Prohibition policy counterproductive to harm reduction
The Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam Wednesday announced the Government decision to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes in her latest policy address. The announcement which represents a 180 degree turn on the part of the Government has drawn international criticisms.
Heneage Mitchell, founder of factasia.org, an Asia-Pacific consumer rights group, said: “The decision of the Government is contrary to international trends. Currently major advanced economies including the UK, the US, Germany, Japan, New Zealand etc are permitting the sale and consumption of e-cigarettes. These countries typically would adopt a scientific and evidence-based approach and put in place reasonable legislation to regulate these products e.g. banning underage access or introducing a regulatory framework commensurate with the risks associated with such products. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) also extended its regulatory authority to cover e-cigarettes rather than banning it.”
Nancy Sutthoff, the Asia Pacific Regional President of INNCO (International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations) said: “The latest Hong Kong Government policy completely ignores science, evidence and the voices and rights of consumers of alternative nicotine products for choices and harm reduction.”
Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, physician and researcher at the National School of Public Health in Greece said: “The decision on a defacto ban on e-cigarettes represents a punitive action against smokers who will be deprived from their right to access less harmful products that will reduce their health risks.”
Dr Farsalinos is an acknowledged international expert in the field of harm reduction with over 70 papers published in international scientific journals about tobacco harm reduction and ecigarettes.
factasia.org’s Mr Mitchell added: “Prohibiting the sale of new tech smoking and vaping products but continuing to allow conventional cigarettes to be available will only fortify the business of tobacco companies. This should certainly not be the public health policy of any government and runs contrary to public opinion.”
factasia.org commissioned a public opinion poll recently and found that nearly 60% of current smokers believe “it would be wrong for the Government to prevent or delay the introduction of less harmful alternatives to cigarettes”.
The poll was conducted by Ipsos and covered 1,000 members of the public. Some 65% of the interviewees agreed that “through tax and regulatory policies, the Government should encourage adult smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes and ensure they are not used by youth”