E-cigarettes should be banned in HK to protect adolescents

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 May, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 May, 2015, 12:01am

I am smoke-free youth ambassador for Lingnan Dr Chung Wing Kwong Memorial Secondary School, and I am concerned about the upsurge in secondary school students using electronic cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are growing in popularity among youths. A survey conducted by the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health found that the rate of people aged 15 to 29 using e-cigarettes was higher (4.4 per cent) than people aged 30 or above (1 per cent). This sends an alarming signal.

E-cigarette manufacturers, say e-cigarettes are non-addictive and an aid for smoking cessation. But scientific research has shown they contain toxic chemical substances such as propylene glycol and glycerine and carcinogens such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

In addition, a survey conducted by the school of public health at the University of Hong Kong found that e-cigarette users were more likely to have respiratory problems. Teenager's health will, in all likelihood, be affected.

Manufacturers continue to use clever marketing to obscure the risk posed by use of e-cigarettes. Resembling the marketing strategies of traditional cigarettes in the past, e-cigarettes are promoted through multiple channels. Celebrities are invited to be spokespeople for these products, and social media are utilised extensively to promote them to our youth.

Moreover, flavours, designs and packaging are diverse. Distinctive flavours are the main selling point, encompassing fruits, soft drinks and tobacco. So why can adolescents purchase e-cigarettes so easily?

The reason is that they are readily accessible in Hong Kong at places such as convenience stores, trendy boutiques and even through social media.

No legislation has been passed to forbid selling e-cigarettes to teenagers. The government has turned a blind eye to this problem. To rectify this situation, something concrete has to be done promptly to prevent the problem worsening.

The World Health Organisation has urged countries to regulate e-cigarettes and sponsors to minimise the risk of exposing youngsters and non-smokers to them. Authorities should keep abreast of the world situation and implement laws to ban e-cigarettes with a view to preventing adolescents having access to them.

Considering all of the above, I hope that Hong Kong will ban the sale of electronic cigarettes.

Cheung Ka-shing, Kwai Fong