoking patterns found that the number of daily cigarette users aged 15 and over rose slightly to 10.2% last year from 10% in 2017.
Hong Kong's daily smoking rate remains one of the lowest in the world. The average consumption of smokers per day is 12.7 cigarettes per day.
In a school-based survey conducted between October 2018 and July 2019, about 52000 students found that smoking rates among 15 to 19-year-olds had declined in the past 10 years. The smoking rate and e-cigarette use rate of four to six primary school students did not change, which were 0.1% and 1.4% respectively.
For middle school students from grade one to grade six, the smoking rate decreased by 1 percentage point to 1.5%, while the use rate of electronic cigarettes decreased by 7.7%.
The questionnaire also found that 2.3% of one to six middle school students and 0.8% of four to six middle school students had used heated tobacco products.
However, the study added that due to the low number of smokers, it was not possible to accurately estimate the percentage of young smokers.
Feng said that although the overall smoking rate is similar to the previous survey, the government is very concerned that the smoking rate has not been further reduced. In addition, even if the number of people using alternative smoking products is small, the government will continue to closely monitor the situation and increase efforts to publicize the hazards of these smoking products.