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Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health call for total ban on e-cigarette products

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On March 30, 2015, the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) held a press conference advocating a total ban on e-cigarette products.   COSH Chairman Antonio Kwong stated:

E-cigarettes, without nicotine, are easily accessible in Hong Kong. COSH claims some products “target youngsters”, and “normalise smoking behaviour”, potentially creating a (supposedly new) “tobacco epidemic.  COSH has serious concern on the spread of e-cigarettes. To protect public health, we advocate the Government for a total ban on e-cigarette to prevent its prevalence among the youngsters and stop it from becoming the gateway to smoking.

At COSH’s press conference, Dr Daniel Ho Sai-yin, associate professor at University of Hong Kong, cited literature claiming the chemicals cause mouth and throat irritations, and, at high temperatures, form formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, known carcinogens.
Hours after the COSH press conference, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man was quoted stating that the government was “inclined to agree” with the Council’s request citing possible health risks and the possibility that youngsters may pick up smoking [conventional] cigarettes after they begin smoking e-cigarettes. He added that detailed studies would be required before they could proceed with legislation.
Currently, under the Pharmacy and Poisons Ordinance, any e-cigarettes containing nicotine and marketed as nicotine replacement therapy must be registered before sale and possession, under threat of a maximum penalty of HK$100,000 and 2 year’s imprisonment. No nicotine containing e-cigarette product has ever been registered as pharmaceutical products in Hong Kong, creating a de facto ban.
At the moment, Singapore and Thailand are among thirteen countries globally that have taken a similar stance on e-cigarettes, banning the industry altogether.
Ray Story, founder and CEO of Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA), is an advocate for regulation, not banning it outright. Mr Story, an owner of several e-cigarette brands, successfully pushed for the legalization and subsequent regulation of e-cigarettes in the United States and the EU. He was recently in Hong Kong to speak to the media on the matter after attending the Shenzhen International Electronic Cigarette Industry Expo where over 100,000 industry professionals gathered.

In 2009, when the authorities began cracking down on e-cigarettes by seizing shipments into the States, Mr Story took it upon himself to challenge the decision — and succeeded. American style.  “I sued them,” he says, with a dramatic pause. “I took them to court and put my foot down and said I want to talk, but if you won’t talk to me, I will take you to court and make you prove your position in court to where you’re right and I’m wrong and somehow, they couldn’t do it. Because to ban it because you don’t have any information, is ignorant. We try to build laws based on an abundance of information, not a lack of information.”

So will the TVECA replicate the process in Hong Kong? Mr Story says he truly hopes we won’t have to go there, but added “I will do what it takes.”

Read more in the Harbour Times’ April 24, 2015 article.