Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, the body which runs the semi-autonomous territory under the control of the Chinese Communist Party, released new proposals for regulation of e-cigarettes yesterday. The plans, which will be debated next week, aim to standardise the rules for traditional tobacco, herbal cigarettes and reduced harm products. If passed, they will put a whole range of new burdens on e-cig manufacturers and retailers.
Some of the proposals will be welcome news to advocates. For example, up to now there has been no law against sales of e-cigarettes or Heat not Burn products to minors. The Legislative Council wants to impose the same age restrictions that currently apply to cigarettes. While there are obvious concerns about under-age smokers being denied access to a safer alternative, few vapers would argue that e-cigarettes should be freely available to children.
However, other aspects of the proposals are more controversial. For example the health warnings currently required on cigarette packets will also be mandatory for all vapour products, even though there is no evidence to suggest that they cause the same health risks. This is likely to deter smokers from switching.
A new tax will be levied on “tobacco elements” of reduced-harm products. Unless it’s interpreted to mean nicotine this is unlikely to directly affect e-cigs, but it will have an impact on HnB – while ironically leaving the much more harmful herbal cigarettes untouched.
Strict as they are, the proposals don’t go far enough for some. The Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health expressed disappointment that vapour products hadn’t been completely banned. The main motivation behind these attacks on vaping seems to be the fear that young people will start vaping then switch to smoking. According to the latest figures, 0.8% of secondary school students in Hong Kong are current vapers.