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Some huffs and puffs over e-cig ban

The proposed ban on electronic cigarettes has caused polarized reactions – with the medical sector supporting it while smokers and the tobacco industry crying foul.

E-cigarettes will soon be totally banned in the city – import, manufacture, sale, distribution and advertisement – along with other new smoking products to protect public health, Carrie Lam said.

The pending ban came as a surprise as the government earlier proposed only to restrict new smoking products the same as normal cigarettes in a Legco proposal in June.

Lam said amendments will be submitted within this legislative session to ban e-cigarettes and all other new smoking products.

E-cigarettes are often packaged as better substitutes to conventional cigarettes, with promotional activities often targeting young people.

Lam believes the harmful effects of these products have been grossly underestimated.

She changed her mind over the original proposal after speaking with Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee and reading more about the subject.

A government source said under the amendment, individuals may not be allowed to bring e-cigarettes into the SAR, even if the products are for their own use.

Tobacco companies claim adult smokers are their target audience for e-cigarette products, but the government observed the products come in different flavors that could attract teenagers.

The number of e-cigarette users surged from less than 1,000 to more than 5,000 between 2015 and this year. In addition, 8.7 percent of secondary students have tried smoking e-cigarettes.

The Hong Kong Academy of Medicine and Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations welcomed the decision and urged the government to also restrict traditional cigarettes.

But tobacco company Philip Morris was not impressed, saying the 600,000 adult smokers in the city deserve to access “better products.”

Apart from that, the government will also enhance financial support for patients, in particular those suffering from rare diseases.

It will improve the means test mechanism of the Samaritan Fund and Community Care Fund Medical Assistance Programmes by modifying the calculation method and removing possessions of patients’ parents from household assets.

Also, the first Chinese medicine hospital in Tseung Kwan O will see its operator tendering procedures beginning in the second half of next year. It is expected to be completed and start operating by 2024.

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