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Hong Kong mulls drastic measures to further reduce number of smokers, despite record rate drop below 10 per cent

26 May 2022

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  • But number of people using e-cigarettes surged from 7,200 in 2019 to 17,500 last year
  • Health minister Sophia Chan says authorities looking into three-pronged approach in control strategy, including expanding statutory non-smoking areas

The government aims to reduce the proportion of smokers to 7.8 per cent by 2025. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

The proportion of Hong Kong residents who smoke cigarettes has fallen below double-digits for the first time, but vaping has jumped by nearly 150 per cent in the past two years, according to health officials. Authorities on Thursday revealed the city’s latest smoking rate was at 9.5 per cent in 2021, dropping from 10.2 per cent in 2019. A target earlier set by the government aims to bring the rate down to 7.8 per cent by 2025. “The [latest smoking rate] is a new low, and it is the first time we are seeing a single digit since records began,” Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee said.

The government has said it plans to adopt a three-pronged approach to reduce the city’s smoking rate. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

The number of people using e-cigarettes surged from 7,200 in 2019 to 17,500 last year, but the overall statistic for those using tobacco products registered a drop. There were about 8,400 people using such products last year compared with 13,100 in 2019.

Chan revealed that the government was planning to adopt a three-pronged approach in its control strategy, with reference to overseas experience. These comprise looking into expanding statutory non-smoking areas, reducing the overall attractiveness of tobacco products and preventing young people from developing smoking habits.

Citing New Zealand, Chan said a ban on cigarette sales was set to be imposed on those born after 2008. Earlier this week, she revealed that the government was considering expanding outdoor no-smoking areas to cover bus stops. To further reduce the city’s smoking rate, authorities banned the import, manufacturing, sale and distribution of alternative smoking products, such as electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco items, on April 30.