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June 22nd, 2015:

Hong Kong smokers, non-smokers sceptical about effect of larger cigarette pack warnings


Smokers and non-smokers both agree that larger graphic health warnings on cigarette packs will not be strong enough to deter people from the habit.

The comments came as the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health conducted a signature campaign today seeking public support for the government’s proposal to strengthen tobacco control measures.

The Food and Health Bureau is proposing to enlarge the size of pictorial warnings on cigarette packs from the current 50 per cent of its total size to at least 85 per cent, as set out in a document presented to the Legislative Council in mid-May. It also wants to increase the number of images used on packs from six to 12.

The government is also proposing to prohibit e-cigarettes and ban smoking in eight bus interchange facilities within tunnel portal areas across the city.

Smoking sustains me spiritually. I can think well only with cigarettes

Construction worker Mr Chan

Smokers, however, do not find the measure strong enough to put them off smoking. “It is useless … Smoking sustains me spiritually. I can think well only with cigarettes,” said Mr Chan, a 67-year-old construction worker who has been smoking for 50 years.

Even some non-smokers do not find it useful. “It doesn’t work unless all cigarettes are banned from the market,” said Ms Au-yeung, who said she was afraid of the smell of smoke and backed a smoking ban at interchange facilities near tunnels.

“Many people are fully aware they should not smoke, but they still need to buy cigarettes,” she said.

However, Alan Cheung, a 60-year-old non-smoker, said the new measures would be effective. “[Enlarged images are] good. People can see straight away that they should not smoke,” he said.

The council set up booths in Causeway Bay to display dummy cigarette packs with the proposed new design – bigger images, the warning that “tobacco kills up to half its users” and the number of the government hotline for those wanting to quit.

The signatures in support of the government measures will be submitted to the Legco health panel for a special meeting on July 6 when members will discuss the proposed control measures.

Council chairman Antonio Kwong Cho-shing said the enlarged size of the health warnings would be more effective in deterring people from smoking. “The images will be clearer and the cigarette packs will look less appealing, especially to young people,” he said.

He said larger images had proved effective in other countries. The smoking rate in Australia, which first expanded the size of health warnings to 85 per cent or more on cigarette packs in 2012, dropped from 15.1 per cent in 2010 to 12.8 per cent in 2013.