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E-cigs seen to benefit smokers

Electronic cigarettes may benefit public health, an Italian medical professor says, as they drive smokers away from more harmful cigarettes.

University of Catania’s Institute for Internal Medicine and Clinical Immunology director Riccardo Polosa said it will be “irresponsible” to ignore academic reviews that show e-cigarettes help smokers quit.

“E-cigarettes have been a gateway away from the harmful effects of smoking for millions of smokers around the world. I can’t see any reason why this cannot be the case in Hong Kong,” said Polosa, who is visiting the SAR.

Polosa, a specialist in respiratory diseases, quoted figures from Public Health England which show e-cigarette use is around 95 percent less harmful to health than smoking.

The same figures were criticized last year after the Guardian newspaper reported PHE had taken the data from a separate study, co-authored by Polosa, which was sponsored by those with links to the tobacco industry. Polosa is also an adviser for Italian anti-smoking organization Lega Italiana Anti Fumo, which helped fund the study.

Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee last month said the government is considering banning the import, manufacture, sale, distribution and advertising of e-cigarettes.

The Hong Kong Council On Smoking And Health is also calling for a complete ban.

“Less harmful does not mean zero harm,” Antonio Kwong Cho-shing, chairman of the anti- smoking council, told The Standard. “If e-cigarettes are harmful, they should be banned.”

Baptist University research shows several e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals including formaldehyde and poly-brominated diphenyl ethers, he said.

Inhalation of the latter has been associated with a reduction in fertility, affecting fetal development and can cause cancers.

Meanwhile, the government has extended the smoking ban to eight bus interchanges at tunnel portal areas including Lion Rock Tunnel Bus Interchange.

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