Hong Kong bans electronic cigarettes and heat-not-burn tobacco products

21 October 2021

Source: The Standard

Hong Kong lawmakers have passed a bill banning the sales of electronic cigarettes and heat-not-burn tobacco products. 

The ban will come into effect as soon as mid-2022, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said. 

The move makes Hong Kong the 47th territory to ban e-cigarettes.

Legislative Council has passed the third reading of a bill to amend the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance on Thursday evening. The amendment will ban all alternative smoking products including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn tobacco products and herbal cigarettes in the city. 

Advertisement, import, manufacture, sale and distribution of these tobacco products will be banned as well. 

The maximum penalty for offenders will be a HK$50,000 fine and six-month imprisonment.

A total of 32 lawmakers voted in favor, while Paul Tse Wai-chun, Peter Shiu Ka-fai and Frankie Yick Chi-ming voted against it. Yiu Si-wing and Poon Siu-ping abstained from voting. 

Sophia Chan said Hong Kong’s prevalence of smokers has dropped to 10.2 percent in 2019 and authorities are targeting to further lower this to 7.8 percent in 2025. But the rise of alternative tobacco products has brought challenges to regulate these products.

She added the government should not spend public money on regulating heat-not-burn tobacco products. 

She argued that people should have freedom to make personal choices. But when smokers are addicted to tobacco products, they will be deprived of their free will. 

Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan from Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong supported the ban. She criticized tobacco manufacturers for sugarcoating these products as “trendy and fashionable” and advertising them to youngsters. 

She also disagreed with the myth that heat-not-burn tobacco products contain lower nicotine levels are safer than traditional cigarettes. Heat-not-burn tobacco products will only attract more smokers, instead of helping smokers quit, Quat added. 

Michael Tien Puk-sun from Roundtable also supported the bill. He pointed out that many youngsters are attracted by the countless options of heat-not-burn tobacco products, and he wants to see Hong Kong become a smoke-free city as a grandfather himself. 

Tien, who once was a smoker, recalled his daughter once refused to play with him because he smelt of cigarettes years ago. He therefore became determined to quit smoking. 

Shiu from the Liberal Party opposed banning all alternate tobacco products. He suggested banning the sales of e-cigarettes, whereas heat-not-burn tobacco products should be regulated like cigarettes. 

He said heat-not-burn tobacco products are the “improved version” of traditional cigarettes and would impose less health risks. He also challenged the government to ban traditional cigarettes instead.