Last week on June 6th, Hong Kong announced plans for a comprehensive ban on e-cigarettes, citing a “societal consensus” on their harmful effects on youth health. In Hong Kong, vape regulations have evolved significantly over the past decade. As in most nations, initially the products were largely unregulated, leading to widespread availability. However, concerns over health risks and youth uptake prompted legislative actions.

In February 2019, the Hong Kong government proposed a complete ban on the import, manufacture, sales, distribution, and advertisement of vaping products and other alternative smoking products, including heat-not-burn tobacco products. This proposal was part of the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill 2019 and aimed to entirely eliminate the products from the market.

Naturally, the bill gained significant support from health organizations and was seen as a necessary step to protect public health. In October 2021, the Legislative Council passed the amendment, effectively banning the sale and advertising of vaping products as of April 2022.

The current vape ban may be extended to personal use

Under current laws, importing e-cigarettes in Hong Kong can lead to a seven-year prison sentence and a fine of HK$2 million (US$256,000), while sellers and manufacturers face up to six months in jail. Meanwhile, the blanket ban proposed last week would extend these restrictions to individual consumers, even if they intend to use the products privately.

City officials also introduced new anti-smoking measures, such as a ban on flavoured tobacco products, prohibiting smoking in outdoor queues and banning the sharing of cigarettes with minors. Hong Kong’s goal is to reduce its smoking prevalence rate from 9.1% in 2023 to 7.8% by next year. Sadly, data have shown that approaches opposite to the one Hong Kong is adopting are what actually gets the job done.

Tobacco harm reduction strategies which include the use of safer nicotine alternatives like vapes, for staunch smokers who are unable to quit otherwise, have been shown to be the most effective at reducing smoking rates. Countries like Sweden and Japan where the products have been widely endorsed for smoking cessation, have achieved record low smoking rates. While countries which have followed the WHO’s guidelines to ban the alternative nicotine products, such as Australia, keep struggling with high ones.

More bans based on misinformation

In other news, Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has similarly announced its support for a ban on e-cigarettes, aligning with a Ministry of Health’s assessment of their negative health impacts. Trade Minister Nguyen Hong Dien informed lawmakers that the ministry has requested the government to halt the review of a proposed bill on regulating the products, following an official health ministry report detailing their alleged harmful effects.

Consequently, the trade ministry has not issued any licenses for vape businesses and has directed market authorities to penalize those who trade the products illicitly. Several cases of violations are currently under investigation.

The health ministry also claimed that e-liquids contain at least 60 chemical substances, some of which are known to cause cancer and cardiovascular issues. These claims have of course been proven untrue by countless peer reviewed studies. In contrast, research has consistently shown that switching from smoking to vaping actually decreases one’s risk of developing the type of cancers and/or cardiovascular problems normally associated with smoking.

Japan’s Tobacco Harm Reduction Strategy Has Dropped Smoking Rates by Over 50% Within a Decade

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get news and current headlines about vaping every Friday.