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COSH’s response to the Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill 2019
Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) expressed deep regret and disappointment at the Bills Committee of Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Bill 2019 decision to discontinue its scrutiny work on the Bill. The amendment proposed prohibiting the import, manufacture, sale, distribution and advertisement of alternative smoking products including e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn (HNB) tobacco products and herbal cigarettes. Possible delay in legislation would cause adverse impacts on public health.

Mr Antonio KWONG, COSH Chairman said, “This decision to discontinue vetting the Bill lets different sectors down, the law is much needed to protect public health, especially among the next generation. The door might be widely opened for these alternative smoking products entering the market and harming the youths by missing this chance. Smokers may expose to wide range of alternative choices instead of considering smoking cessation. We are afraid that the smoking prevalence in Hong Kong is very likely to bounce back which is a major setback in public health policy and tobacco control development.”

The Hong Kong Government submitted a legislative proposal in 2015 to prohibit e-cigarettes. Since the Bill have been submitted to the Legislative Council in early February 2019, eight meetings including three deputations were conducted to review the bill. Majority of the public supported the Bill for a total ban, including medical and healthcare professionals, academia, parents and education sector, youth and social service organizations, patient groups, etc. Besides, the surveys conducted by youth service groups, parents and teachers associations also found that most of the respondents (70%-90%) agreed to ban alternative smoking products promptly. Over 100 thousand signatures were collected by COSH to support the Bill.

Overseas experiences showed that use of alternative smoking products could surged exponentially in a short period of time. In the U.S., over 2,000 cases of lung diseases related to e-cigarette use were reported and youth e-cigarette use has become an epidemic with more than 5 million secondary school students are current e-cigarette users. The proliferation of alternative smoking products could lead to public health crisis and therefore, Hong Kong should nip in the bud before they become popular and enact a total ban.

COSH emphasizes that all forms of tobacco products are hazardous and impose huge risks to public health. Hence, COSH has serious concern on the Bills Committee to discontinue its scrutiny work on the Bill. COSH advocates the Government and Legislative Council to resume the legislation for a total ban of alternative smoking products as soon as possible, and include the conventional cigarettes in the legislative framework as well to contain the proliferation of tobacco use, in order to reduce the smoking prevalence in Hong Kong to a single digit shortly, and reach the Government’s 7.8% target by 2025.
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