HONG KONG – The Hong Kong Government should introduce legislation to regulate and allow the sale of alternative tobacco products (ATPs) such as e cigarettes, rather than banning it, according to a latest public opinion survey conducted by leading market researcher Ipsos.
Smokers themselves have been asking for years for ATPs to be legalised – with appropriate regulation such as age-of-sale controls. But now the general public, including non-smokers, is saying Government should not continue to deny the benefits to public health of allowing non-combustible alternatives such as heat-not-burn (HnB) and e-cigarettes (vaping).
Key points from the 2018 survey, commissioned by regional consumer-choice advocates factasia.org:
• two-thirds of all adults (65%) throughout the SAR agree 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”
• six out of ten current cigarette users (58%) say “it would be wrong for the Government to prevent or delay the introduction of less harmful alternatives to cigarettes”
• smokers and non-smokers (60%) agree that “if a new product is scientifically proven to have the potential to reduce the risk of smoking as compared to conventional cigarettes, adult smokers should have the right to access this information”
The new poll was taken as the public consultation exercise for the 2018 Policy Address is coming to a close and just ahead of a global conference on tobacco harm reduction at which even the World Health Organization is expected to soften its stance against ATPs in the face of overwhelming evidence that such products are improving public health by helping smokers to quit.
Presenting the findings, factasia.org said certain sectors of the community such as the Council on Smoking and Health has downplayed a large body of international researches conducted in Europe, Japan, the UK and Canada on ATPs. These are also among the many countries that now allow sale and use of appropriately regulated ATPs.
“Our last poll, in 2015, showed that 66 percent of smokers wanted to be able to choose. The new results show they still do, and that most non-smokers agree with them, despite the misinformation put out by some authorities here and abroad,” said Heneage Mitchell, factasia.org co-founder.
Many developed countries have seen dramatic changes in consumer behaviour by legalising ATPs. In Japan, for example, the introduction of “heat-not-burn” cigarettes saw the product gaining market share from nil to of 20% within a few years, with an interesting and corresponding 20% decline in people using conventional cigarettes. This shows that the ATPs did not attract any significant number of non-smokers.
“The Government should embrace this disruptive technology as an opportunity for better public health and accept the weight of scientific and medical evidence from across the globe that BURNING tobacco is the danger, not tobacco itself or nicotine,” said Mr Mitchell.