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Hong Kong still plans e-cigarette ban despite new UK study claiming they’re 95% less harmful than tobacco

Emily Tsang

Vapours 95pc less harmful than tobacco, British report says, but health officials are unswayed

The local health authority is determined to press on with a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes in the city despite a recent British study suggesting their vapours are around 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco, the South China Morning Post has learned.

The study by Public Health England, an agency of Britain’s Department of Health, concluded that most of the chemicals causing smoking-related diseases were absent in e-cigarettes and they should be promoted as a means to help smokers quit.

The findings contradict a 2014 report by the World Health Organisation recommending strict regulation of e-cigarettes and bans on their indoor use and sale to minors. According to the Food and Health Bureau, plans remain in place to proceed with a proposed ban on e-cigarette sales sometime this year. Health officials believe e-cigarette manufacturers target young people and market their products as trend-setting.

But Asian Vape Association, formed by five major e-cigarette companies in the city, heralded the British report as a major turning point and urged the government to consider regulating the ingredients of the vapour instead of banning their products outright. “The report proves that electronic cigarettes are indeed an effective tool for harm reduction,” said Nav Lalji, founder and chairman of the association. “We urge the Hong Kong government to advocate e-cigarettes as a safer alternative instead of completely banning them.”

According to a 2010 study, Hong Kong has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world – 11.1 per cent of people above the age of 15.

E-cigarettes can be sold legally in the city to anyone regardless of age if the product does not contain nicotine. Products containing more than 0.1 per cent of nicotine must be registered with the Department of Health.

Undersecretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said many battery-powered vaporisers contained substances that were addictive and posed health hazards. She added that there was little evidence to show they helped reduce the consumption of tobacco.

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