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Hong Kong would be wise to tighten regulations on sales of e-cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes have become increasingly popular the world over, so much so that the need for regulation can no longer be ignored. Although the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration are pushing for better health protection measures, some governments continue to dodge the issue, citing inconclusive medical research as the excuse. The Hong Kong government has not been doing much on this front either, arguing that e-cigarettes are already covered by existing law. Firstly, the smoking ban in some areas applies equally to e-cigarettes. Secondly, it contains nicotine, meaning it is a pharmaceutical product and must be registered with the Pharmacy and Poisons Board before sale or distribution.

The reality, of course, is somewhat different. When questioned by lawmakers last year, the government conceded that no e-cigarettes have been registered under the law. While it expressed concerns over their illegal sale on the internet and in local stores, and had received 35 complaints between 2012 and 2014, there was only one conviction. Enforcement against smoking e-cigarettes in banned areas is also woefully inadequate, with only two persons fined since 2011.

It is good that the Council on Smoking and Health is taking an unequivocal position on the issue. The recommended total ban, including sales, advertising, distribution, sponsorship and manufacturing, may seem sweeping compared to the existing restrictions imposed on the tobacco industry. But as medical experts have pointed out, there is evidence showing e-cigarettes are just as bad, if not worse, than regular cigarettes. The number of users is also rising, up from 1 per cent of respondents in a survey of Hong Kong people in 2012-13 to 1.8 per cent last year. It is therefore prudent to take a preventive approach lest e-cigarettes flourish into a booming business. The initial response from the health chief appears to be positive, although he was quick to add that the details have to be studied further. Given the government’s clear stance against smoking, it is only right for it to further tighten the regulations.

Source URL (modified on Apr 3rd 2015, 7:22am):

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