Support to Strengthen Tobacco Control Measures Protect the Public from Smoking Hazards
2015.06.22Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (“COSH”) fully supports the strengthening of tobacco control measures proposed by the Government in May 2015 to further protect the public from smoking hazards. These measures include enlarging the size of pictorial health warnings to at least 85% of the cigarette pack area and increasing the number of forms of health warning to twelve, smoking ban at eight bus interchanges located within the tunnel portal areas and prohibiting e-cigarettes.
A publicity event was held today (22 June) to promote the effectiveness of these tobacco control measures, together with a signatory campaign to collect views of the public at Paterson Street Pedestrian Precinct in Causeway Bay. Besides, COSH demonstrated the impact of enlarging the size of pictorial health warnings on cigarette pack to gather more support to the proposed tobacco control measures, in order to further lower the smoking prevalence and protect public health. Mr Antonio KWONG, COSH Chairman and Ms Yolanda NG, COSH Vice-chairman explained the details and effectiveness of the proposed measures to the public.
Health Warnings on Cigarette Products
The existing 6 forms of pictorial health warnings covering at least 50% of cigarette pack area have been used since 2007 and their deterring effect has faded. International researches and experience have proved that pictorial health warnings could reduce the attractiveness of smoking, increase intention to quit and deter youth from smoking. COSH demonstrated the cigarette packs mock up with new forms of pictorial warning enlarged to 85% and displayed in a similar way as existing newsstands to illustrate the impact of the proposed measures. Larger warnings could educate smokers and the public on the health hazards of smoking, as well as prevent the tobacco companies from using cigarette packs for promotion.
To protect public health, many countries/ regions have introduced more stringent and successful measures to regulate tobacco packing. The effectiveness of these measures has provided strong evidence and urgency for such approach in Hong Kong. Nepal, Thailand and Uruguay have already increased the coverage of pictorial health warning to 90%, 85% and 80% respectively. Australia, the first country to introduce plain packaging* in 2012, has resulted a substantial decrease in smoking population. Ireland and United Kingdom has also confirmed to implement plain packaging in March 2015. Increasing the coverage of pictorial health warning and tightening the packaging of tobacco products become the international trend on tobacco control. It is also believed that supplementing the warning “Tobacco kills up to half of its users” and quitline (1833 183) could effectively encourage more smokers to quit smoking and seek assistance from smoking cessation service providers.
Smoking Ban at Bus Interchange at Tunnel Portal Areas
COSH welcomed the Government’s proposal to designate eight bus interchanges within the tunnel portal areas as no smoking areas in order to protect the public from the harms of secondhand smoke. Singapore has banned smoking in any public area occupied by a queue of 2 or more persons since January 2013 while similar measure will be implemented in Beijing in June 2015.
COSH has serious concern on the widespread and rapid growth of global sales of e-cigarettes. COSH co-organized a press conference with the School of Public Health of The University of Hong Kong in March 2015 and sent an open letter co-signed by different medical associations and tobacco control organizations in May 2015 to advocate a total ban on e-cigarettes. We are pleased that the Government has adopted our recommendation. Currently, the flavours and design of e-cigarettes available in Hong Kong are diverse and sellers usually use misleading marketing strategies to attract the youth. Their ingredients, effectiveness on smoking cessation and long-term health risks remain unknown. The World Health Organization has stated that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that e-cigarette is an effective smoking cessation method and urged countries to regulate e-cigarettes. The total ban in Hong Kong will effectively minimize the health risk of the public to the exposure of e-cigarettes and prevent e-cigarette from being a gateway to smoking, especially among the youth.
COSH will continue to strive for the public’s support on strengthening the tobacco control measures and will collect signatories on streets and online platform (www.smokefree.hk/support). Let’s join hands to construct a smoke-free environment.
Plain packaging standardizes and simplifies the packaging of tobacco products. The pictorial health warnings are expanded from 50% to 85% or above of the main sides of the cigarette pack. All forms of tobacco branding should be labeled according to the government prescriptions and with simple and plain format. This means that trademarks, graphics and logos are not allowed on cigarette packs, except for the brand name that is displayed in a standard font size, colour and location on the package. The packaging should not contain other colours and should include only the content and consumer information, such as toxic constituents, and health warnings required by law. The quitline number should also be displayed at a prominent position.
Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (“COSH”) welcomes the Government’s proposal to strengthen the tobacco control measures. Citizens can show their support and join COSH’s signatory campaign at promotion booths on streets or online platform (www.smokefree.hk/support).
Increasing the coverage of pictorial health warning on cigarette packs from 50% to at least 85% (mock up in the photo) could educate smokers and the public on the health hazards of smoking, as well as prevent the tobacco companies from using cigarette packs for promotion.