E-cigarettes can help people who have tried to give up smoking, but failed. Photo: AFP

Don’t ban e-cigarettes in Hong Kong, they help addicted smokers

I refer to part of a half-page advert by the Council on Smoking and Health in the South China Morning Post on December 8, with the headline, “Stay clear of e-cigarettes”.

I make two points. The first concerns young smokers being targeted by the manufacturers of these devices as a pathway to the use of ordinary cigarettes and nicotine addiction. A 2014 study by Public Health England found scant evidence for this contention and in its latest update (2015), these findings were confirmed.

I live in Macau where many smoke and, distressingly, many teenagers have the habit.

My observation is that they use normal cigarettes and I have never seen vaping in this group.

My second point is more serious. The article contends that e-cigarettes pose a health hazard, listing several toxic substances “which can bring health hazards to human(s).”

In the update by Public Health England, after a detailed analysis of the scientific papers in which these issues were brought into the scientific domain, it concludes that the studies which purport to show enhanced risk by the use of e-cigarettes over normal cigarette smoke are very dubious and its reasoning for this is presented.

The study concludes that the “current best estimate that using e-cigarettes is around 95 per cent safer than smoking” and that the use of them should be encouraged as a strategy to reduce smoking related diseases.

I am a lifelong non-smoker but I have family members who smoke, and I want them to use e-cigarettes because they are obviously better than ordinary cigarettes. I regard the contention by Council on Smoking and Health that e-cigarettes should be banned by law as disgraceful because it denies a possible way to reduce smoking-related diseases among people who are heavily addicted to nicotine. I recommend to the authors that they read the Public Health England document with some care, for it is a carefully written article.

I hope the authors of the advert change their stance towards those with nicotine addiction and recommend, alongside their other admirable strategies for helping smokers, the use of e-cigarettes for those heavily addicted people who have tried and failed to give up smoking.

Brian Duggan, Macau