Vapers exhaled a thick cloud of disappointment today as the government, making a u-turn on a previously announced policy, stated that they would move to ban e-cigarettes and other new smoking products.
The announcement was made by Chief Executive Carrie Lam this morning as part of her 2018 policy address.
It came four months after the Department of Health proposed merely regulating the devices in a similar manner to cigarettes.
But in today’s address, uploaded online, the government said that direction had caused concern among medical professionals, in the education sector and for “many members of the public.”
At the core of their rationale, they characterized e-cigarettes as a “gateway” to smoking cigarettes and, further, claimed they were promoted in a way that targeted young people and non-smokers.
“The fact is: all these new smoking products are harmful to health and produce second-hand smoke,” Lam’s address read.
“There is also a lack of sufficient evidence to prove that these products can help quit smoking. The public may underestimate the harmful effects of these products and eventually endorse the smoking image and relevant behaviours once again.
“After weighing the pros and cons of a regulatory approach as opposed to a full ban, I have decided that, with the protection of public health as the prime consideration, the Government will submit proposed legislative amendments in this legislative session to ban the import, manufacture, sale, distribution and advertisement of e-cigarettes and other new smoking products.”
Speaking by phone, Thomas McRae, owner of the Vape Shop in Sai Ying Pun, called the decision “very disappointing” and “one-sided.”
He said the claims that e-cigarettes were a “gateway” to smoking were not valid, while over two years of operating, the store had helped “thousands” give up cigarettes.
“I don’t know what their intentions are if they’re trying to help save the pharmaceutical companies, the tobacco companies or if they genuinely think that vaping is worse than smoking and haven’t bothered to read any facts or studies,” he said.
“They don’t realise people are using these products to quit smoking.”